Surreptitious recording of a stop-question-and-frisk in New York

The New York police department conducts 1800 stop-question-and-frisks every day. This video contains an audio recording of a couple of Officer Friendlies conducting a stop-and-frisk on a Harlem teen named Alvin.

Radley Balko says:

This video includes a surreptitious recording of a stop and frisk in New York. It also includes interviews with NYPD cops who say that what you’re hearing isn’t atypical.

The phrase “police state” is overused. But if you can’t merely walk on the sidewalk in your own neighborhood without enduring this kind of harassment on a regular basis, I don’t know of any term that’s more appropriate.

Stopped-and-Frisked: 'For Being a F***king Mutt' [VIDEO]


      1. In order for it not to have standing as a defense, the person using it must be prosecuted. Until then…

    1. “Hey, the captain at the precinct ordered me to come out here and frisk a bunch of people for looking suspicious. Let’s just take it as read that I frisked you and found nothing suspicious. We both know that’s almost certainly what would happen if I wasted both our time with a search of questionable legality.”

    1. Well, let’s do the math. Let’s assume that out of those 34k officers, they each have 8 hour work days, which means at any one time we’d have about 11.3k officers out working. Now, let’s assume they have a 5 day work week, that means about 8k officers are working at any one time, or about 24k in one day. So right there it’s down to maybe 1800 of these over 24k officers a day, and most will probably only happen when about 16k of those officers are working. Now most officers don’t work alone, and most have at least one other officer with them at any given time. So over the full day, that would effectively be 12k groups of officers, with most incidences happening with only 8k being active, assuming each officer has one and only one other officer with them. Now, how many of those officers are actually out on the roads doing patrols and how many are guarding areas and/or doing paper work?

      1800 for only 34k officers is a LOT of stops JUST for these 250s, The simple math shows that on average this comes out to 75 stops per hour. Factor in all the other stuff mentioned above and you can clearly see this is what most could consider “out of control.”

  1. “Cause you keep looking back at us man. Don’t do that shit.”

    So being paranoid that the cops are going to stop and harass you based on a real pattern of them stopping and harassing you frequently is a perfectly legitimate cause for suspicion that necessitates that the cops stop and harass you.

    Stops and harassment will continue until trust of the police improves. Now assume the position so we can perform a trust-reassuring search of your person. Thank you for your cooperation.

      1. Become a police officer. Only frisk white guys in business suits. Explain the policies that are in place. See policies change overnight.

        1. “Why are you stopping me officer?”
          “You look suspicious, sir.”
          “I’m an elderly white guy in a business suit, carrying a briefcase, officer. How do I look suspicious?” “You look like a banker; I assume you’re about to go wrongly foreclose on a house.”

    1. *nod* I’m an elderly white guy and even I know better than to look a cop in the face. They don’t like that. They perceive it as hostile, as threatening. And the last damned thing I need in my life is a heavily armed frightened man.

      “Support your local police, for a more efficient police state.”

      1. Try walking or driving behind police, they don’t like that either, they’ll slow down or stop until you pass. It’s getting to the point where police work can be indicative of mental illness.

        1. They also apparently don’t like driving behind you if they’re not looking to cite you for anything. I’ve had cops tailgate me because I paranoidly drove the speed limit when I saw them in the rearview mirror.

      2. Lemme get this straight. If I look a cop in the face, it’s threatening. But if I don’t look a cop in the face, then I’m avoiding eye contact, being shifty, and being suspicious. Got it.

        1. As best as I can decode it (and I’m mildly autistic, so I have to approach this as a decoding problem, as a kind of man-in-the-middle hack, the way I had to learn all social interaction skills), what police want is to be treated as if they are invisible any time that they are not addressing you directly; they want you to know that they’re there, and they want you to know that they’re watching, but they react very badly to the idea that you’re watching them. My guess is that on some deep level they think that if the only people who are watching them are the people who have to keep an eye out for the police, that gives them a leg up in identifying perpetrators.*

          And, as with all authority figures (especially as with all insecure authority figures) it is absolutely essential that when they do address you, you demonstrate submissive language and tone of voice. (Which, by the way, I utterly suck at, after 50+ years I still haven’t learned to do a convincing job of imitating a submissive neurotypical. It’s hard!) Superior-to-subordinate communication style suggests to them that you think you’re above the law; peer-to-peer communication style suggests to them that you don’t respect their authority and will expect to be negotiated with when they give you an order.

