NYC Teen Records Police, Gets Roughed up and Called a “Mutt”

October 10th, 2012

Rebel of the Week

The US Constitution clearly recognizes the fundamental human right to privacy. Citizens are only supposed to be searched, questioned, or otherwise investigated by law enforcement by consent, a judge’s warrant, or when an officer has probable cause to believe a crime is in progress. However, recent legislative initiatives have served to weaken these rights, and one of the most atrocious policies is the “stop and frisk” run-by search tactic being carried out by police in New York City.

The Nation is reporting that a brave teen named Alvin, tired of being repeatedly harassed by police, recorded a “stop and frisk” encounter. The audio he captured demonstrates horrific abuses by the police officers, who even went so far as to say that they were going to arrest him for “being a f***king mutt,” a slur used to denigrate individuals who are multiracial.

“Stop and Frisk” Violates Rights

The way the law is being interpreted, police officers can essentially stop and frisk virtually anyone for reasons as vague as “looking suspicious.” Officer discretion offers no checks-and-balances. Without a third party such as a judge weighing the merit of an officer’s justification for a search, citizens have no protection against needless harassment.

Also, unless the person being detained is actively involved in the commission of a violent or property crime, there is no need to expedite matters by rushing to search. Judges are available 24 hours a day to sign off on a warrant. It’s no more convenient for the officer and offers no benefit to public safety. The policy’s only unique feature is its lack of accountability and the likelihood that the person being frisked is not a criminal. Every time an innocent person is stopped and treated in the manner that Alvin documented in his audio recording, the police lose more credibility with the community. This is bad public policy that makes NYC a more dangerous place to live.

Alvin’s Shocking Audio

In the above video compiled by The Nation, you can hear the shocking audio from Alvin’s police encounter. He had already been stopped earlier that day. The officers’ justifications for the search were that he “looked suspicious” and was wearing a backpack. When he asked why he was being searched, the officers became aggressive, started cursing like sailors, and seemed to try to incite him to resist.

Not only was he threatened with arrest for his ethnic background, but he was also threatened with physical harm on multiple occasions in the audio. At one point, an officer said, while holding Alvin’s arm behind his back, “I will break your f***ing arm off right now.” Another officer chimed in that he would not only break his arm, but also punch him in the face. It was unclear as to what Alvin needed to say to the police to avoid this violent escalation, as all he did was question why he was being stopped and then answer the officers’ questions.

The Center for Constitutional Rights produced a report on the “stop and frisk” policy, noting serious issues. Out of the 685,724 searches conducted in 2011, 84% were performed on African American and Latino citizens. This is wildly out of step with demographic data, showing severe bias against people of certain ethnic backgrounds. Considering the racial slurs used in the audio recording, it’s safe to say “stop and frisk” makes worse an already atrocious racial profiling problem.

For standing up for his rights and exposing the humiliating and violent encounter he experienced at the hands of the NYPD, 17-year old Alvin has earned this week’s Rebel of the Week title. When citizens hold their public officials accountable, future abuses can be prevented. Alvin’s audio recording draws attention to the abusive nature of the policy and will help civil liberties advocates make the case that “stop and frisk” needs to be stopped in favor of a more constitutional process for investigating real crimes.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.