Activists braved the rain and wind this afternoon to gather on the steps of City Hall for a press conference championing new legislation intended to curb discriminatory practices in NYPD's stop and frisk program. The legislation, which was proposed by Councilmember Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) and introduced today, aims to limit discriminatory profiling during NYPD stop and frisks; it would do this by broadening the legal definition of discrimination to include sex, gender identity, age and housing status. Jasmine Epps, 25, of the LGBT youth organization Streetwise and Safe, spoke with us of her own experiences being stopped and frisked by the NYPD while growing up in public housing in Brooklyn.
"It was just me and my little cousins, who were thirteen and fifteen," Epps said, referring to a specific incident that occurred when she was sixteen. "We were asked to take off all of our above clothing and leave on our undershirts, and we had to roll down the top of our pants and wait for female officers to come and frisk us. They were looking for drugs, and we were little kids. We didn't have any drugs. We had to wait for our parents to come get us and we weren't charged with anything."
Epps noted several instances in which she'd experienced particular harassment from the NYPD she felt she'd received because of her gender. "I've taken my child out of the stroller and put her on the floor, on the sidewalk, because they were looking for whatever they were looking for. The officer refused to hold my child," she recalled. "I've been groped by cops. I can't walk a third of the route to school because I can't walk past the precinct because the police there harass me everyday. These are things that I go through. My kids see this."
The legislation would also require any NYPD officer performing a stop and frisk to present whomever they are stopping with a business card stating their name, rank and unit, as well as the phone number for the Civilian Complaint Review Board. And officers would be required to provide New Yorkers being stopped and frisked with detailed explanations for searches, as well as to inform them of their rights to refuse a search if the officer lacks a warrant or probable cause. In 2011, the NYPD stopped and frisked a record high of 684,330 people. Of that number, approximately 87 percent were black or Latino.