2012-06-15 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

By Milan R. Taylor Chair, Rockaway Youth Task Force

Whenever you see a police officer, do you ask yourself, “Why am I going to be stopped this time?” Or do you nervously prepare an alibi? If you answered yes you are probably a young minority living within the City of New York. Before I continue, I would like to clarify a few things. First, this is in fact an issue of race: it’s the awkward 1000-pound elephant in the middle of the room that everyone avoids. Second I am not anti police in any shape or form – I thank them all for their service, and I believe the majority of officers are good people with great intentions. On the other hand, there are many who do actually criminalize people like me because of the color of our skin.

I’m not going to go into the statics, even though they do reenforce the fact that the policy is flawed. I’m writing from my heart, and emotions are something you can’t quantify. When I hear countless stories of youth who have had their rights unjustifiably violated, of youth arrested and taken to the police precinct for being without an ID in the hallway of their own homes, it breaks my heart. When I think about the time I was stopped and had GUNS pointed at me by officers from the 101 Precinct, it makes me fear for my LIFE.

It’s ironic that I truly fear those whose duty it is to protect me, but sadly many like me have become desensitized. It happens so often we become used to it.

I was honored to have been selected to speak to Mayor Bloomberg personally on this issue, of which he is well aware.

His standpoint on the policy was simply, “I’ll change it when you come up with an equally effective solution.“ This leads me to believe that our mayor doesn’t care about the feelings of the very people he’s been elected to serve; he is interested in results conveyed through misleading statistics proclaiming declines in gun violence. He doesn’t seem to mind sacrificing our civil liberties in the process. I don’t have an alternative to the issue of Stop and Frisk, but I do have an alternative to innocent people having their liberties violated.

The solution is twofold: the first is ensuring that our youth have proper identification (with their address on it) on their person at all times, which the Mayor has addressed in his Young Men’s Initiative. The second is teaching youth their rights and how to properly engage with policies such as stop and frisk; teaching them the importance of being respectful and courteous, even if the officer is in the wrong.

Apart from knowing your rights is knowing how to file a complaint through the Citizens Complaint Review Board (CCRB). For this we would need the cooperation of our Precincts: they would have to willingly disclose this information to someone who requests it.

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