As tensions in Brooklyn increase surrounding the stop and shooting of a suspected armed teen in Brooklyn, residents in Southeast Queens gathered March 13 for a Town Hall to discuss Stop and Frisk.
The audience was heavy with representatives from community groups, clergy, elected officials and, most importantly, those who have been a victim of the policy.
The Town Hall contained information on what to do if stopped, statistics that debunked the current arguments against the effectiveness of the policy and testimonies from young adult males that are the ones primarily stopped.
Candace Oliver from the New York Civil Liberties Union highlighted the fact that in the last 10 years the number of stops has increased over 600%. Nine out of ten of those stops are Black and Latino and “are also innocent,” she said. She also shared that, contrary to reports, these numerous stops have not increased the “level of safety for residents,” she said. Nor have these stops increased in the number of guns taken off the streets.
Newly elected Councilman Donovan Richards agreed that stop and frisk were not an effective tool for countering the amount of guns on the streets. Councilman Richards believed that gun buy-backs should be a part of the solution. He cited a recent gun buy back that took in 919 guns in six hours. “We don’t care if the guns are not from criminals,” he said referring to criticisms that guy buy backs bring in largely civilian arms. “Break-ins are the number one way criminals get guns,” Councilman Richards said.
Statistics also cited at the forum included that the number of men 14-24 stopped during stop and frisk is higher than the current population of that group. That equates to men in that age bracket being stopped repeatedly. That was confirmed by participants at the forum. Giovanne gets stopped “all the time on Jamaica Avenue…[the officers] know my name,” he said. Councilman Richards also mentioned being stopped repeatedly with his first time being stopped at thirteen years old. “Don’t let the suit fool you,” he said. “You will be grabbed out here; doesn’t matter if you have a PhD”.
Vivian McMillian, President of the 113th Precinct's Community Council, spoke from her position of working closely with law enforcement. “Not all police are bad,” she said. She does believe that when officers make a stop, they should have a reason and state why they are making the stop.
Al Kahu, a community liaison representative for Councilman Leroy Comrie, also spoke about being a victim. “I have been a victim,” he said. He was concerned that young men being stopped are being told to plead guilty when they should not.
New York City Comptroller John Liu, who organized the forum, made an appearance and said the practice has “introduced a element of distrust…and taken a huge amount of police resources”, he said. Comptroller Liu also believes the policy is connected to the “increase in lawsuits and claims against the city,” he said. The Comptroller, and Mayoral Candidate, believes “there is some level of racial profiling going on.”
Reverend Phil Craig, President of the National Action Network and one of the town hall organizers, spoke about the importance of the forum. “We want people to know how close to home this is…and let people know it is for real,” he said. He also wanted to make sure people were informed on the subject. The next step, Rev. Craig said, "is to rally on City Hall".
Some key actions to take if you are stopped:
- Be polite
- Carry identification.
- Give your correct name and address.
- Don't answer any questions outside of #3.
- Do not try to explain away your situation.
- Get a lawyer.
- Do not resist arrest.