Photo credit: @julesdwit.
A not-for-profit media organization supported by people like you.
WNYC reporter Ailsa Chang joins us to discuss part two of her report on the way NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy results in high numbers of low-level marijuana arrests.
shortly after listening to the segment, i walked up my block in middle class park slope and smelled marijuana wafting from a trio of young (white) teenagers. As i passed them (they were openly smoking a joint, enjoying the beautiful day, meandering up toward Prospect Park). I asked them to refrain from smoking pot on our block (many young kids, etc...) and suggested that if a cop saw them, they could be hauled in to jail (misdemeanor). Nary a cop in sight on this street in Park Slope to stop and frisk- no doubt all them dispatched to write traffic/parking tix for the weary drivers of Brownstone Brooklyn...need I say more?
What is happening to authority in America? What is happening to America in authority? Cops should get more respect; respect should get more respect.
White men walk down the street with marijuana and other drugs all the time, but they are rarely stopped by the police. Why is that???
WTF is wrong with everyone?EASY SOLUTION: Stop walking around with illegal drugs. Don't do drugs. Your life is not going to fall apart if you don't smoke weed or do coke.Quite the opposite actually.
For those who are wondering, "What did he do?", the kid and his friend painted their initials, in small -- 12 inch -- letters, on a couple of warehouses in the commercial district of the suburban area in which they lived. Neither owner wished to prosecute; both merely wanted the wall repainted. The cops told the kids that, if they didn't "confess", they would be incarcerated for 8 days before being brought to a bail hearing. That is, in fact, a lie: we have a constitutional right to a bail hearing w/i 72 hours of being arrested. The kids were charged with a felony, which requires $1,500 worth of damage, when in fact the "damage" done was under $250.00 (they bought paint). The ADA insisted -- demanded -- a guilty plea to the misdemeanor, which would have labeled our young relative for life. The parents fought and won, but it cost them, literally, a year's college tuition at SUNY.
What turned the tide? The parents fired their attorney and hired a former prosecutor in the same office in which the kid was charged. The case was settled in two weeks (after a year of litigation), with a few phone calls. The charges were dropped to a violation, and the kid got community service.
Nice system we have, is it not?
There is a greater point that is being missed here: As usual, in our society, the black man is a suspect! Whether its a kid simply walking down the street being stopped by the police for "furtive movement" or the President of the US being alleged to be a muslim and a not a citizen... American society continues to not fully accept black men into the fold. They will always be accused of doing something wrong.
I'm not sure if anyone mentioned the fact that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are arrested and charged for possession of marijuana -- a misdemeanor -- virtually guarantees that a disproportionate number of African-Americans have criminal records, and hence a harder time finding work and, because of the "prior", a greater change of being incarcerated for any future violation. The over-charging of minorities for minor offenses, and resulting effects on employment among minorities, and the consequences of such unemployment, is a separate topic. Former NY Court of Appeals chief justice, Hon. Judith Kaye, tried to draw attention to this problem in comments made on NPR prior to her retirement.
In contract: our young relative, who is white and middle-class, was arrested at age 18 and over-charged, for a minor prank. Assuming that he was truthful -- and everyone involved believed him, including the suburban judge who heard the case -- his constitutional rights were violated by arresting officers. Nonetheless, it cost his parents $15,000 in attorney's fees, and one year of repeated court appearances, to have the charges against him reduced to a violation. He is now in college and doing very well.
What would have happened to this kid, had he been black or Hispanic? I think that we all know the answer to that question
FYI - Well educated, employed, married black men with well mannered children in good neighborhoods are also stopped and frisked by the NYPD.
A few observations:
1- If I found out that the police were combing Wall Street for pot smokers, I'd start a tax rebellion. The law-abiding people in violent, low-income neighborhoods deserve extra police protection, and if it was being wasted on Wall Street looking for pot smokers, I'd be incensed. Wall Streeters have everything they want in life; extra police protection when people are dying in poorer areas that could use the extra cops would be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
2- If this well-deserved extra protection might mean that drug users in these areas were more susceptible to arrest because there are more cops around, then so be it. Drugs are illegal.
3- This having been said, the cops should play fair and charge the proper crime.
Peg: Your skepticism about my kids says more about your parenting experiences than it does the state of my family. Sorry, but my kids don't use drugs, carry drugs, or buy drugs. They don't fear the results of being searched and having a drug violation turned into a drug misdemeanor. And they respect the police, and for the most part they tell the truth.
