Last month, in a dispatch for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote, "The police are representatives of a state that derives its powers from the people." The gravity of Coates's words are not lost on me, and I have considered the sentence's trueness many times in the preceding weeks. "We, the people," our founding fathers inscribed in the preamble to the Constitution. But our present condition—one that finds the NYPD constantly at odds with the community it is designed to protect—is a reality our founding fathers perhaps had not predicted: a citizenry devoid of power, and a petty police force with no sense of moral obligation to the communities it serves. The deaths of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley—and all the lives the NYPD has unfairly taken, and will likely take again—are what happens when the people have no power. I am troubled.
Coates continued, writing: "The killings of Officers Liu and Ramos prompt national comment. The killings of black civilians do not. When it is convenient to award qualitative value to murder, we do so. When it isn't, we do not. We are outraged by violence done to police, because it is violence done to all of us as a society. In the same measure, we look away from violence done by the police, because the police are not the true agents of the violence. We are." These words are also not lost on me. I am now wondering: How do we reclaim the power that we have given the NYPD, how do we reform a system so rooted in city politics—the consequences of which have become an unending and expected American practice—and alter our present existence? By showing just how toxic this system has become, and by continuing to chip away at the cracks.
As part of an ongoing series, Gawker is publishing stories from New Yorkers who have been victims of, or witnesses to, police harassment and brutality by the NYPD. Police brutality, which we believe should be treated as a national crisis, is not limited to the streets of Brooklyn, Cleveland, or Los Angeles. But examining the actions of the country's largest and most famous police force, and giving a voice to the victims of its violence, is a start.
My laptop was stolen in Grand Central Terminal. The crime which was record by surveillance cameras was assigned case #10-12692 by officer O'Donnell, after officer Zimmerman claimed the item was not stolen, but lost, and refused to accept the complaint. As part of a scheme to fudge the crime statistics, officer O'Donnell prepared a "lost property incident report" case #10-12629, containing statements he knew to be false, including; "The victim stated that he did not have a phone and did not possess identification. He was irrational, argumentative, and belligerent. He did refuse to provide a date of birth or social security number. Address provided was checked and is a homeless shelter." As a result, officer O'Donnell has caused the crime to disappear, false information to be entered into official record, and the Police record is bogus. I live in fear. [male]
A few years ago, I was on the Q train heading to 34 Street and a woman had a massive seizure. While she lay on the floor shaking, no one did anything so I went over and shifted her and held her head so she wouldn't swallow her tongue. They held the train in the station and two cops showed up. As the woman's seizure subsided one cop asked me if I was was "with her". I began to explain the situation but after a few words he suddenly screamed at me "ARE YOU WITH HER!!" I again tried to explain but he stepped very close and screamed again "I'M ASKING YOU, ARE YOU WITH HER!!!" At this point I completely shut down and said nothing. Two women who had been watching began to cry and pleaded with the officer, "He was just trying to help!" Then he turned back to me and I just said quietly, "No I am not with her."
He left me alone for a minute when the paramedics came, but then returned and said: "Hey buddy, I know you're ok I just don't take shit from anyone, you know?" It was totally bizarre. When he was screaming at me I felt like he could have done anything. I also felt that he was on something. He was terribly aggressive for no reason. And the whole time his partner acted like nothing was happening. The cop was a white male in his 30s and I am also a white male in my 30s. [male]
[I] was on the E this morning - a middle aged black dude in traditional "corporate" clothes (ID card hanging around his neck and all) walked through the sliding doors between subway cars (technically not legal). A cop in the subway car stopped him, asked for ID (ok, so far standard), and then asked him over and over if this man had ever been arrested before (no)...then asked him over and over if he'd ever gotten a ticket or citation. The dude paused and the cop immediately was like "oh, you had to think about it" - then verbally harassed him for 5 minutes about whether or not he'd ever been in trouble with the law - eventually forcing him to get off at the next stop to come with him....all for being black and walking between the subway cars - something many NY'ers do daily. [male]
When I lived in Bed Stuy in 2008 I was robbed in my building lobby... After the dude left I went across the street to 7-11 and flagged down a cop. They took me to the station and put me in a car with 2 racist detectives. I gave them a physical description, 5'9" ish 30-something, dark complexion, facial hair. They proceeded to drive me and my girlfriend around the projects and harass literally every black person that was alone on the street, no one even close to the physical description I gave. I told him it was making me uncomfortable to see him harass people that aren't the ones that robbed me... He told me it doesn't matter if it wasn't him, they are all up to no good. Two days later they called me to say they think they found the guy... tall, light skinned guy with tattoos... again, not the description at all. He was like, "are you sure it's not him?" like they just wanted to have a reason to bust some other random dude. [male]
Share your story with us. Have you ever been unfairly stopped or harassed by the NYPD? Has an officer used excessive force when it was unwarranted? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your encounter in Kinja below.