While New York City has been ground zero in the fight over the police department's controversial "stop-and-frisk” program, in which millions of mostly black and Latino men have been targeted for stops, a video of one particularly galling stop in Philadelphia illustrates just how demeaning these stops can be.
In the video, posted to YouTube last month, two men are shown being stopped by police after one of the men apparently waved at a stranger.
“You don’t say hi to strangers,” one of the police officers, identified as Officer Philip Nace, is heard saying. “Not in this neighborhood,” his partner chimed in.
What followed is a barrage of foul language, threats and insults from the officers, including one of the cops threatening to split one of the men’s "wig."
“Are you supposed to grab me up like this?” one of the young men asked Nace.
“I’ll grab you anyway I got to,” Nace responds. “Everyone thinks they’re a fucking lawyer and they don’t know jack shit.”
Nace’s partner is heard telling one of the stopped men, “We don’t want you here anyway. All you do is weaken the fucking country.”
“This is exactly what the city of Philadelphia says its cops don't do," Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney for the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is monitoring the city's stop-and-frisk program, told the Philadelphia Daily News. "The only way we stop it from happening is if the Police Department acknowledges that it does happen and takes steps to root it out."
The Philadelphia Police department’s internal affairs unit is investigating the incident,” Lt. John Stanford, a Philadelphia police spokesman, told the Daily News.
At one point, one of the men stopped in the video tells Nace that he feels he’s being harassed.
"It feels like you're harassing me," one of the men told Nace. "I didn't do nothing."
"How do you know?" Nace asked.
"What do you mean? How do I know what?" the man asked.
"How do you know what we know?" Nace asked.
"I don't know what you know," the man says. "So? What did I do? I didn't commit a crime. I'm just walking."
"How do we know that?" Nace asked.
The release of the video comes just months after a federal judge ruled that the NYPD violated the constitutional rights of those it targeted, overwhelmingly blacks and Latinos. City leaders including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly have defended and praised the practice as key to New York City’s dwindling murder rate. But Judge Shira Scheindlin found the department “adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling.” Scheindlin called for sweeping reforms in the department and a federal monitor to oversee the changes.
While Scheindlin did not order the program halted, she blasted city leaders in her decision, writing that “the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.”
Meanwhile, other cities, including nearby Newark, NJ, have adopted their own version of the program.
While the program has its cheerleaders, there’s little statistical data that suggests the practice actually works to curb crime.
Of the 4.4 million people stopped, and the 2.3 million people frisked in New York City between 2004 and 2012, a weapon was found in less than 1% of the cases.