Each year, Universal Children's Day is honored on November 20. Here are stories from three children this year, whose experiences with New York City Police Department (NYPD) are all too common:
For Tyrone L., a 16-year-old Black man who lives in East Harlem, stop and frisk is a daily reality. Tyrone told the Center for Constitutional Rights he was stopped along with his friends (all young people of color) after school one day in front of a train station and asked for their ID by the NYPD. After the IDs were checked, Tyrone and his friends were told, "just to go home 'cause school hours is over. You don't need to [stay] in front of the train station." Tyrone told CCR, "I felt it was wrong.... We just got stopped because of judging based on color and clothes." Listen to Tyrone's story here.
Ricky S., a 17-year-old Latino man living in the Bronx, told CCR, "[NYPD officers] stop me, search my pockets, probably search my friends as well, cause they think that we cutting school but there really is no point of cutting school, and we being honest, like `nah, we going to this place or this place,' [but] no, they just want to search us." Listen to Ricky here.
Corey F., a 19-year-old from the South Bronx, lives behind a high school and sees young people stopped all the time and that stop and frisk "makes kids feel like criminals." Corey described the NYPD coming out in "paddy wagons" to stop young people. Listen to Corey here.
Corey, Ricky, Tyrone. What do these three young people have in common? They've all been stopped or seen others stopped by the NYPD on their way to or from school. In a report documenting the human impact of the NYPD's stop and frisk policy that came out earlier this year, the Center for Constitutional Rights documented many stories of young people who had been stopped. Through our interviews it became clear that a generation of children of color have grown up in an environment where being mistreated by police is an expected part of daily life. Their stories are confirmed by statistics that are released quarterly by the NYPD on their use of stop and frisk, which has climbed dramatically every year since 2002. An analysis of NYPD stop and frisk data confirms that young people aged 25 and under comprise 55 percent of all stops last year. The first half of 2012 -- over 50 percent of people stopped were under the age of 25.
Stops are no minor inconvenience; they can be traumatic, violating and humiliating. The Center for Constitutional Rights has heard testimonies from people who experienced a range of inappropriate and abusive behaviors by police, including being forcibly stripped to their underclothes in public, inappropriate touching, physical violence and threats, extortion of sex, sexual harassment and other humiliating and degrading treatment.
But stops of New Yorkers do not take place across the board. Not every child goes through these experiences. Stops occur predominately to people of color, communities traditionally targeted by the police for harassment, abuse and brutality. And for young people of color or from low income communities, a vision of anything else is farfetched.
This all seems especially disturbing in light of Universal Children's Day, which takes place on November 20th each year, and is recognized across the world as a day to respect, protect and uphold children's rights. It is a day that serves to shine a light on the protections that young people, as a vulnerable group, must be extended by the people in power. Even right here at home.
The good news? Measures like the Community Safety Act, a landmark police reform legislative package, are critical steps towards addressing these rights violations by banning the profiling of communities on factors including actual or perceived age. But until this legislative package is passed, the stories like those of Corey, Tyrone and Ricky will continue to occur. We can and we must do better.
Note: The information contained in this blog post does not reflect any of the conclusions,
evidence, or arguments that will be presented by plaintiffs in the lawsuit Floyd v. City of
New York, 08 Civ. 1034 (SAS) (SDNY).