he City Council Civil Rights Committee held its third stop-and-frisk hearing Wednesday night at York College, but this time around three formerly active duty NYPD officers testified against stop-and-frisk and advocated for changes to the policy.
Each officer said there are quota systems within the department that encourage officers to abuse stop-and-frisk. The officers testified that the NYPD demands a high quantity of arrests and tickets. And when officers object, they suffer suspensions and false accusations.
“If we don’t get with the program our lives would be made difficult,” said Officer Adil Polanco, who joined the force in 2005 but was been on suspension since he called out the police department for abusing stop-and-frisk.
Polanco said he was uncomfortable and shocked when he saw officers using stop-and-frisk in ways that he described as terrorizing young black and Latino men.
In 2010, Polanco secretly recorded his supervisor in the Bronx 41st precinct pressuring him to make quotas, a conversation he described as routine.
“My concerns included, back in 2008 stopping, searching, summonsing and arresting innocent people just to meet a quota at the end of the month,” said Polanco.
Polanco believes that stop-and-frisk is a viable tool for officers, but only when used correctly.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have said that the purpose of stop-and-frisk is to help remove guns from the street, but 99.8 percent of the stops turn up no guns and 90 percent turned up no crime. The numbers show the “hollowness” of the policy, said councilwoman Deborah Rose.
“Young black and Latino men [ages 14 to 24], who comprise 4.6 percent of the cities population accounted for an astounding 41.6 percent of the 685,724 stop-question-and-frisk stops in 2011,” said Rose, reading from a 2011 study by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Retired NYPD Officer Steven D. Epps recalls working in Brownsville in the 1970s, which he described as a time riddled with crime, but absent of hundreds of thousands of stops-and-frisks.
“I used to be a police officer and I know that it is not necessary what they are doing,” said Epps, who described his annoyance with the constant abuse of the stop-and-frisk policy in his community.
Epps believes that the policy is useful and helps protect the officers. He wants to continue it, but to modify it in a way that is productive for the community and the NYPD.
Retired NYPD officer Howard Henderson also voiced anger over the stop-and-frisk policy, which he describes as placing certain communities under siege.
“In this community there is a quota for one arrest and 30 summons a month from each officer. And what hurts me most and why I am an early retired police officer is because I could not stand the practices,” said Henderson.
The hearings are part of the Civil Rights Committee’s efforts to bring the debate about stop-and-frisk out of City Hall and into the community and raise awareness about legislation the council is considering implementing to reform stop-and-frisk.
This month the New York City Council introduced the Community Safety Act, a set of four bills that protects residents against unlawful searches on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation and gender profiling.
If enacted, the act will install an inspector general to oversee the stop-and-frisk policy and give those stopped the right to receive not only the officer’s name, badge number, and the reason for the stop, but it also allows a person to sue the officer and the City of New York for unlawful searches.
The three testifying officers said they support the Community Safety Act.