QUEENS — Hundreds of Queens residents packed a City Council Civil Rights Committee hearing on stop-and-frisk Wednesday night to support legislation that is intended to protect New Yorkers from alleged profiling by the NYPD.
The legislation, the Community Safety Act, would require officers to provide their name and rank when performing a stop-and-frisk. It would also require officers to explain the reasons why they’re stopping someone and it would set up a new Inspector General’s office to monitor the program.
"I understand the need for police officers to stop, question and frisk individuals in order to ensure our public safety," said Committee Chairman Deborah Rose of Staten Island, one of the bill's 30 sponsors. "But I do not believe that the city's LGBTQ population, Muslim community, communities of color, or, in fact, anyone should be in constant fear of what will happen to them if they encounter the police."
One of those who testified was Mitchyll Mora, 23, a youth leader at Streetwise & Safe, an organization that supports LGBTQ youth of color. Mora, who is both a minority and a member of the LGBTQ community, said his experiences with stop-and-frisk depend on the neighborhood he is in.
"When I'm walking in Williamsburg or Prospect Heights, I am assumed to be a youth of color up to no good," Mora said. "When I'm standing in the West Village, I'm assumed to be loitering for the purposes of prostitution."
Throughout the three-hour meeting, others relayed similar experiences of alleged harassment, including members of the black, Hispanic and South Asian communities, as well as religious and homeless advocates.
Jose LaSalle, whose stepson Alvin recently recorded a stop-and-frisk in which someone who appears to be a police officer called him a "mutt," replayed the audio of Alvin's encounter.
Another witness, from the organization Desis Rising Up and Moving, said an undercover police officer infiltrated her group because of protests they had organized against the police.
"What does it mean when the NYPD sends informants into our community because we're speaking out against the NYPD?" the witness, Naz Ali, said through her interpreter.
Some witnesses voiced support for the act on behalf of the youth in their communities.
Rev. James Quincy, who works with young adults at the Calvary Baptist Church in Jamaica, said children and teens in his neighborhood are stopped on their way to and from school and church, which he said changes the way they respond to police and the community at large.
"The problem is that the relationship between the police department and our young people is so bad and so poor that it makes them feel like they are unimportant," Quincy said. "They are constantly being interrupted in their process to achieve the goals of their lives."
The committee listened intently, thanking each of the witnesses and vowing to effect change through legislation.
"Stop, question and frisk is a humongous problem," said Flatbush Councilman Jumaane Williams, another of the bill's sponsors. "It does not help reduce gun violence, as they purport. It only serves to sew seeds of mistrust between communities."
He added, "We're not anti-policing. We're not for no policing. We are for better policing."
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the legislation.