Jazz Hayden and the Fight Against Stop-and-Frisk

An unlikely activist's battle with the NYPD's frisky business

Jazz Hayden and the Fight Against Stop-and-Frisk

Jazz Hayden might be the most unlikely character in the long-running controversy over the NYPD's stop-and-frisk campaign, which has affected more than 4 million New Yorkers since 2004.

The 70-year-old Hayden, whose given name is Joseph, is a longtime community activist in Harlem. In a past life, he was a street hustler who served three years in prison in the late 1950s for drugs, was falsely accused in the late 1960s in a high-profile shooting of two police officers in the politically turbulent year of 1968, was convicted of money laundering in the 1970s, and served 13 years in prison from 1986 to 2000 for manslaughter after a traffic dispute turned fatal.

Hayden has spent the past four years irritating police officers by videotaping them as they stop and frisk people in Harlem in a program he calls "Copwatch." He often posts the videos on the Internet. For most of that period, he encountered little more than annoyed cops, but recently, his activities might have caught up with him.

Jazz Hayden stands where he alleges police illegally searched his car in December 2011. After the search yielded a penknife, Hayden was arrested on a felony weapons charge.
Lyric Cabral
Jazz Hayden stands where he alleges police illegally searched his car in December 2011. After the search yielded a penknife, Hayden was arrested on a felony weapons charge.
Hayden, a longtime Harlem community activist, films stop-and-frisks and then posts the videos to the Internet as part of his Copwatch program. Hayden plans to sue the NYPD for improper stop and arrest after he was pulled over by police in December.
Lyric Cabral
Hayden, a longtime Harlem community activist, films stop-and-frisks and then posts the videos to the Internet as part of his Copwatch program. Hayden plans to sue the NYPD for improper stop and arrest after he was pulled over by police in December.

Last summer, Hayden filmed two plainclothes officers during an evening car stop. The exchange between Hayden and the officers was contentious, even though the two motorists who were stopped were let go without charges.

At least one officer was aware of Hayden's past, because at one point, he can be heard saying: "You done selling drugs yet or what? I know your rap sheet." And then later, the tape shows, the same officer can be heard saying: "Go sell some more drugs, sir. We know your background. I know who you are."

Then, on December 2, as Hayden drove away after a meeting at Riverside Church, the same two officers stopped him, searched him, and arrested him for possession of a penknife. "We know you," one of them said.

"These guys knew who I was," Hayden says, calling it "NYPD officers taking revenge on me. . . . It was clear retaliation."

Chris Woods, a 35-year-old security guard, happened to be walking by and witnessed the police stop Hayden. "He didn't say anything offensive or abusive to the officers, but that wasn't good enough for them," Woods says. "That he was talking with them seemed to make them more furious. The whole thing shouldn't even have been a criminal matter."

What probably should have been a minor incident became 48 hours in holding cells and a felony weapons charge against the activist. Hayden's arrest has also become something of a cause in Harlem.

Among other events, Hayden's allies organized a protest at the Manhattan Supreme Court on January 19, one of his court dates. The protest was attended by elected officials and activists. The board of the radio station WBAI, where Hayden was once a producer, passed a resolution in support of him.

In 2010, the NYPD, in a campaign touted by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as a key element in the war on crime, stopped more than 600,000 people throughout the city. From 2004 to 2009, police stopped 2.8 million people; the largest age group is males 15 to 19, following by males ages 20 to 24. Just 9 percent of the stops resulted in an arrest. And in 2011, the police were on pace for 686,000 stops—a new record.

In the 2010 Voice series "The NYPD Tapes," police supervisors in the 81st Precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant order cops to make a quota of one or two stops per tour. Police Officer Adil Polanco, who was assigned to a Bronx precinct, said similarly that there was a stop-and-frisk quota there. If those orders are typical for most precincts—and that appears to be the case from the tapes and Polanco's statements—then quotas are a key factor in fueling the rise in stops.

Even so, Kelly has said repeatedly that the stops keep people from carrying weapons, drugs, and other illicit items on the street. He said it again most recently in a December 11 affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit: "Stops serve as a deterrent to criminal activity."

He has been backed on this by Mayor Bloomberg, the New York Post and Daily News editorial pages, and commentators including the Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald, who tied the stops to the crime decline and declared that the campaign "saves minorities' lives."

And yet the campaign has spawned ongoing opposition not only from elected officials and activists but also from regular New Yorkers. Last September, police stopped and handcuffed Councilman Jumaane Williams and an associate at Brooklyn's West Indian Day Parade.

Williams raised a fuss, which led police spokesman Paul Browne to claim that someone had punched a police officer during the incident. Williams called that claim a "bald-faced lie," and Browne hasn't uttered another word about it since.

But aside from public opinion, there's a major cost to the campaign in actual dollars. Over the past couple of years, the number of lawsuits filed by New Yorkers alleging improper stop-and-frisks has continued to grow. There might be some element of lawyers seeing a new area in the always-busy police-litigation business, but the rise also indicates a frustration among New Yorkers with the practice.

