“You can clean up a pig, put a ribbon on its tail, spray it with perfume, but it is still a pig”

[The capitalist state in the US has, from its very beginning, enforced its subjugation of the Africans enslaved, of indigenous who survived conquest and genocide, and many others subordinated through colonialism, including millions drawn from foreign conquests for cheap labor in the US.  These oppressed peoples have continued to be subjected to forms of “racist profiling” at the hands of police and other repressive agencies–harassment, stalking, persecution–which in New York City goes by the name “stop and frisk.”  After years of literally millions of these encounters with abusive police–unquestioned by the mass media–massive protests have brought the issue to public light.  Now, as the political price for this ongoing abuse continues to rise, there are “reform” moves–for the police to be more polite, to issue apologies along with the abuse,  or for “stop and frisk” programs to get new names.  But  communities long targeted for such abuse have always known: even smiling police are still pigs in oppressed communities. The New York Times article, below, looks at the effects of this reforms. — Frontlines ed.]


“The officers asked for ID. They threw in the word ‘sir.’ They are trying to belittle you by saying ‘sir,’ like being sarcastic in a way, like, ‘I’m really your sir. You have to do what I say.’’ — Barlo Jones, 28, Brownsville, Brooklyn

Rude or Polite, City’s Officers Leave Raw Feelings in Stops

By WENDY RUDERMAN, New Yok Times, June 26, 2012

Most of the time, the officers swoop in, hornetlike, with a command to stop: “Yo! You, come here. Get against the wall.”

They batter away with questions, sometimes laced with profanity, racial slurs and insults: “Where’s the weed?” “Where’s the guns?”

The officers tell those who ask why they have been stopped to shut up, using names like immigrant, old man or “bro.”

Next comes the frisk, the rummaging through pockets and backpacks. Then they are gone.

Other times, the officers are polite, their introductions almost gentle. “Hey, how’s it going?” “Can you step over here, sir?” “We’d like to talk to you.”

The questions are probing, authoritative, but less accusatory. “What are you doing here?” “Do you live here?” “Can I see some identification, please?” During the pat-down, they ask, “Do you have anything on you?” They nudge further: “You don’t mind if I search you, do you?” They explain that someone of a matching description robbed a store a few days ago, or that the stop is a random one, part of a program in a high-crime area. Then they apologize for the stop and say the person is free to go.

In interviews with 100 people who said they had been stopped by the New York police in neighborhoods where the practice is most common, many said the experience left them feeling intruded upon and humiliated. And even when officers extended niceties, like “Have a nice night,” or called them “sir” and “ma’am,” people said they questioned whether the officer was being genuine.

Michael Delgado, 18, said he was last stopped on Grant Street in East New York, Brooklyn. “I was walking, and a cop said, ‘Where’s the weed?’ ” he recalled. “In my mind, I’m like, ‘Yo, this guy’s a racist.’ He started frisking me, his hands were in my pockets, but I didn’t say anything because my mom always tells me: ‘No altercations. Let him do his thing.’ ”

When the stop-and-frisk was done, Mr. Delgado said, the officer left him with a casual aside to stay safe.

“Stay safe?” Mr. Delgado said. “After he just did all that?”

Last year, city police officers stopped nearly 686,000 people, 84 percent of them black or Latino. The vast majority — 88 percent of the stops — led to neither an arrest nor a summons, although officers said they had enough reasonable suspicion to conduct a frisk in roughly half of the total stops, according to statistics provided by the New York Police Department and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Behind each number is a singular and salient interaction between the officers and the person they have stopped. In conducting the interviews, The New York Times sought to explore the simple architecture of the stops — the officers’ words and gestures, actions, explanations, tones of voice and demeanors.

What seems clear is that there is no script for the encounters, or that if there is one, it is not being followed. Under the law, officers must have a reasonable suspicion — a belief that a crime is afoot — to stop, question and frisk people. One thing an officer cannot do is stop someone based solely on skin color. Yet many of those interviewed said they believed that officers had stopped them because of race — and race alone.

Al Blount, a minister at a Harlem church, said he had been pulled over. “They’ll ask, ‘Where are you headed?’ When you’re African-American, you have to have a definite destination. Everyone else can just say, ‘Mind your own business.’ ”

Last month, a federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit alleging that the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics systematically violated the constitutional rights of blacks and Latinos, who say they are singled out for stops.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg contend that the stop-and-frisk tactic has reduced crime; nonetheless, they have said they are taking steps to ensure that stops are conducted lawfully. Those measures, they said, are expected to drive down the number of stops, while increasing their quality. The mayor has acknowledged that officers are not always respectful during stops, and said that efforts would be made to improve interactions.