          * Once I again, I pass along a bit of wisdom I was given by a cop long ago: all cops graduate from the academy having learned to divide the world into three categories: (1) cops, (2) perps, and (3) potential perps. After at most three years on the job, most of them conclude that category 3 doesn’t exist.

      3. I look cops in the face all the time, but then again, I don´t live in NYC. The only people I know that can´t take being looked in the face where little rascals at the playground when I was about 10.

  2. Yes, this is the encroaching police state, and yes, we must speak out against it – we can do better as a people.  Thanks Mark for posting!  Yet again, something the nightly news will never show the masses…

    1. Right, saying “[the] phrase “police state” is overused” is one of those things that is true, but gets less true the less white you are.  Damn, whenever I remember the vast racist bias of the justice system– which is frankly epic– I get real bummed about my country.

  3. If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about when the police come and kick your ass just for being there when you are not white.

    1. Tsk tsk. Don’t you see, not being white IS doing something wrong! (At least by their logic. The racist fucks.)

  4. I used to live in Japan and experienced a version of this kind of racial targeting. I wasn’t physically held down and only asked to present my “Gaijin Card”, but it STILL makes you feel less of a human being, less worthy somehow — and it doesn’t make you feel better in the slightest that you know you’ve done nothing but walk somewhere. It was irritating enough for me to move back home after a year.

    So I can only imagine how much worse this would feel. I agree that if these stop-and-frisks were happening to every “creed and colour” we’d be hearing a lot more about it.

    1. That’s interesting.  I’m wondering where you lived in Japan, because I lived there for five years and that never once happened to me.  If I were going to guess, I’d say you were probably in Tokyo, where the mayor is a notorious xenophobic right-winger and the Japanese equivalent of a holocaust denier, but maybe it’s more widespread than I thought.   

      1. You’ve piqued my interest. I’m honestly curious what you mean by Japanese equivalent of a Holocaust denier.

        No sarcasm intended. I get the xenophobic aspect, I’m just wondering what kind of heinous views he’s professing

        1. I don’t know anything about the Mayor of Tokyo, but Japan certainly committed more than their share of war crimes and atrocities, and they do NOT like being reminded.

          1. Oh yes, I know about the invasion of China etc, I was just wondering if the mayor of Tokyo was actually espousing his denial of such atrocities, and if so which.  Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that every society does things they’d rather not think about, I was just curious about the turn of phrase “Japanese equivalent of a holocaust denier” and what it meant in a practical sense, since I don’t often hear about Japanese politics, much less Japanese extremist views.  Although I am aware that Japan does have some xenophobic tendencies.  But so does America, and in fact, most countries.

        2. He denies the Rape of Nanking ever happened and has said that the Korean women that were raped during the war did it because they wanted money. A translated quote regarding the latter goes as such:
          “Where is the proof that Japanese forced them to do this?

          It was an era of poverty, these women grudgingly turned to the only trade they could make money in, prostitution.”

          1. I see, thanks for the link.

            I’m sorry to say, my knowledge of Japanese national politics begins and ends with Ghost in the Shell, so I try not to assume that I understand anything about the political nature of modern Japan, since all I know is based on a fictitious account of a cyborg anti-terrorism organization set in the 2020s and 2030s XD.

            There doesn’t seem to be much if any discourse on modern Japanese politics in anime at all.  Or if there is I’m too western and/or too stupid to notice.  And American news doesn’t talk about it at all either, at least not in any news I watch.  There were a few stories just after Fukushima about officials stating lower radiation exposures than were actually measured, and I know there’s a lot of saber-rattling between China and Japan right now over a tiny little island in the south china sea.  But that’s not national politics either.

          2. In regards to their politics, it mostly seems that a lot of the right wingers there would be considered further right that Republicans in the US, and that their Communist party actually seems to be the one with its head on its shoulders.  It also doesn’t help that a lot of their polititians are extremely old by other country’s standards and tend to make fun of their younger generations.  Ishihara actually said that younger men had smaller penises and they all didn’t last long in bed.  There was also another politician that at one point suggested the age of it was either consent or for drinking should be raised to over 30 (can’t find the exact article right now and it’s rather old).

