On the eve of a big council hearing on a raft of bills aimed at reeling in the NYPD’s stop and frisk campaign, an explosive audiotape comes out of two officers threatening to break the arm of an East Harlem teen merely for asking questions.
When the teen asks why they are threatening to arrest him after they very questionably stopped him, they say “for being a fucking mutt.”
The recording was made in June, 2011 by Alvin, now 17, whose last name is being withheld by Ross Tuttle and Erin Schneider, the authors of an article about the incident which first appeared yesterday in the Nation magazine website.
Schneider tells the Voice that the tape came to her attention in December as she was working on a stop and frisk documentary and met Alvin’s stepfather, Jose LaSalle. She says it took months for the youth to agree to step forward because he was afraid of police retaliation.
Alvin recorded the incident on his cell phone on a suggestion from LaSalle after the teen expressed frustration at being stopped so much.
“The stop happened a day after he turned 16,” Schneider says. “He’s got no criminal record, no gang affiliation. He’s an athlete and he’s in school.”
According to the recording, Alvin had just been stopped moments earlier when a sergeant and an officer stopped him again. The reason for the stop? “You look very suspicious, ’cause you keep looking back at us,” the officers told him.
“Listen to me. when you’re walking the block with your hood up and you keep looking back at us like that,” an officer says.
He tells them he had his hooded sweatshirt on because it was cold.
“Why’re you a fuckin’ wiseass,” an officer says. “You want me to smack you?”
The officers become more irate as Alvin questions them. “Who the fuck are you talking to? Want to go to jail?”
“What for,” Alvin replies. “Why am i being arrested for?”
“For being a fucking mutt you know that?” an officer says.
The officers twists one of his arm behind him. He questions that and is told, “Shut your fucking mouth!”
The officers then recall that Alvin’s dad is a traffic officer, and say, “You want someone to talk to your dad like this?”
The other officer says, “I will break your fucking arm off right now. Dude I am gonna fucking break your arm, then I’m gonna punch you in the fucking face.”
The officers start pushing Alvin, and then finally let him go without arresting him.
The tape could become a major headache for the police commissioner and the mayor in the context of the growing debate over stop and frisk. Now, activists have a pretty powerful example of what seems to be officers violating civil rights, abusing their authority, and blatantly ignoring the legal standards which allow stops. Two years ago, the Voice’s NYPD Tapes series captured police supervisors telling officers to hit stop and frisk quotas and stop people without cause.
The Voice emailed the mayor’s office and the police spokesman for comment, but did not hear back as of 9 last night.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is apparently going to duck today’s hearing on the stop and frisk legislation at City Hall. A city lawyer will take his place.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 10, 2012