Monday, March 15, 2010

Singing the NYPD Blues

Singing the NYPD Blues

I’ll tell you one thing… The New York City Police Department is as good at breaking the law as they are at breaking records.

Last year for example they broke the record for the most stop and frisk encounters with the public ever recorded, stopping a staggering 575,000 citizens.

You can use your imagination in regards to how many of those stopped were actually blacks and Latinos who simply happened to “Fit the profile.”

It’s something I’m unfortunately all too familiar with.

Several weeks ago I picked up my good friend Luis Antonio Ramos from the set of Derek Velez Partridge’s upcoming film, The Miracle of Spanish Harlem, only to discover there were no miracles in Harlem when the boys in blue set their sights on you.

Several blocks away from the film set I was pulled over by an unmarked police car.

I know my rights. I’ve watched a lot of movies… so in my best Huey Newton, Black Panther voice I asked, “Officer, can you tell me what I did wrong… I’d like to know why I’m being stopped.”

The reply came back, “I’ll tell you in a minute when you give me you
r license and registration.”

e later explained to me that not only did my vehicle match the description, but that I personally matched the description of a hit and run driver.

The only problem with his story was the fact that he couldn’t have possibly seen
what I looked like at night with the heavy rain falling, the windows fogged up and my skull cap pulled down over my eyebrows.

He might as well have said, “I’m stopping you because you’re a SPIC with Virginia plates in Harlem…”

And after taking his time to enter my information into his database he came back and handed me my paperwork without ever uttering one word… Not an, “I apologize for the mix-up…” Not a, “Thanks for your cooperation…” and definitely not a, “Have a good night sir…”

I drove off joking with Luis saying, “I always match the damn description!”

But deep inside I wasn’t laughing because I knew I was just the victim of an illegal stop and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

Apparently I’m in very good company though because according to the New York Times “Big Brother in Blue” article, “From 2004 through 2009, according to Police Department statistics, an astounding 2,798,461 stops were made. In 2,467,150 of those encounters — 88.2 percent — the people were completely innocent of any wrongdoing.”

That means almost 90% of the people being stopped and harassed by the NYPD are completely innocent of any wrongdoing.

Within the same week of my stop, my co-host on Rebel Radio (Urban Latino Radio), Steve “Trig One” Cancino was stopped in Brooklyn after our radio show.

Trig was made to exit his vehicle along with politically conscious rapper North of the Hip Hop group Division X.

They were forced to place their hands on the hood of a freezing vehicle in the dead of winter
while they were searched for weapons. And they were also made to stand outside while the entire vehicle was searched illegally.

When Trig asked the two detectives, also in an unmarked car, for their badge numbers, they both proceeded to turn their badges around and ignore the request.

Just another example of how professional these rogue officers are and how blatantly disrespectful they are when they themselves break the law on a daily basis.

Later that week I watched officers from the 41st Precinct in the South Bronx, pull up to the corner bodega and rip the pockets right off the pants of a young black teenager – who as you might’ve already guessed – probably fit the description of being black in the South Bronx.

When the officers didn’t find what they were looking for… they jumped back in their black Impala and drove off as if they were never there.

I wonder if those types of stops are documented in the NYPD database.

The only satisfaction I received out of all of this was a week later, when one honorable and brave officer finally broke the blue wall of silence and spoke to ABC news about the fact that the 41st Precinct is getting orders from One Police Plaza to write more summonses and make more arrests. (Video here)

Officer Adil Polanco is quoted in the video as saying, “Our primary job is not to assist anybody. Our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them.”

Ah, now it’s all starting to make sense. But I thought the NYPD has always gone on record as
saying there are no quotas???

Later in the video a secretly recorded audio tape is played in which an NYPD supervisor at roll call clearly states, “If you think 1 and 20 is breaking your balls, guess what you are going to be doing? You’re going to be doing a lot more, a lot more than what you think.”

He’s referring to the 1 arrest and 20 summonses all officers are expected to comply with.

And in yet another audio recording a different supervisor states, “Next week you could be 25 and 1, you could be 35 and 1. And guess what? Until you decide to quit this job and become a Pizza Hut delivery man, this is what you’re going to be doing until then… Do we understand each other?”

