Did you see a bulge in his pants before the NYPD officer put his hands all over him, body slamming him against the wall? By law, to conduct a frisk -- a light pat-down over the clothes -- police must observe a bulge they believe to be a weapon. The officer also appears to reach down into his suspect's pockets, a search that is only legal if the frisk uncovers what the cop at least thinks is a weapon.
The Constitutional apathy begins before the illegal searches, however, with the initial stop. The NYPD can only stop someone they have reasonable suspicion to believe is engaging in criminal activity. Unfortunately, the law is so vague suspicion can include "furtive movements," which apparently Black and Laitno people make a lot of.
While the lawlessness of stop-and-frisk is believed to be widespread, proving an unjust stop or search can be nearly impossible. An article in The New York Times about the young man in the video above, 19-year-old Sean Pagan, reveals the difficulty behind proving police misbehavior without a camera:
[Sean] Pagan said he did not know why he had been stopped in the first place, but a police spokesman said Mr. Pagan had entered the subway station without paying, then refused to show the officer his identification and resisted arrest. He was charged with theft of services and resisting arrest. According to the police, Mr. Pagan had been arrested nine times prior to last Thursday and once since then, for offenses including criminal mischief, creating graffiti, intent to damage property, telephone harassment and criminal contempt.Mr. Pagan, who is Hispanic, said the officers at the precinct house where he was taken joked and laughed about his body-slamming.
Without the video, he said, he would not have known how to draw attention to his arrest. Even his mother did not believe his story until she saw the video, he said.“It would’ve been his word over mine,” he said. “He would’ve said I was resisting and going crazy. It would’ve been brushed under the rug.”
So, how many more are like Pagan? Every year, the NYPD stops more than half-a-million people, about half of them who are frisked. Nearly 90% of them are Black or Latino, the vast majority are young, and almost all of them are found of innocent of any crime.