Protesters of the controversial and unconstitutional NYPD practice of Stop and Frisk are currently on trial in Queens. Four people arrested protesting Stop & Frisk in Jamaica Queens in November 2011, are currently on trial: Carl Dix, teacher Jamel Mims, Morgan Rhodewalt and Bob Parsons. All four have been charged with Obstruction of Government Administration charges, which could carry one year in jail for each defendant, for chanting protests on the steps of the 103rd precinct, which at the time had been barricaded by police.
The 103rd precinct is one of the ten most heavily affected neighborhoods under Stop & Frisk. It is also the precinct where Sean Bell was killed by police in 2006.
The New York City Council is currently trying to amend Stop & Frisk, and other NYPD practices, through the Community Safety Act. The Community Safety Act would create an NYPD Inspector General, whose responsibilities would include oversight of the police force, as well as prohibiting discriminatory profiling. The Inspector General would be able to oversee NYPD practices like Stop and Frisk; as well as the surveillance of Muslim communities. The IG would also be responsible to make sure the NYPD follows its own Handschu guidelines, which prohibit political policing.
The Community Safety Act would also require that the name and rank of the officer(s) performing the stop-and-frisk be given to the citizen.
A recent AP story about a 19-year old paid informant demonstrates the predatory nature of NYPD practices, with the informant using a “create and capture” strategy of “creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD.” The NYPD has admitted that the spying on Muslim communities did not lead to any charges or investigations.
A recent op-ed in the NY Daily News by NYC Councilpersons Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams explained the need for an IG: “At the FBI and CIA, and in cities around the country, inspectors general have helped law enforcement agencies improve unwise policies. Other times, IG investigations have shown that an agency under fire was actually in the right.”
A petition urging Queens District Attorney, Richard Brown, to drop all charges against all defendants is currently circulating. The petition has been endorsed by City Councilperson Jumaane Williams; as well as the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham.
The trial has been delayed by Hurricane Sandy, and is set to resume on November 5th.