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Telling Our Stories: MXGM Member Talks NYPD Violence and Calls for Passage of the Community Safety Act

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Greetings. My name is Djibril Toure and I am here today as a lifelong Brooklyn resident and member of the Malcolm X Grassroots to lend my voice to those calling for a change in the NYPD’s Stop & Frisk program, and passage of the Community Safety Act.

I am a college graduate, musician and business owner and I have directly experienced the racially biased stop and frisk policies of the NYPD.  I have had the disheartening experience of walking down the street in my own community where I grew up, being stopped for no reason, forced to stand against a wall and being illegally searched by four officers who demanded that I show them some ID or go to jail. This experience repeated itself so many times over the years that I became involved in providing assistance to others who had experienced the same or many times much worse treatment, sometimes resulting in physical injuries. I have heard too many stories of the humiliation and frustration of regular law abiding community residents who are repeatedly stop & frisked or tricked into consenting to a search. This is an all too common occurrence across neighborhoods and communities in this city. Too many of my peers have shared similarly frustrating stories of being stopped and searched, for no apparent reason without explanation.  The overaggressive policing approach taken in these communities has led to a widespread feeling of mistrust towards the police.

The issue of consent to a search without a warrant is a particularly important one. (Intro. 801) of the Community Safety Act would require that NYPD officers provide their name and rank to the subjects of law enforcement activity, such as New Yorkers being stopped and frisked. The officer would also have to provide the specific reason for the stop and a business card to the person being stopped that includes information on how to file a complaint. In my experience, this is a key issue that must be addressed because often when people in my community are approached by undercover officers for questioning, they do not even initially understand that they are dealing with a police encounter. This often leads to people not being able to identify who they were stopped by. In my personal experience, I have on several occasions witnessed officers refusing to provide their name and badge number – or even providing a false one.

In addition the community safety act seeks to strengthen the ban profiling by the NYPD.  It would prohibit the NYPD from relying, to any degree, on race, ethnicity, religion, or other protected categories when engaging in law enforcement activities, with few exceptions. This is a key component to restoring trust between law enforcement and affected communities because when you talk to residents they often feel their race/gender/age, or ethnicity is the determinative factor in these stops.

Often when people are stopped in my community, they are not aware of what their legal rights are relating to being searched, and are not aware that officers are required to obtain consent in most cases to proceed. This proposed legislation would end the practice of the NYPD pressuring New Yorkers into consenting to wrongful searches, for example, searches that lead to the disproportionate arrest of black and Latino New Yorkers for possession of minor amounts of marijuana. Police officers would have to explain to New Yorkers that they have the right to refuse a search when there is no warrant or probable cause.

Finally, this act calls for the creation of an independent oversight of the NYPD – which is something that is sorely needed and has been done with success in other cities. If people knew that a fair and independent review would be done of their complaints of police misconduct, people might start to regain their feeling that justice is accessible for all communities across New York. This is a necessary step and something that is long overdue to review the alarming numbers of complaints of police misconduct

We, as citizens and taxpayers can no longer tolerate the fact that a generation of young people are growing up in this city knowing that they are more likely to be profiled, stopped, and frisked by NYPD officers based on discriminatory policing practices. Today we are seeking to address these discriminatory and illegal policing practices which trample on the rights of millions. We are no longer willing to accept biased and discriminatory policing policy under the guise of protection and we respectfully ask your support for passage of  the Community Safety Act.

**Testimony shared at the October 23, 2012 New York City Council Civil Rights Committee Hearing at Brooklyn College regarding Stop, Question and Frisk in NYC.

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