NEW YORK - If you have ever wondered why the NYPD's stop-and-frisks have caused so much outrage, the New York Times Op Doc film, The Scars of Stop-and-Frisk, published on Times' website today, is for you.
The film tells the story of Tyquan, a young man who, by the time he was 18 years old, was stopped and frisked more than 60 times. Tyquan's experience reflects some disturbing statistics: the police in New York City carried out 685,724 stops in 2011, and 88 percent of them did not result in an arrest or even a ticket. Of those stops, 87 percent involved Black or Latina/o New Yorkers.
According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, in 2011, there were more stops of young black men, ages 14-24 years old, (168,126) than the total number of young black men who live in New York City (158,406).
Stop and frisk affects hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, with negligible results - only one illegal gun was found and confiscated for every 1,000 people stopped in 2011.
Opinion polls show that people who want to reform the practice are more likely to have had personal experiences being stopped and frisked. Those with little or no contact with the police generally do not understand the controversy.
This film explores the deep impact of the so-called stop-and-frisk policy on a young Brooklyn resident named Tyquan.
"When you're young and you're black, no matter how you look, you fit the description," he says.
He describes how he has been held at a precinct station simply for asking questions about why he was being stopped. There are numerous instances when he was held for hours at a police precinct and then released without charges.
The debate on stop and frisk in New York City is heating up, and the issue will be a pivotal one in the 2013 mayoral race. A federal judge recently granted class-action status to a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department, while harshly criticizing the city's response to complaints about the practice.
Watch Stopped & Frisked [http://nyti.ms/KAeuOc] and share it with your friends, viewers, and readers. It is a powerful reminder of the everyday impacts of this discriminatory practice.
Statement from Filmmakers Julie Dressner & Edwin Martinez:
Last year, police officers in New York City stopped and frisked people 685,724 times. Eighty-seven percent of those searches involved blacks or Latinos, many of them young men, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The practice of stop-and-frisk has become increasingly controversial, but what is often absent from the debate are the voices of young people affected by such aggressive policing on a daily basis. To better understand the human impact of this practice, we made this film about Tyquan Brehon, a young man who lives in one of the most heavily policed neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
By his count, before his 18th birthday, he had been unjustifiably stopped by the police more than 60 times. On several occasions, merely because he asked why he had been stopped, he was handcuffed, placed in a cell and detained for hours before being released without charges. These experiences were scarring; Mr. Brehon did whatever he could to avoid the police, often feeling as if he were a prisoner in his home.
His fear of the police also set back his education. At one high school he attended, he recoiled at the heavy presence of armed officers and school security agents. "I would do stuff that would get me suspended so I could be, like, completely away from the cops," he recalled. He would arrive late, cut classes and refuse to wear the school uniform. Eventually, he was expelled.
Mr. Brehon's life turned around when he transferred to Bushwick Community High School and joined Make the Road New York, a community organizing group that is part of Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of organizations. Because of his experiences, he now hopes to attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice and to become a lawyer, in part so he can help others who are subjected to racial profiling.
Mr. Brehon's story is just one in what we hope will be a bigger project to examine more closely the impact of the stop-and-frisk policy on this city's residents, including police officers.
Support for this video was provided by the Open Society Foundations.
Julie Dressner is a filmmaker who focuses on human rights and education. She is a winner of the National Magazine Award for video.
Edwin Martinez is an award-winning filmmaker who makes character-based films about people struggling to transcend their social circumstances.