I am their father, I am in the home, and I am employed. My wife stayed home with them and now works. It took my wife and I a lot of work to make this happen, believe me, but we're a nuclear middle-class family, and the sacrifices were worth it.
Our life choices seem to be the most effective solution to what is being framed here as a police problem.
Sorry, I don't pay too much mind to splitting hairs about what charge a criminal receives. That's what their lawyers are for, and I apparently pay for them out of my taxes, so I think I've done my duty in that regard.
Ailsa/Brian - very interesting piece. I listened yesterday and today. I want to add to some of the comments your callers made about how the police act when they stop these individuals. I've been a witness to very aggressive and confrontational behavior by police officers on two occasions.... and BOTH of which the police were making false accusations of the person. 1) in a cab that turned onto Fifth Ave. from 36th St. - we were pulled over 2 blocks after turning onto Fifth and accused of having run a red light on Fifth 4 blocks previously. I had to speak up and inform the officer that was impossible because we hadn't been on Fifth 4 blocks previous.2) I saw a man from my neighborhood at Costco and he offered to drive me the few blocks to my home. When we reached my block, we were pulled over by 4 very angry, aggressive, and confrontational plainclothes officers who forced the guy out of the car and started frisking him. The poor guy was so frazzled he responded in Spanish, and the officers aggressively yelled at him to speak English. I got out of the car and asked what it was about, and they said he had passed them going the opposite direction within the last 5-10 minutes, cut them off, and given them the finger. Again, I told them that was impossible because we had been at Costco for the last 15-20 minutes, and we had been coming from that direction.
I find this behavior unacceptable, and certainly not the kind of thing I expect from the protectors of society.
What a juxtaposition in your schedule today: stop and frisk along side Obama being forced to 'show his papers'! Clearly the right wing media had just perpetrated an unwarranted stop and frisk on our president - because he is black.
The comments here are the clear evidence of what is happening out there....the non ethnic people are talking about rights...what a laugh, listen they are trying to tell you people are being VIOLATED these rogue cops dont give two hoots about your rights. They are jumpy power crazed psychos who know they can't beat you in a one on one fist fight, they are cocky and to beat all have the law on their side.
Peg and all the other curious who said pull out a cell phone and record...think about it, that is just a move to get shot, they will say they thought he/she had a gun is all.
To Stephen: Glad you think you know what your kids are doing and thinking 24/7. I would wager that they do have their own minds and choices and have learned not to share that with you.
i know a place the cops should try this and they would need a bus or two to cart them to jail: wall street at lunch and after the closing bell. i always get a contact high when i stroll the wall street area. oh yeah these guys and gals are well heeled and white.
Let's pretend there's no crime in high crime areas. Let's bring back the 70's.
Brian - give me a break. They want a challenge. It's a dare. Have a carload of uncercover cops pop up on you one night, not identify themselves (would you stop if a bunch of big white guys were yelling at you from a car with tinted windows?) and tell you and your friend "almost fit the description," take off your shoes, jacket in cold weather after being aggressively searched against a wall or hood of a car and see if there's time to talk about constitutional rights.
The caller, Mel, is exactly right. The cops want you to trip up to escalate to something else. It's a power game. Every "Driving While Black" male gets this. Brian, has no way of understanding this.
I'm confused about the whole legality of stopping people (black or ethnic men, usually) on just the suspicion that someone would be carrying a gun. How is that legal? How is that suspicion arrived at? If this were a valid policing policy there would be less guns on the street, wouldn't there? This is all just a power play by out-of-control police. It's still Guilani time for them.
If somebody robs me and I tell the police that a guy with XYZ description did it to me and ran off a few minutes ago, I'd like them to go around and look for people who fit the description.
If they can't do this anymore, then I wonder what kind of city we're going to end up with.
There can be no "academic debate" about the practice of illegal search.
No need to defend the cops Brian, just let your callers talk. Stop defending man! You don't know, you're not black.
When I had an encounter with an NYPD officer, I recited my bill of rights (specifically 4th and 5th on search and seizure - including papers [ID] - and destruction of property). This seemed to impress upon the officer that I was under constitutional protection, which caused him to be much less confrontational in his demeanor. So, yes, I encourage knowing and expressing your constitutional rights!
Brian, TRUST the man when he tells you they "want" you to resist so they can take it to the next level....It is TRUE!
Why have none of these illegal search and seizures been recorded by cell phone camera?
There's a simple political solution----assuming pols can find the political courage:
The statute can be amended to restrict the search to guns only. Very similar to a judges search warrant of a home: anything not on the warrant is excluded and not prosecutable.