In the month of January alone, more than three dozen lawsuits alleging improper stop-and-frisks were filed, based on a Voice reading of the complaints. Extrapolated, that means that the city could be sued more than 400 times this year alone just on improper stops.

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24 comments
Mike Devlin
Mike Devlin

The nexus of this article is to the unadorned fact that there are too many guns in our country. No one is going to take on the gun lobby politically, and meanwhile the police are trying to keep our city safe.

JJD
JJD

This is a clear abuse of power and disregard to the Constitution of the Untied States. This type of behavior by law enforcemnt is reminicent of the Gestapo of Nazi Germany or the KGB of USSR. If we contiune to allow this sort of conduct by Police in this country we a surley doomed to contunie to lose our rights and freedoms that are guarenteed by the Consitution of the United States. Actions such as these is why our country then colonies of Great Britian revolted, fought a war of revoultion against England and formed this great country.

Rickmoore10
Rickmoore10

It is ILLEGAL for cops to frisk anyone unless they have " reasonable suspicion" that they are or about to commit a crime. Reasonable suspicion is " an ARTICULABLE set of circumstances that would lead a person of average intelligence to believe that a citizen was in violation of the law. Of course simply walking down the street does NOt in any way give cops any articulable reason to stop them. A frisk, or Terry patdown, is allowed ONLY when cops have some valid reason to approach you, and the cops CANNOTlegally search your pockets or make you empty them.

The cops in New York and simply violating rights constantly and getting away with it because the politicians want to pander to the cop unions and seem to be doing something about crime. Abusing the rights of the people do not make us safer, and cops should be recorded, both video and audio, every time they interfere with a citizens right to free movement. Cop should be reported and complaints filed, and lawsuits should be brought, preferably on the cop himself so the insurance and taxpayers will not have to keep paying for cop abuse.

Police should ALL be required to wear recording equipment that they cannot turn off or delete; most cops HATE people filming them because they so often break the law and abuse people.Only when individual cops are feeling the heat from their abuse will change come. Every cop needs to be taken down a few notches and understand that we are NOt their subordinates, and that we do not want them harrassing and illegally searching people or their cars and homes without probable cause. Cops HATE any oversight and wish that they could operate without any legal protectuions for the people.

Stand firm for your rights, and if the cops arrest you falsely, SUE them! Only after a lawsuit will a cop decide that maybe they better start obeying the law.

Remember unless the cops have real and valid reasons, reasons that they can relate to a judge and convince him that there was factual basis for the stop and or frisk, then they are violating the law and your rights. you do NOT have to present paper Id to a cop unless you are driving..walking along minding your own business is NOT cause for a cop to stop you, request ID, or frisk you. Unless that cop has real and valid information that gives rise to a genuine belief that crime is afoot, they cannot do anything to you and should leave you alone.

Cops are not our friends these days, and their agenda is one of total fear of us so they will dominate all our actions. it is time to stop cops who abuse the law and the people.

Rawdoc
Rawdoc

This is Obama's AmeriKKKa, a nightmare worse even than Bush's, enabled by the people we elected to end the Right Wing's Putsch. Even though Obama admits to prior drug use, his administration's attempt to invalidate the States' Rights to legalise Medical Marijuana has given aid & comfort to those racist Police Officers who see possession of even imaginary quantities of Weed as an excuse to murder people of Colour. This is a Holocaust of Cultural Genocide. The 99% are no longer needed, so kill them off 'legally', because the police seem to get away with murder on a regular basis even with judicial intervention. It is always Kristal Nacht for Inner City Residents who use weed; and this Kristal Nacht does not refer to Champagne....it refers to the murder of young people, our children. Bloomberg & Kelly are rising quickly in the Pantheon of Race Murderers, as they maintain their rictus of innocence even while wallowing in blood.

Jojo Wozz
Jojo Wozz

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Hahaguy
Hahaguy

Stop and Frisk saves lives without infringing on civil liberties.

Yes, nobody should be arrested for having marijuana in their pocket, or an outstanding ticket, but those are whole other issue entirely.

The sole focus of Stop and Frisk should be to remove illegal weapons from the streets. It's not racist to target black and Hispanic young people in a city where blacks are 10 times more likely to be a murderer and 7 times more likely to be a murder victim than whites.

Black and Hispanic communities directly benefit from Stop and Frisk far more than the rest of the city would. Targeting whites and Asians is just a waste of police resources that could be better used in the ghettos.

Hate to say it, but individual blacks and latinos could drastically lower their likelihood of being targeted by Stop and Frisk cops simply by not dressing in a manner that glorifies the gang subcultures.

Ten Ninety Nora Three
Ten Ninety Nora Three

One error in the article, it's not true that "from 2004 to 2009, police stopped 2.8 million people" - that's the number of incidents where the NYPD stopped someone. Many people are stopped more than once.

