Nearly 90 percent of complaints for police misconduct involving youth ages 10 to 18 were Black or Hispanic New Yorkers, according to a new report issued by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Nearly two-thirds of those complaints involved boys of color, policed for activities like running or carrying backpacks or playing with sticks, according to a review of 112 fully investigated complaints to the CCRB between January 2018 and June 2019.
The report was released as thousands across New York City and the nation protest racist police violence and as peaceful demonstrators have been met with NYPD baton beatings, pepper spray, and mass arrests.
"Too many young people are treated as criminals in their classrooms and on the streets," a youth advisory council member in 2018-2019, Winnie Shen, said in a statement that accompanied the report's release. "When those in power do nothing to address systemic injustices, it is up to the youth to demand change."
She added: "We need more than reform; we need a radical transformation guided by those who are not confined by preconceptions of what justice can look like."
The CCRB's report is part of an effort to reach young people and encourage them to file police misconduct complaints. In 83 percent of cases, an adult filed on behalf of the young person. Complaints involved young people of color who were frisked or pressed against fences without reasonable suspicion to do so.
In one complaint, a group of Black and Hispanic boys ages 8 to 14 were walking, laughing, and playing with sticks in March of 2018. A squad of cop cars and 10 to 16 officers stopped them, frisked them, and one officer drew a gun on them during their walk home.
They were ordered against a wall to be searched and two of the boys—an 8-year-old and 14-year-old—were taken to a police station for "disorderly conduct" after a radio call about a group of men with a machete and stick chasing people, the report says.
But the agency's investigation found the radio call did not match the description of the group of boys. Later, the CCRB found that the officers did "not have reasonable suspicion to believe any of the boys were armed when they were frisked" and "lacked the authority to have the two boys transported to the stationhouse."
The charges against the two officers who first stopped the boys involved are awaiting trial within the agency's Administrative Prosecution Unit.
In another complaint, an 11-year-old Black boy high-fived a group of men who he recognized in the neighborhood while walking to his mom near a public housing complex. After the greeting, he was frisked by an officer.
At another public housing complex, two teenage boys walking with backpacks were stopped by officers and pressed against a fence because officers believed they had weapons, though a later investigation found officers had no reasonable suspicion to do so.
The review of complaints also found 36 percent of complaints involving youth were from Brooklyn and 26 from the Bronx. Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island compiled 18, 12, and 8 percent, respectively.
"Across the nation, Americans are experiencing a collective mourning that affects all of us, including our youth," CCRB Chair Fred Davie said in a statement. "Sadly, after years of witnessing news about police misconduct and possibly experiencing it themselves, even the youngest among us have an awareness of the tension that too often exists between the police and civilians."
Of the 112 complaints examined in the report, 29 percent were substantiated, meaning misconduct was found. In 42 percent of complaints, allegations were unsubstantiated; in 13 percent the officers were exonerated—though 4 percent of those were unidentified officers. Another 4 percent of complaints included unidentified officers as well. Just 10 percent—11 complaints—were entirely unfounded.
Youth cases are substantiated more often than adult cases, 29 percent compared to 23 percent. Exoneration rates are lower for youth complaints, 13 percent, versus adult complaints, 23 percent.
The CCRB makes recommendations for discipline through its Administrative Prosecution Unit, but the NYPD is not required to accept the CCRB's determinations. In 2018, just 38 percent of cases involving adults and youth closed by the unit resulted in the NYPD disciplining officers based on the CCRB's recommendations.
A CCRB spokesperson said the names of the officers were not disclosed because of state law 50-a—which shields information about police disciplinary records from the public. In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, widespread protests in the city have called for repealing 50-a as a step towards greater police accountability in New York. State lawmakers were expected to vote to repeal the law Tuesday.
The CCRB recommended the NYPD document use of force data by age and race to better track police interactions with youth, as well as train officers on the difference between policing youth and adults. The agency also recommended strengthening the requirement that officers tell parents when their kid is taken to a police station.
“A top priority Commissioner Shea has set for the NYPD is to reimagine doing all we can to protect and serve New York City’s kids. After careful review, we accept each of the CCRB’s thoughtful and constructive recommendations — some of which are already in the process of being implemented and all of which will strengthen our new Youth Strategy," NYPD spokesperson Detective Sophia Mason said in a statement.