Yes, we’ve f
inally caught these bastards red-handed on tape… Justice is coming their way… Or is it?

Like with anything the NYPD does in New York City, the story was dead and buried before it became a story.

As for the only honorable police officer at the 41st Precinct, Office Polanco was suspended shortly after blowing the whistle on charges that he pushed his supervisor.

Something tells me he’ll be delivering my pizza the next time I place an order at Pizza Hut.

If you ask me he probably would’ve felt more satisfied had he at least punched his supervisor dead in the face.

The moral of the story is they’re really proving that they’re not here to serve and protect… So their new motto really should read… “The NYPD… Here to harass and disrespect!”

In the NYPD it simply doesn’t pay to be honest – that’s why they got me singing these NYPD Blues…

Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.


  1. God bless you for posting the sad truth about what we as minorities have to endure in our own neighborhoods. After reading this it was hard for me not to become emotional and as I write this you should know that tears are welling up in my eyes.

    I have been a victim of this my ENTIRE life and have always felt that if you've never had it happen you just wouldn't this is a VERY emotional topic for me.

    I understand especially that they have a hard job. What they do day in and day out is by far not an easy task, which is what makes this issue so especially painful for me. It's like being slapped in the face by the team you're rooting for.... See More

    Best wishes and keep fighting the good fight.

    PS, these days I keep a stack of lawyers business cards in my car and ask them to call my lawyer first....this usually does the trick

  2. @ Rob, thank you so much for your comments brother... without a doubt this is one of those things you have to have been a victim of to truly understand what it feels like to be disrespected and have your dignity stripped by an out of line "officer" of the law.

    I know there are a few good officers out there... I met a few in Virginia Beach when I was trying to help them with some anti-gang efforts... However, I've seen way more cops who hide behind the shield, abuse their power and just downright act a fool.

    Maybe one day we'll come together as a people and stop the madness going on in "our" communities...

    Thanks again for the honest and heartfelt reply!

  3. Check out this story bout how NYPD is keeping an illegal database of people who are stopped, questioned and sometimes frisked in public, but who are neither arrested nor given summonses. NYPD keeping dossiers on the public is nothing new, stay aware peoples!!!

  4. @ Dennis, thanks for sharing the story and also for all the work you do with Cop Watch and in making sure the public knows about the NYPD abusing their authority!

  5. Check out this article that came out today by the Village Voice. Even more evidence coming forward on how cops cook the books by making it appear as though crime is going down by under reporting arrests and also the continued efforts by NYPD officials to force officers to target youth of color by falsely arresting them thru stop and frisks tactics in order to meet the illegal quotas. Here we have m ore police officers blowing the whistle by tape recording hi ranking police officials giving orders for officers to meet illegal arrest quotas.

  6. Ivan

    I understand the anger you have at the
    persecution of authority, but it is now
    getting to the point where it isn't going
    to matter what race you are, only that you
    are a man.

    The legal system is heavily-biased against
    men, especially in the family courts when
    issues of divorce come up. And its not just
    black men or latino men but caucasian white
    men as well, of which I am a single, white
    middle-aged caucasian man. And it is because
    of the bias against men in the legal system
    that I will remain single.

    There are boards and blogs I follow with
    stories that would bring bitter tears to your
    eyes if not enrage you outright.

    As a white male with a modest-income job and
    an unglamorous,low-key standard of living I
    am not highly esteemed by society either if
    not those in authority. And it is white males
    that tend to be the targets of degradation
    prejudice and scorn by a feminist-run legal

    Ivan my friend, trust me its going to get
    to the point where you are going to get
    stopped by the police simply because you
    are male. And that's going to go for white
    males too. Add to it that as an unmarried
    man society tends to label unmarried men(es-
    -pecially at my age)as creepy and potential

    The power feminism has in this society has
    made it as harsh for white men as authority
    (e.g. the NYPD)has on your kind. Now while
    it maybe true that we're not pulled over or
    stopped and frisked based on our race or
    geographic location, its going to get to that
    point. Let's just say for right now that
    the persecution white males go through is
    done in a more subtle manner. But its there.

    I could go on but its getting late, but I
    enjoyed your blog. Maybe next time I'll
    get more in-depth with my comments.

    My best to you,