            But yea, as I’ve mentioned in a few other threads, Ishihara is known as a very horrible person.  He’s called pretty much everyone who doesn’t agree with him mentally handicapped or genetically inferior.

        3. Denial of war crimes and genocide are wide spread among Japanese politicians. They never underwent the process of facing their forefathers´ crimes like Germany, and much later even Austria, did. Their school books still feature a lot of distorted history, like the ones in Austria did until the Seventies.

          1. American politicians (and citizens) are the same. This seems like universal behavior when it comes to nations having to whitewash what they’ve done.

          2. This is nonsense.  US invasions (and other western countries’ imperialist endeavors) are indeed reprehensible, but quite different in character than the Japanese wars, as follows.  US/western invasions are supported by a small number of well-connected and corrupt warhawks who profit from the imperialist expansion, and people who support them think that they’re spreading “freedom” or related virtues, with the approximately 1 million dead (in the latest US incarnation of western imperialism; the English, French, and everyone else are also guilty) being considered unfortunate collateral damage.  

            The Japanese foreign invasions were based on a perceived “racial superiority”, which still exists to this day in the region.  They considered and still consider “foreigners”, such as the 10 million slaughtered during their thwarted expansion, to be inferior and basically worthy of being nothing but slaves to the “supreme” Japanese people.  Kill the men and enlist the women as, well.

            This is not to justify any of these countries’ crimes, just to show that they are quite different in character.  Neither western economic imperialism nor eastern “pure race” expansion is dead, as we are seeing.

    2.  “I agree that if these stop-and-frisks were happening to every “creed and colour” we’d be hearing a lot more about it.”

      That’s exactly why we’re hearing more about the TSA’s version of harassment – because it’s happening to every creed and color.

      1. Here in the New York metro area I see more stories about stop and frisk on the evening TV news than I do about the TSA.

  5. I’ve got no problem with Stop, Question, and Frisk if there is actual suspicious behavior happening. The problem is the lack of a clear definition of suspicious behavior. 

      1. If only the definition were so narrow. Weather doesn’t seem to matter. And it’s not only ‘being black’ – they target all non-white races equally. That’s ‘fair’.

        1. Oh I know, was just quoting that black lawyer from Florida that showed up to his son’s friend’s birthday party in I believe it was a Mercedes.  Believe there was an article about it a few months back here on BB.  The police asked him for ID, he pulled out his businees card, and they said “not your lawyer, your ID,” and he proceeded to tell them he was a lawyer and then sued em and won.

    1. If there were actual suspicious behaviour happening, they wouldn’t need a special term for their actions.
      I’ve got a big problem with “Stop, Question & Frisk” being an objective of police work rather than a method.

  6. I read somewhere that the numbers of stops last year far exceeded the number of black young men in NYC. Here is info from the ACLU in NYC:

    An NYCLU analysis showed that Black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops in 2011, though they make up only 4.7 percent of the city’s population. The number of stops of young Black men exceeded the city’s entire population of young Black men. (The NYCLU’s full analysis of the NYPD’s 2011 stop-and-frisk data is available on our website.)

  7. I propose that once a year, on “February 50” (March 22 or 21) the NYPD Stop, Question, and Frisk those neighborhoods and people with the opposite of the usual profile.  Say Wall Street and suspiciously expensive suits.  Imagine:  the rich and white receiving 0.3% of the abuse of the poor and brown.

    1. I understand, and agree with your sentiment and I’m sure I’m over-thinking your comment….

      …but if such a formal or informal set date or dates were selected to do a ‘Stop and Frisk’ of a select elite, I’m sure the whichever elite would, when stopped, heartily comply with a smile, perhaps make a few jokes about being hassled by the ‘Man’, then go on their venal way — Leading by Example don’t you know. This farce would then be used as yet another propaganda tool……much like the fundraisers in which people who can afford it pledge money then spend a day or less in a jail cell…

      …or the so-called charity-balls that maybe contribute a few pennies to the needy but are really a cynical way to deduct the cost of the ball, and create the image of giving a flying f_ck about the needy.

