2007-01-26 / Front Page

Duo Charge Cops With Harassment, Racism

'Where Does It Stop,' Victim Asks. 'Cops Can't Victimize People.'
By Howard Schwach

A young black couple from Far Rockaway is charging police officers with inappropriate behavior, harassment and racism as a result of a incident in which they say that they were stopped, pulled from their automobile and searched on Central Avenue on January 17.

Samantha Boothe and George Gidden came to The Wave on Tuesday to talk about their "frightening" incident with police officers that occurred at about 10:30 p.m. while they were driving to get something to eat.

"We were at Mott Avenue ready to turn onto Central Avenue and we noticed an unmarked police car across the street," Boothe said. "As we drove the police car made a u-turn and came up behind us. We didn't think anything about it until they turned on the lights and siren."

Boothe said that she understands that the police have become more proactive since the spate of shootings in Rockaway, but she says that the couple was just minding their own business and had done nothing wrong.

Boothe continued that the four white officers, all in plainclothes, came up to the their gold Chrysler Sebring and looked into the window with their flashlights.

"They asked for George's license and registration," she said, and he gave it to them."

That did not satisfy the cops, she said. "They asked him to get out of the car and he did. They began to frisk him and asked him if he had anything in his pocket that he shouldn't have."

Boothe said that she asked one of the cops on her side of the car why they were stopped. She said that the cop told her that he "would tell them what was going on when they were done with them."

One of the cops who seemed to be in charge said, "search the female," according to Boothe, but she told them that she would not allow male cops to frisk her.

She says that she asked for a supervisor and one of the cops pulled a shield from under his jacket and told her that he was a sergeant.

"They never identified themselves by name or anything," she said. "We don't even know if they were from the precinct in Far Rockaway."

Boothe said that they ordered her to get out of the car and she resisted.

"One of the cops grabbed me by my arm and shoulder and pulled me from the car," she said. I got hysterical and started to yell. "

She says that one of the cops told her, "We're going to throw your ass in jail if you don't shut up."

About that time, Gidden says, a marked police van with four uniformed officers pulled up across the street, stopped and watched the action, but never got out of the van.

Gidden says that, without asking, one of the cops took the keys out of the ignition and opened the trunk to look around.

"I knew that was not legal," he said, "I told them that, and they told me they could do whatever they wanted."

After fifteen minutes, the two say, the cops just backed off and told them that they could go.

They were not arrested, nor were they told why they were stopped, they say. They added that nobody apologized for the stop and they were never asked for any information.

Police sources say that there is no record of the incident ever taking place, although officers must report any stop and frisk incidents to their command.

Local sources say that the unit may well have been a team from a specialized unit, not from the 101 Precinct, because many officers were in the area searching for the young men who committed three murders late in 2006.

Gidden says that he understands that, but that it "happens to me all the time."

"Where does it stop," he asked. "Why are the police allowed to victimize people just because they are black?"

A spokesperson for the Police Department declined to comment for the story, except to say that there were many checkpoints and car stops in Rockaway as a result of the shootings. .

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