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.