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Tuesday, 27 January 2015 08:05

Black NYPD Officers Experience Racial Profiling When Off-Duty

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anypd(Photo: longislandwins)

In a revealing informal survey conducted in late 2014, Reuters found that, among a random sampling of Black New York Police Department (NYPD) officers, almost all had experienced racial profiling by other police when off duty.

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According to Reuters:

From the dingy donut shops of Manhattan to the cloistered police watering holes in Brooklyn, a number of black NYPD officers say they have experienced the same racial profiling that cost Eric Garner his life….

Reuters interviewed 25 African American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving. All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling, which refers to using race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed a crime.

Some of these incidents involved harrowing physical threats:

The officers said this included being pulled over for no reason, having their heads slammed against their cars, getting guns brandished in their faces, being thrown into prison vans and experiencing stop and frisks while shopping. The majority of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times while driving. Five had had guns pulled on them.

The fact that 96 percent of the Black NYPD officers Reuters contacted asserted that they had experienced racial profiling while out of uniform is damning. It lends further credence to the assertion that many police departments condone a policy of assuming that a large number of Black people are "guilty until proven innocent." The Reuters reinforces the notion that walking or driving while Black elicits intense police scrutiny, not infrequently escalating into arrests and even deaths at the hands of the police.

The other day Charles Blow wrote a column in The New York Times  about his son, a student at Yale, being detained at gunpoint by campus police while returning to his dorm room. It was clearly a case of assumed guilt, based on being a Black male at an Ivy League school; another suspect was arrested shortly thereafter for an alleged burglary on campus. Blow wrote on January 26:

This is the scenario I have always dreaded: my son at the wrong end of a gun barrel, face down on the concrete. I had always dreaded the moment that we would share stories about encounters with the police in which our lives hung in the balance, intergenerational stories of joining the inglorious “club...." 

I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look.

There is no amount of respectability that can bend a gun’s barrel. All of our boys are bound together.

It is extremely doubtful that if a lanky white guy with the last name of Bush had resembled the suspected burglar, the campus police would have forced him - a member of a patrician family that counts Yale as its Ivy League "legacy" college - to the pavement at gun point. US policing has a legacy of treating Black people as if the capricious assumption of "guilt" that plantation owners used in enforcing "discipline" among slaves is still active. As Blow points out, it is often accompanied by excessive and even lethal force.

It is pitifully ironic that off-duty Black officers of the New York Police Department have experienced the racial profiling policies of their own police force - but it is not surprising. 

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