  8. I know it’s anecdotal and all that  – but around urban/suburban NYC where I lived in my late teens and 20s, I had some kind of interaction with cops about twice a year.

    Since I moved to the Netherlands that number has dropped to zero in 10 years.

  9. To anyone who lives in NYC: Start a task force, document as many of these S&Fs as possible and post them. You might be arrested, but if thousands of people rise up against this, it will stop. We need a revolution. Stop complaining about this and do something.

    1. Holy shit I was just Stopped Questioned & Frisked!

      Walking While White:

      I was walking around the mostly haitian neighborhood (the non-yuppied side of town where I work in Delray Beach, Florida) like I do every day between 1pm and 2pm. A cop car was driving by and I decided to do an experiment. I turned and looked back at him like Alvin said he did in that video. I then kept walking in my random way around the streets. The cop would pull up to the end of the block and sit there and watch me walk, then when I turned the corner he’d pull up to the end of that block and watch me walk. This happened for about half-an-hour as I aimlessly walked from one block to another as I usually do. I would notice the car there when I would cross the street and look both ways. I also happened to be on the phone the entire time. 

      This continued until I was getting pretty close to being back at work. The cop pulled the car into the alley ahead of me blocking the sidewalk. He got out and I told him to hold on, I was on the phone. I finished the call and asked him what was up. He asked me a bunch of questions, said I was circling a known drug house. I told him I didn’t know what houses were drug houses, I was just out walking around during my lunch break for exercise. He was incredulous. He said why were you circling a drug house and on the phone at the same time people in that house came out and were on the phone? He said do you do drugs? Have you ever done drugs? I said come on, I was just walking around like I do every day at this time. He continued on about the known drug house as the second car pulled up. I told him I walk north in the good neighborhoods, south in the bad neighborhoods, west and east at the marina. He said I’d rather you walk in the marina than around the drug house. I said I’m sorry I’m not taking my walks in the areas you’d prefer me to. He asked if I had any weapons on me. I said weapons? I’m at work. I’m on my lunch break. I’m going for a walk for exercise. He asked if he could pat me down. I said yes. He did. He asked me for my license. He once again went on about the known drug house. I asked him how would I know which houses are known drug houses? He said I looked back to look at him. He said I kept looking at him, and even did a U-turn. I told him I did a U-turn because I was at the train track (don’t know what would have happened if I took the foot path across the tracks where his car couldn’t go. Probably would have jumped out and arrested me for trespassing on the tracks). I told him I looked at him once, and that was it. I told him I looked at him as an experiment because I had just watched a video where someone was stopped for looking back at the police. He went on and on about the known drug house while waiting for my information to come back. When it did he gave me my license back. I asked him his name and walked off.  This is a lot different than what’s going on in NYC (can you imagine telling the cop there to hold on while you finished your call?). Also, I don’t think they ask first before frisking. And I wasn’t pushed, punched or yelled at. But, I was followed, and questions for merely being out for a walk (on a sunny day) in the area close to where I work. I was suspected because I just looked in his direction. I was put under the microscope because I did something I didn’t even know I did (walk near a “known drug house”). What if I wasn’t so lucky and had a swiss army knife on me? What if I did have some prior arrests? This is no trivial matter. Something needs to be done.

  10. “Stop and Frisk Watch” – a free and innovative smart phone application that will empower New Yorkers to monitor police activity and hold the NYPD accountable for unlawful stop-and-frisk encounters and other police misconduct.

  11. 34,500 uniformed (as in cops who will arrest you but not counting plain clothes and desk jockeys) and a $3,900,000,000 per year budget. That’s one uniformed cop for every 238 NYC residents and $473 spent in law enforcement for every single NYC resident.

    By any reasonable standard, that’s overkill.

  12. That police commissioner belongs in jail.  And I don’t mean that in a metaphorical, he’s a jerk kind of way.

    I mean it in a “he really should be spending time in prison” kind of way.  Somehow his BS got me angrier than the two thugs that assaulted the kid on tape.

    And that got me plenty angry.

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