The numbers are nonetheless a scandal.

Amii Lockhart
Amii Lockhart

Wow, I knew the NYPD were a thug industry, but I had no idea to what extent. Is NYC somehow separate from the confines of the US Constitution?

goodluck in harlem
goodluck in harlem

wait a minute............In a past life, he was a street hustler..........WOW!!!!! way to downplay. the guy is more than a street hustler. How about killer!!!!! They just throw that in there at the end. hilarious. He spends almost 2/3 of his life in jail with a homicide under his belt and gets out and is a pillar of the community!!!! hahahahaha

this guy is one traffic dispute away from heading back to jail.

sad commentary on this community......in mine and most, you have to earn your way to become a pillar of the community and you don't earn that in prison for killing someone in a traffic dispute, selling drugs, or street hustling.

Jones
Jones

dude, don't use the word if you don't know how to spell it. in your quest to show your superior intellect you have in fact revealed the exact opposite.

wgalison
wgalison

http://www.sunnysheu.blogspot....

A man posts a Youtube video saying he had been kidnapped by two NYPD detectives of the Queens DA's office, and threatened with death if he blows the whistle on the mortgage fraud ring that stole his house. He states that he has asked the FBI for witness protection and predicts he will be killed by a New York State Supreme Court Judge and the NYPD cops that kidnapped him.

Weeks later he is found bludgeoned to death on a cul de sac in Queens.

see: http://www.sunnysheu.blogspot....

The NYPD illegally removes his body from the hospital hours after his death and sends it to the Medical Examiner with a fraudulent note saying he died of natural causes.

The medical examiner doesn't play along and rules the cause of death "Blunt force trauma to the head with skull fractures and brain injuries". and the manner of death "Undetermined". Despite the ME's ruling, no investigation is ever conducted and the body is removed from the morgue by a phony "executor" with no relation to the deceased, and cremated with no authorization if his family.

The NYPD refuses to respond to requests for information under New York Freedom of Information Act.

The Village Voice has been fully briefed on the story and has failed to report it.

Please review the website http://www.sunnysheu.blogspot.... and ask the Voice why they are suppressing this story of a government sanctioned assassination and cover up in Flushing Queens.

ClintJCL
ClintJCL

Pigs need their compeuppance.

RealChristian411
RealChristian411

I agree that cops should be sued. But, I don't see why that would stop them from illegally harassing and illegally searching young black men. They are getting ordered and paid to fulfill quotas--and on young men who are not their nephews, sons or even neighbors. There is not enough censure or deterrent to the officer or their loved ones. How can we turn the spotlight on the two officers?

Village Voice, why not publish their names, neighborhoods and precincts, like you did Mr. Hayden's? How many other people have their arrested based on their race? Are they members of anti-black organizations? Segregated organizations? Do they belong to all-white churches with stained glass picturing God or Jesus as white?

Let's inform ourselves about white supremacy and institutionalized racism--and do something about it. Thank you, Mr. Hayden, for your brave example.

Hardworking Black Man
Hardworking Black Man

Bullcrap. I am a 46 year old consultant who has never been in trouble with the law. I made the "mistake" of driving through Harlem and got pulled over by cops who said they didn't like the way I looked at them when I passed them. Then they claimed my 20 year old car was stolen. Then one decided to arrest me after illegally searching my car and finding a pocketknife in my glovebox. Totally legal.

Where was the gang issues? Please. Stop talking like you know black people.

Rawdoc
Rawdoc

Clothing is not protected by our Constitution? Someone is supporting the De Facto criminalisation of a mode of dress? If Bloomberg & Kelly would make them wear Hitler Youth Uniforms then would they stop the Murders? Police approved clothing norms; proud to be AmeriKKKan....

AdcjioaJ
AdcjioaJ

It absolutely is racist to stop the same black and brown youth every day on their way home from school. It's demoralizing when you are suspected of being a criminal just for walking through your own neighborhood. It's a tactic of intimidation and psychological warfare. Some kids are stopped every single day.

blacksocialist
blacksocialist

hahaha, go fcuk yourself you piece of shite cracka.... don't hate to say it, you are a piece of shite cracka... you racist fcuk

Rawdoc
Rawdoc

So in your world punishment lasts forever & it's all right to just marginalise & disempower people because of past crimes.....someone who once sold drugs is much more evil than police officers murdering without even the semblance of probable cause. Let's amend the Constitution to say the Constitution does not apply if the Cop has a grudge against non-whites --oh, I forgot, that used to be the Law In AmeriKKKa, until that pesky Civil Rights Legislation was passed by commie pinko liberals. God forbid social justice or redemption.

Silkroad
Silkroad

You don't have to be a "pillar of the community" to film police brutality and corruption. All you need is a camera.

Rawdoc
Rawdoc

Deformative Action has apparently warped you....

 
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