Nearly two-thirds of complaints accusing New York City police officers of mistreating young people involved male minorities, a civilian oversight panel said Monday.
From January 2018 to last June, “males of color between the ages of 8 and 18 were a complainant” or victim in 64.8 precent of police misconduct claims made by young people, Civilian Complaint Review Board findings revealed.
The interactions tended to be for minor offenses with “officers stopping youth for seemingly innocuous activities, such as playing, high-fiving, running, carrying backpacks, and jaywalking,” the oversight panel said.
“Across the nation, Americans are experiencing a collective mourning that affects all of us, including our youth,” board chairman 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.”
8-year-old handcuffed after playing with stick:
In March 2018, a group of black and Hispanic boys aged 8 to 14 were walking home, talking and laughing. Some of them played with sticks picked up from the ground, the CCRB report states.
While on the sidewalk, multiple police cars approached. The officers exited their cars, one with his gun drawn, and told the boys to get against the wall. They complied and were all frisked by the officers, and no weapons were found, the report states. In all, eight to 10 police cars and 10 to 16 officers responded to the scene, the report states.
The lieutenant on scene decided to take the 8-year-old and 14-year-old to the station and processed them for disorderly conduct after officers reported seeing the children running with sticks, the report states. The two boys were transported there while handcuffed and in tears, the report says.
During the CCRB investigation, two officers said they stopped the group because a radio run reported that a group of Hispanic men in their 20s with a machete and a stick were chasing and fighting others, the report states. However, the officers gave inconsistent statements about what the children were doing before they were stopped, including whether they were carrying anything.
Based on the investigation, the CCRB recommended charges against the officers and the lieutenant. The charges are awaiting trial by the agency’s Administrative Prosecution Unit, the report states.
The parents of the 8-year-old and 14-year-old filed complaints with the CCRB. The 8-year-old’s mother said her son’s dreams of becoming a police officer were over, and the 14-year-old’s mother said the children were not allowed to call home nor did she get a call from the NYPD, the report states.
11-year-old frisked after handshake:
On one spring evening, an 11-year-old black boy walking to meet his mother encountered a group of adult men he recognized. As the boy greeted one of the men with a “quick handshake/high-five,” plainclothes Anti-Crime officers exited their vehicle and approached the group, the report states.
The adult men dispersed. One officer approached the boy and asked for his age, and then proceeded to frisk the boy’s upper body and waist, the report states. A bystander told the officer that he shouldn’t search someone under 13, but an officer replied that drugs can be given to younger children, the report states.
The officers then got back into their vehicle and drove away, the report says.
The CCRB investigation found by a preponderance of the evidence that the officer lacked sufficient justification to stop and frisk the boy. The board recommended command discipline B, which is used for misconduct that is more problematic than poor training but does not rise to the level of charges.
However, the police commissioner downgraded the discipline to formalized training, the report states.
17-year-old stopped for carrying a backpack:
In another instance, a 17-year-old boy carrying a backpack was walking with a group of male friends through a New York City Housing Authority complex, talking and listening to music, the report states.
A lieutenant and an officer in a nearby marked police vehicle exited their car, and according to video footage, the officer seized the boy and another person and pushed them against a fence, the report states.
In a CCRB interview, the lieutenant said he suspected the two of criminal possession of a weapon based on his prior knowledge of gang activity there, his initial observations of their age, statements they and their companions made when the officers arrived, as well as the fact that they were carrying bookbags “despite the fact that it was long after the end of the school day,” according to the report.
The lieutenant and officer also observed the group pushing each other and running back and forth, and the lieutenant assessed that they were “acting kind of suspicious,” the CCRB report states.
The New York City report comes two weeks after George Floyd, a Minneapolis man accused of passing a suspicious $20 bill, died in police custody. Four police officers were arrested after video showed one of them kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd, who was in handcuffs, repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”
While the incidents detailed in the Civilian Complaint Review Board report came well before protests against systemic racism broke out across America, Davie said young minority New York residents have always known about discrimination.
“As young New Yorkers lead the way in calling for change in our city following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others, it’s time for the NYPD to re-consider how officers police our youth, address disparities in law enforcement, and commit to swift discipline when officers engage in misconduct,” Davie said.
The NYPD said it accepts the panel’s findings and will pursue changes.
“A top priority Commissioner (Dermot) Shea has set for the NYPD is to reimagine doing all we can to protect and serve New York City’s kids,” according to an NYPD statement.
“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.”