Absence and Malice

Is Operation Condor Now Preying on Students?

Amid the furor over the deadly confrontational tactics of Operation Condor, high school truants may become the next target of overzealous cops seeking to boost arrest statistics, an outspoken public policy expert has warned.

"African American and Latino parents are justifiably afraid for their children," asserts Deborah Small, director of public policy and community outreach at the Lindesmith Center, a leading drug policy research and advocacy group. "In the wake of the killing of Patrick Dorismond, the spotlight is on the policing policies of the NYPD, which is so focused on keeping arrest statistics high that it has taken to effecting pretext arrests of African American and Latino youths for offenses like truancy.'

In addition to lurking in subway stations, police are being deployed outside some schools. And Small is worried that the police buildup may not be limited to high schools. "Officers have staked out areas in the vicinity of middle and high schools in 'high crime' areas," she points out. "Once the school day has begun, any young person hanging out on the street nearby without sufficient justification is subject to arrest as a truant. In recent months hundreds of minority youths have fallen prey to these tactics and have been swept up in the clutches of Operation Condor [officers] who are charged with one principal goal—keep up those arrest statistics."

According to Board of Education figures, on any given day about 121,000 youngsters— 11 percent of the city's 1.1 million students,—are absent from school. Last year the board disciplined 16,000 students at its truancy centers. The alleged upsurge in truancy arrests is linked to the undercover drug-sting initiative known as Operation Condor, which has netted more than 20,000 drug-related arrests. No NYPD or Board of Education spokespersons returned Voice calls for comment; but according to some students and parents, cops pounce on latecomers—even when the students seem to be making an effort to get to their classes—and charge them with disorderly conduct or resisting arrest when they challenge stops and refuse to hand over their ID cards.

That allegedly is what happened to Janell Boyd, the 17-year-old daughter of a black detective, when she and another student showed up late at Springfield High School in Queens on the morning of February 17. Shortly after nine o'clock, two officers sitting in a parked police van called out to Janell and her friend Tenyae, 14, as they headed toward the entrance. The girls ignored the cops, who then jumped out of the van and ordered them to hand over their ID cards.

"What for?" Janell asked testily.

"You're late!" one of the cops retorted. Janell said she told the officer that her mother knew she'd be late, but he didn't buy it. She then argued that the doors to her school were still open. She and Tenyae could make it.

"Give me your ID card!" Janell remembers the officer demanding. When she flashed the card, the cop said the picture didn't look like her. She insisted it was. After ordering her to display the card so he could have a good look, he snatched it and started to write her up.

"What's your name?" Janell demanded. "What's your badge number?"

The officer identified himself but was silent as Janell and Tenyae kept asking why he was being so tough on them. Suddenly, the cop started "screaming in our faces, and spit got on us," Janell says.

"Move out the way!" the other officer shouted. The students refused, and according to Janell, he "pushed us out of the way and said that we pushed him." The cop told Janell she "had an attitude and was being rude." He tried to handcuff her. She resisted.

"Shut up or we're gonna throw you on the ground!" the cop allegedly barked. At that point, Janell says, she calmed down and asked to call her mother, but the cop refused—saying he was taking her to Central Booking. She then told the cop that her mother was a detective assigned to the 88th Precinct station house in Brooklyn. The cop responded that if she showed him a PBA card (which is distributed to relatives and friends of police officers), he would believe her and let her go. Because Boyd did not have a PBA card, she was hauled off to the 113th Precinct. "I was crying [because] the cops were treating me like I was a criminal," she recalls.

The arresting officer, Andrew Turano, had reached Detective Evi Boyd at home and told her that he was charging her daughter with disorderly conduct because she had an attitude. In a sworn complaint, Turano, a truant cop, claimed that at about 10 a.m.—when Janell was supposed to be attending classes—he saw her at the corner of 144th Avenue and Springfield Boulevard. According to the complaint, when he asked her for identification, she shouted, "Get the fuck away from me! I'm not getting in no fucking van." Turano added that Janell "did resist arrest by swinging her arms and punching."

Detective Boyd says Turano told her to get to the station house as fast as she could because a female lieutenant was pressuring him to process Janell's arrest at Central Booking. When Boyd, an 18-year veteran of the department, protested, saying that disorderly conduct was not a crime and Janell should not be taken to Central Booking, the officer told her that she, too, seemed to have an attitude. "He said that he had also charged her with resisting arrest," Boyd says, "and I said that you need a crime to charge resisting arrest."

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