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Who’s the enemy? A look at police practices in NYC

Photo: Tom Curtis

The NYPD mission statement says that it is the job of the police to “preserve the peace, reduce fear, and provide for a safe environment” for the community. However, I just recently moved to an inner-city neighborhood, and the only time I feel safe is when the police are not around. Even though it seems shady at night — my building smells of pot and men in the streets talk to me in Spanish (“Hola, bonita. I want tu telefono.”) — I don’t feel unsafe. This is my community, and it comes with its good and its evil.

However, when the end of the month comes around, it seems the cops have picked the one-block radius around my house to meet their monthly quotas. Besides posing for tourists and giving as many transit tickets as possible, they stand on the corner in crowds and wait for someone to do something stupid. I saw a guy get arrested for spitting into the tracks of the train, and my roommate got called out for not having our dog on a leash (because a five-pound Yorkie may attack a civilian).

Evidently, the police are the authority; therefore they get away with a lot, not only in New York City, but everywhere else as well. For instance, the cops in California cold-heartedly killed a guy and were caught on tape. The difference is, in the capital of the world, we have Stop-and-Frisk, a policy that allows the police to stop “anyone,” question them and search for concealed weapons. The interesting part is that the “anyone” is often a young, male and minority.

It’s been said that this policy is creating a culture of fear in the inner city and that officers are acting as a paramilitary force. They are the ones confirming the prevalent stereotype that the police are the cause of violence NOT the protection against it. When they stand in corners by the dozen on a Saturday afternoon bothering people who are simply trying to buy vegetables, it makes obvious the fact that they’re not trying to protect anybody. Take a look at some statistics from last year’s Stop-and-Frisk arrests, or an interactive map of where they stop people who look colored suspicious, you may realize by yourself that what the police force is doing to the Brooklyn community is not a service; it’s a dishonor.

Regardless the crime rates in Brooklyn and the dangers and risks, we don’t need law enforcers becoming perpetrators of injustice towards the very  people they’re supposed to protect. When the people of a community are seen as prey in a hunting game of the authorities, the question “who’s the real threat? (Drug dealers? Cops?)” rises. It makes you wonder who the enemy really is and who would be there to protect civilians when they strike.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. End of month quotas are an issue with every community and even with state police for highway speeding tickets. It looks like that in your community and it looks different in my community, but they all are doing the same thing, sitting in places they were not in the other 3 weeks of the month, over-observing and watching waiting for a slip or error to issue a ticket to make money. They are like lion hunting their prey, stalking and waiting. When silly tickets are issued we ask why they are not fighting the “real crime” and “stopping the really bad stuff”.

    The enemy is the quota, the numbers and statistics, the feeling that they must show activity to prove they are needed by the community, and to bring in money to fund their own pay.

    The fact that the police are gathering in groups and bothing people just shopping for vegetables and the fact that you are minorities, is probably enough to make someone take action to help stop it where you are, as you seem more victimized, but elsewhere such as in the suburbs just a few miles outside of NYC we are watched by solo police and people alone are picked on, and no one cares, it’s a part of our life that we must accept as just the way it is. If we can’t be bothered we just pay the fine and if we feel like fighting we have to take a day off of work and find childcare for our kids and other inconveniences to spend a day in court fighting the ticket.

    I’m sorry if I sound unsympathetic but we, in all places, and of different races and wealth levels are all at risk of being victims of the end of month police quota nonsense.

    (Lived in Fairfield County CT until recently and a lifelong CT shoreline resident, recently moved to TX.)

  2. Wow, for real. I still defend what the cops do.

  3. The police are not your friends. Even if you are a lawful person try and stay away from them. I know many innocent people who trying to help out called the police to report a crime and ended up getting arrested.

  4. And it used to be that police were nice people once but now they have become nastier and have started to even mistreat women and children.


  6. cops protect capital not people.

  7. It’s never a good thing to generalize !

  8. I don’t think we should generalize, but I will say that the police culture has created fear and distrust in many communities. I am fearful of the police because life has taught me to respect the danger, and I have never been committed or arrested for a crime, knock on wood.

  9. What the cops do now has slowed down some. Stopping people for no apparent reason without any sort of suspicious behavior needed to justify probable cause or the “stop n frisk” which is really racially n fashion profiling was more heavily prevalent during the Gulliani years. And what I mean by fashion is it didn’t really matter if u were white black or latino, if u dressed like a person from the hood u were going to be stopped every other day .

  10. You need to understand that a cops job is not to protect the public. In reality, their “job” is to make it home safe everyday. You shouldn’t expect them to “care” for unvictimed strangers. It helps when civilians are familiar with the law.


  1. […] about Latinos who are already citizens and find themselves targeted by Bloomberg’s draconian stop-and-frisk police program? As recently as Monday it was reported that Mayor Bloomberg — and his […]

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