Monday, March 26, 2012
Williamsburg - Young white men say they’re targets of NYPD’s stop & frisk tactics
Young white men in Williamsburg are charging they are targets too — just like blacks and Latinos who are stopped and questioned by cops in their neighborhood.
The 90th Precinct ranked fifth on the New York Civil Liberties Union’s top-10 list of precincts where the NYPD stopped, questioned — and sometimes frisked — the most in 2011.
The NYCLU broke down the 17,566 stops by race, finding that whites in Williamsburg made up 10% of the reports.
The Caucasian count in other gentrifying areas on the list was much lower, like in the 23rd Precinct, covering the upper East Side and East Harlem, where whites comprised 2% of the 17,498 stops. Citywide, the number was 9%.
“As for the whites stopped in the (90th) precinct, they are getting a taste of the senseless and unjustified stops that blacks and Latinos across the city experience every day,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn.
The latest U.S. Census figures showed that whites make up about 59% of the 90th Precinct, stretching from the yuppie condos lining the East River waterfront to the hipster-and-Latino-heavy Bushwick border.
White guys in Williamsburg said that poor artists and aggressive bike messengers will easily catch an officer’s eye.
“It’s not about race. It’s about class,” said goth guitarist Nate Morgan, 20, detailing several recent encounters with cops in East Williamsburg. “I have a mohawk. They stereotype me.”
The skinny 5-foot-9 musician, sporting green nail polish and a long leather trench coat, said officers grilled him one recent night because he was carrying an iced coffee.
“They were like, ‘Do you have alcohol in that?’ They stopped me and looked at my pupils,’ ” Morgan said. “People get stopped for the way that you look.”
Men of color said cops don’t bother them as long as they are dressed in a suit or in work clothes.
“It matters what you wear, just don’t look like a hoodlum,” said Marcus Kinard, a 23-year-old black man, explaining that a cop stopped him on S. Ninth St. after a nearby shooting asking what he knew about it.
Kinard, then a Pathmark cashier in full uniform, said a second officer let him go.
“He said, ‘Leave him alone. He’s going to work,’ ” Kinard said. “Maybe if we dress nicer, they will leave us alone.”
NYCLU stats showed that 88% of the Williamsburg stops involved blacks and Latinos.
Police said they hammered the area trying to stem a crime wave.
“A big spike in robberies earlier in the year in the 90th Precinct was reduced later in the year in the wake of stops,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.
Still, Williamsburg’s whites attracted the attention of cops for a variety of reasons, according to NYPD documents, from “wearing clothes commonly used in a crime” to “change direction at sight of officer.”
In some cases, it was obvious why cops were quizzing residents.
A 27-year-old barbershop manager said a plainclothes cop frisked him in Grand Ferry Park after spotting him rolling a marijuana joint under an umbrella as he sat with his ex-girlfriend in the rain.
The manager, who asked not to be identified, said he confessed to having the drug, was patted down, and walked away with no summons.
I had a bright pink shirt on that day,” the manager said. “I was an easy target.”