The informal street survey, conducted over the past two weeks, sought to get at the root of an angry groundswell against the police among residents in predominantly minority and poor neighborhoods.

The interviews consisted of five questions: When and where were you stopped? What was the first thing the police officer said to you? How did the officer address you? Did the officer ever explain why he or she had stopped you? What was the last thing the officer said to you?

The answers offered a glimpse into the experience and why it often leaves such a bitter taste in the mouths of so many who have been stopped, and raised questions about whether the Police Department’s new emphasis on courtesy and respect would help mend relationships in predominantly minority neighborhoods.

While the encounter is often brief, the impression can be long-lasting.

“I understand that they might need to be aggressive with some people, but you just feel it,” said Christopher A. Chadwick, 20, a college student from Brooklyn. “They talk to you like you’re ignorant, like you’re an animal.” Mr. Chadwick described a stop that began when an officer said: “You, come here. Show me your ID.”

Cruz Calixto, 48, said the foot-patrol officers who approached him last summer as he walked down Rockaway Boulevard in Queens were mild-mannered. “ ‘Can you step over here sir? We’d like to talk to you,’ ” Mr. Calixto recounted. Still, the encounter was degrading. “It makes you feel belittled,” he said.

In April, the Police Department began a stop-and-frisk training course with a new component, “The Nobility of Policing,” meant to reduce animosity through professionalism and respect. The course centers on the notion that people want to be asked, and not told, what to do.

Instructors at the department’s training facility at Rodman’s Neck in the Bronx teach officers the importance of “shelving or ramping down one’s ego,” while underscoring that tone, body language, words and actions can dictate whether a stop will go badly for both the officer and the citizen, said Detective James Shanahan, a Police Academy instructor.

The department recently distributed thousands of wallet-size cards — labeled “What Is A Stop, Question and Frisk Encounter?” — to precincts across the city. Officers have been encouraged to give the cards to people they have stopped; at the bottom of the card is essentially a one-sentence, conditional apology: “If you have been stopped and were not involved in any criminal activity, the N.Y.P.D. regrets any inconvenience.”

Of the people interviewed, only one, Derrick Smith, said that officers had provided the card — in an exchange witnessed by The Times.

Mr. Smith, 47, had been stopped as he emerged from the subway in East New York. He said the officers told him they had seen a suspicious bulge in his shirt.

“I had to lift my shirt; I was coming home from work,” Mr. Smith said. “It was just my cellphone.”

As Mr. Smith spoke with reporters, the officers returned to hand him one of the cards.

Many of those interviewed said that they resented being stopped, but that the officers’ demeanor made the experience far worse.

On an evening about a month ago, while walking with friends on Northern Boulevard near 78th Street, in Queens, Louis Morales, 15, and Alex Mejia, 16, found themselves swarmed by plainclothes narcotics officers. They shoved the teenagers’ palms onto an unmarked police car and searched them. Spewing expletives, the officers repeatedly ordered them to “shut up,” the teenagers said.

One of the officers, Mr. Morales said, warned: “Say one word and I’m going to make your parents pick you up at the jail. You guys are a bunch of immigrants.”

“Yep, that’s what they said, ‘You guys are immigrants,’ ” Mr. Mejia interjected. “We can’t say anything to them. They curse at us. They treat us like we killed somebody.”

Mr. Morales said he and other neighborhood teenagers had become so bitter that even if they had information about a crime, they would not share it with the police. “I’m not going to help them,” he said. “They are not helping me by disrespecting me.”

Most of those interviewed said they could not remember the exact date and time when they were stopped and only six or seven said they knew the name of the officers involved. The sentiment, however, was clearer.

On a recent early evening in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Eric Togar said, he was on his way to meet his wife and her younger brother in front of the Langston Hughes Houses, where a cream-colored stretch limousine was on its way to take Mr. Togar’s teenage brother-in-law to a prom. The police cruiser pulled up, with lights activated, and two officers jumped out.

The officers asked if he was wanted on a warrant, said Mr. Togar, 45, a computer technician. They asked to see identification and what was inside the red backpack slung over his shoulder. “Computers and tablets,” he told them. Mr. Togar said they patted him down, offering no explanation, then told him he could go. Mr. Togar almost missed the prom send-off.

“They’re supposed to serve and protect, but all they do is patrol and control,” Mr. Togar said. “Walking down the street doesn’t make you a criminal.”

Aaron Edwards and Vivian Yee contributed reporting.

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