Thus, the law can be written to exclude minor drug infractions----like possession of grass, etc.
Let's stop leaving these sensitive issues to police discretion!
Yeah perhaps its time to decriminalize weed and SAVE $ for important things like HEALTH care
Dear Brian Lehrer, Esq.,
Sure you know from your legal training that if a marijuana pipe has some leftover marijuana in it, even if it's a small amount of some ashes, then it's an arrst for marijuana, and not the pipe.
John, Becky, Smith, Steven:
Civil rights should apply to people even if they:
1) look "suspicious" (and we know what THAT means, right?)
2) live in high-crime areas with many, many irresponsible parents.
The 4th ammendment says you can't be searched unless you're suspected of a crime. It's not a crime to be a minority living in a poor area. Yet.
Well than it's time to retrain cops. You don't see this kind of behavior in most western democratic police. There is a mutual respect when the dispute is verbal. Why should cops be taizing[sp?] be forgivable of a cop when the suspect is only verbal and there has to be some kind of responsibility for cops too. This is the kind of police behavior you find in fascist societies. That's amazing, they threatened to break that kids jaw! and get away with it?!!!
Well, it would make a better case if the people they caught were actually "law abiding citizens" but all of these people were drug users and many had "long rap sheets"!
That said, my stepson was jumped and frisked by 3 undercover cops at 1 a.m. outside of Penn Station (suburban kid who attends class in NYC and missed his train). He is white, middle class, etc.
He had a pocket knife (he works part time at a warehouse) which they said was "in sight" but it was deep in a pocket. Turns out the knife was legal size/type, but it took three court dates and several thousands of dollars to sort out. If he didn't have a family who could afford a lawyer, he would have no choice but to plead out and have a mark on his record.
(p.s. And, yes, we asked him "what the heck are you doing with a pocket knife in your pocket in a post 9-11 NYC? Not illegal, but not a great idea.....)
The answer this doesn't get reported is obvious....the police officer will more than likely be back on the beat and your life will become a living hell for having reported him. A very unfortunate circumstance. Wonder how often this happens on the upper east side?
i meant paper clips, not staples.
I have been smoking pot on the streets of New York for 25 years and I have never been busted. Why? I'm a white, geeky-looking guy with glasses.
pot these days can come in "hard" lucite boxes, similar to something you might put staples into. the reporter mentioned zip lock bags, which are use as well, but i think it's important to mention this fact...
all this of course is what i hear on the street ;)
@john from office.....
Thank you!!!!!Duh !!!!!
It seems that if parents and members of the community cared enough to prevent their children from using drugs, this would put a quick end to this sinister NYPD practice.
Talk about the community taking police reform into its own hands!
The police will never find drugs on my kids as a result of an improper search. Because they were raised in a loving, responsible home and they don't use drugs.
And as for people who complain that they "don't have time" to fight the crimes alleged against them, what can I say? It should be their top priority. It would be for me.
Only a person who is a hardened criminal at heart doesn't care about his criminal record, especially if he's "innocent."
Why do authorities always choose violent crime areas to frisk suspicious looking people? Grrr!
Concerning the President Birth Certificate: Wow that was a great answer caller...of course Brian cut you off mid point because you hit the nail square on the head!
How about a show of a community out of control. Highlighting the lack of parenting, lack of normal dress standards. Where illegal activity is the norm. Where the police are to blame, because they find drugs. That would be a good show. What about a show showing the lack of desire for education and the acceptance of high crime and low achievement in the community. Stop blaming the police and look to the parents.
Thank you, thank you Elsa Chang, for this portrait of a NYPD out of control. This situation of the pot busts is an outrage. Who will stop it? (a legacy of the Giuliani numbers game) A waste of money and another oppression, like stop and frisk, of minority communities. The comment that were such practices to take place on the UES there would have been an explosion of publicity and reaction was most relevant.
Can the NYCLU get active on this, if they are not already? Seems like fighting these practices must rely on organizations such as the NYCLU.
Email addresses are required but never displayed.
Brian Lehrer leads the conversation about what matters most now in local and national politics, our own communities and our lives.
Subscribe on iTunes
Brian Lehrer Weekend: Mad Men's Matt Weiner, Ira Glass & Sarah Koenig, '04 Food
WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 are New York's flagship public radio
stations, broadcasting the finest programs from NPR and PRI, as well as a wide range of award-winning local
programming. WNYC is a division of
New York Public Radio.