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Is NYPD Running Wild? Patterns of Brutality Raise Questions About Mayor's Control of Police

Behind the NYPD's beating of Jateik Reed and the killing of Ramarley Graham is a long history of police harassment.

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“This kind of policing is exactly what the New York Civil Liberties Union is targeting in a new lawsuit. The group claims that the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk program, which stops an overwhelming majority of black and Latino suspects, is also taking place in private buildings.

Landlords citywide can sign up for a program called "Operation Clean Halls," which is intended to prevent drug use and sales through indoor patrolling.

Alexis Karteron, NYCLU senior staff attorney, told the Voice, "We were hearing directly from people that building residents were being subjected to pretty intense police practices—getting stopped in lobbies, stopped at the mailbox, at the garbage chute, in the hallway.”

Julissa Lawrence calls the all-too-common arrests “bogus charges, just to get their name and address in the book.”

Jashawn told me some of his cases catch up with him. “There’s so many I forget about it. I just had court last week because of something, and I had a bench warrant for one of those cases,” said Jashawn, who did not realize he had missed court. “It’s just too much stuff, too many tickets, too many summonses.”

Garnell says that most of the arrests and stop-and-frisks happen “right in the middle of the week,” and noted Wednesdays as the worst, with Friday also busy, “because they want you to spend the weekend in bookings. All the other days they’re not really looking for anybody.”

His observations are consistent with data that shows the NYPD follows a schedule of days designated for desk work or aggressive policing. The trend in arrests thus stems from the NYPD’s own pattern of policing, not fluctuations in actual crimes.  

According to CUNY Professor K. Babe Howell’s report,  Broken Lives from Broken Windows:

“The differences in the numbers  of misdemeanor  arrests  can  be attributed  to  decisions  made  regarding  the deployment of police resources. In  order  to arrest people for minor offenses, teams of officers are  organized to observe  people  buying  drugs, to do sweeps of particular buildings, or to  watch  for  people jumping  turnstiles. "Busy  arrest  days," therefore, are the result  of aggressive  order-maintenance  policing  targeted at  particular locations. Other  days are  "slow  arrest  days"  because  of less aggressive  policing of  these offenses.

According to statistics, the least serious offenses “make up the lion's share of the additional arrests on busy days.”

Justice for Jateik Reed and Ramarley Graham

Private donors and the Occupy Wall Street bail fund donated the $10,001 the Reed family needed to post for Jateik Reed to be released, and he walked out of jail, to the relief of his mother, last week. He still faces drug and resisting arrest charges. 

While Reed’s family described his release as “wonderful,” they still want police to be held responsible for their actions, and seek more accountability from the NYPD, overall. Prosecutors demanded Reed give up his right to the 5th Amendment and cooperate with police to investigate the officers who beat him. On the advice of his lawyers, who said the relationship between the NYPD and the District Attorney’s office makes a fair investigation impossible, Reed didn’t take the deal. His attorneys are pushing for a special prosecutor to open up the investigation.

Makeba Johnson explained to me why it is too late for Ramarley Graham, but not for other youths. “I just want them to realize that because they’re police they can’t just shoot somebody and then just go on desk duty and it’s okay, because it's not fair. If we shoot somebody we go to jail. And if they shoot somebody they get desk duty,” she said, “He had no life yet, not a heartbreak yet in life.”

Schuan Reed said while she knew police harassment was bad, she did not realize how far it went until her own son became a victim. “I feel bad that it took me so long,” she said, “But I think I found my calling.”

The aggressive policing has inspired a movement, grown from the neighborhoods and communities affected, with a mission to end stop-and-frisk. Jose Lassale, a New Yorker who has been subject to stop-and-frisk himself, said being stopped is “just another day in the hood, and that’s sad that we feel that way.”

Lassale and other members of the Stop Stop-and-Frisk coalition are mobilizing, policing the police and passing out “Stop Stop-and-Frisk” buttons to empower communities and let police know they are standing up for themselves.