Cops by Day, Targets by Night

Stop-and-frisks also happen to NYPD officers

Lying on the ground in Harlem with handcuffs around his wrists, Eric Josey, 45, made sure not to scream. A cop had just thrown him down, but he remained silent.

He had been driving his car on 130th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard when three plainclothes

officers pulled him over, asked him to step out of the vehicle, discovered a legally owned gun on him, shoved him to the ground, and handcuffed him.

"I was outraged," Josey, who is black and lives in Harlem, tells the Voice while he recounts the confrontation, which happened last summer. "It was a potentially deadly incident."

For many men of color living in New York City, Josey's account will sound all too familiar as the city continues to pursue its stop-and-frisk program to astounding levels. But in another way, Josey's story is quite unique.

For 18 years, he was an NYPD officer.

And though he might not be the typical victim of stop-and-frisk, Josey, who co-founded an organization called 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, is not alone.

Black and Latino off-duty cops are part of an overlooked group that is not immune to the police practice that some argue is illegal racial profiling. 

Last year, the NYPD stopped and interrogated people 685,724 times—nine out of 10 ultimately weren't arrested or ticketed, and about 87 percent of those stopped in 2011 were black or Latino, according to a recent report from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The Voice interviewed current and former law-enforcement officials who say that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly's data-driven promotion of stop-and-frisk has made these kinds of police encounters common for most black and Latino men in the city—including off-duty officers or even undercover cops.

"You could be on duty in plainclothes working detail outside of your command, and you become the victim of stop-and-frisk," one black NYPD officer tells the Voice. "It . . . leads to an ugly situation."

With great pressure to conduct stops—a crime-fighting tool that Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg argue has helped save thousands of lives—it only makes sense that black and Latino police officers would face occasional confrontations with on-duty cops looking to fill quotas, critics say.

Take Anthony Miranda, a retired NYPD sergeant who spent more than two decades on the job. The 51-year-old estimates that when he was an officer, he would sometimes face as many as 10 stops of some kind a year.

"It gives you a sense of what the community suffers when it happens to you off-duty," says Miranda, who is the executive chairman of the National Latino Officers Association.

One black NYPD officer, who grew up in Brooklyn and has been on the job for eight years, tells the Voice that when he was in his late twenties, two plainclothes cops stopped and harassed him in a Bronx subway station on his way to class.

"I got offended and upset," he says. "They never identified themselves as police officers."

This cop, who now lives in upper Manhattan, supports legal stop-and-frisks and conducts them when he has reasonable suspicion. But he says that when higher-ups pressure officers to log a certain number of stops—sometimes with the threat of punishments like unfavorable assignments—it's inevitable that they'll illegally profile men of color, even fellow officers.

"It's very frustrating and humiliating," says Noel Leader, also a founder of 100 Blacks and a retired NYPD sergeant. "You'd be surprised how many of us get stopped by cops. . . . When officers are wasting time stopping me, they are not fighting crime."

Leader, 53, says he has been stopped more than a dozen times over the past decade and guesses that a majority of black and Latino male cops face some kind of police stop during their careers.

"If you have men of color that are police officers, they are likely to get stopped as well," says State Senator Gustavo Rivera, in the Bronx, who has worked with 100 Blacks on questioning stop-and-frisk. "It tells you again how the policy is not effective."

Bloomberg, however, says the policy in its current form is essential to the NYPD, and he will not risk people's lives with any dramatic changes. "We have worked as hard as we can to keep everybody safe . . . and we believe we are doing it consistent with what the law permits you to do," the mayor said at a recent news conference in response to a question from the Voice.

The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment.

For Charles Billups, a former correction officer who was once stopped and questioned while driving his car with a police officer friend, it's just demoralizing.

That situation wasn't resolved until Billups, chairman of a group called the Grand Council of Guardians, got the attention of an NYPD chief he knew.

"It's a common experience," says Billups, 53. "We really feel violated."

 
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9 comments
Dedicated_Dad
Dedicated_Dad

come on, man! That shit happens to white people too - I'm so damn tired of hearing this crap! In my youth, I had hair I had to be careful not to sit on. In some places I'd get hassled *DAILY*! It's the price I paid for dressing/looking like a biker/pothead/meth-dealer. When I got a haircut and started dressing like a young professional, it all magically went away! Stop dressing like a thug, and you'll see that they'll stop treating you like one! Now... The shit still ain't right, and shouldn't happen - but if you REALLY want it to stop, you REALLY ought to stop alienating all the white-folks by making it about race! It's really not! It's about a bunch of out-of-control cops, and a growing Leviathan state due mostly to Leftard "big government" policies! RESTORE THE CONSTITUTION!! THAT is the solution!!

C Brown
C Brown

If Bloomberg and Kelly want to really make a positive change in New York City why do they not try to deal with the gang situation in the New York City Projects and in and around most High Schools in New York. Oh! I forgot, the official policy of New York City and the Department of Education is there is not a gang problem. Tell them not to go to East New York or Bed Stuyvesant after dark or enter one of the parks in Bushwick wearing the wrong color. I would ask the Times to go check out the gang problems in the schools but it is so dangerous that if you no not interview children properly you can endanger their safety. THE GANGS ARE OUT OF CONTROL in NEW YORK CITY. NYPD does not care unless gang violence spreads to Times Square, the subway in Manhattan or a reporter is around. Seriously, The Times needs to send reporters into housing projects at nights. It is scary man. Check out youtube for videos of gangs in Bed Stuy, or search Bloods Crips Projects Bed Stuy etc. As long as the violence and crime does not spill out of the low income areas Bloomberg and Kelly are cool with it. I must ask though why the media refuses to bring focus on the terrible Gang Problems facing young people in NYC Schools. Used to be just high school but now Gang violence is down to middle school and even elementary school. Wow! What a story this will be. Worthy of a Pulitzer or at the least a good conscience for doing the right thing and saving the future for over 1 million NYC School kids who are not safe in school. Peace

Peppertree5706
Peppertree5706

This whole thing sounds a bit unconstitutional. But why should that inhibit the city from continuing?

Rapftb
Rapftb

Part of the problem is that black & Latino cops don't get together "while on duty" to speak out against the problem. It's only a problem for them when they are off duty! They are too scared to do anything while on duty so it's like they condone the practice. I'm happy when they get a taste of their own medicine; maybe they'll stop being cowards & do something about it!

Noxiousnan
Noxiousnan

I don't think that's unconstitutional enough to get their attention. ;-)

NoxiousNan
NoxiousNan

NYC LE is so corrupt it needs to be scrubbed and start fresh. At this point, why would an uncorrupted officer want to work there? Bunch of thugs with a big nanny thug at the head.

Dickbyrne9
Dickbyrne9

Welcome to our world. Being a legal off duty cop makes you run risks just like the rest of us.

James Taylor
James Taylor

Awesome graphic for this piece. Would definitely like to see more of this style.

spiritanimals
spiritanimals

If you do the research, it has everything to do with race and stereotype. I bet you the off duty cops that got stopped didn't dress like thugs and I would imagine it to be difficult for them to undress the color of their skin. You shouldn't have to change your hair, or general appearance in order to not be hassled by cops. That just proves they operate based on bias and stereotype rather than conducting any sort of thought process before taking action.

 
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