Stop and Frisk – A Young Black Mother’s Story by Jasmine Eppson February 20, 2012 at 9:58 pm
As a young Black mother I face so many injustices and prejudices day to day. To my surprise, the one thing that should keep me safest in the city hurts me the most – the cops. Living in the city and dealing with the police on a daily basis is reminiscent of a domestic violence relationship – it starts early and pervades every aspect of my life.
When I moved to public housing in Brooklyn, I remember one time when an officer came up on me and my sisters and cousins while we going up the stairs in our public housing unit, and told us to stand up take off our shoes, socks, hoodies, and told everybody to take their top shirt off and leave only their undershirt or one shirt on. They told us to unbutton our pants and roll the waistband down. Three of us were in pyjamas. They made us stand and wait with backs turned until a female officer came. She turned us around by our neck and frisked us. They were looking for weed. We were an 8 year old, a 9 year old, me at 16, my sisters 12 and 13. They found nothing, but took us to the precinct anyway, where our mother had to come get us.
Another time when I was 16, a group of friends and I were trying to get on the train, and a cop stopped us and asked us where were going. We told him we were headed into the city. He said “oh, you going to the stroll?” I had no idea what he was talking about.
I have been told that if I just give a cop my number, they will make a charge go away. I have been told to shake my shirt out when I am visibly not wearing a bra. I have been told to take my newborn baby out of her stroller and put her on a filthy sidewalk while they searched the stroller.
Then there is the daily harassment. I am constantly forced to put on a face, a front as if I trust them and don’t feel uneasy when they are around. It is the rookie cops that tend to have the most to say…Every morning I walk my children to school and have to walk past the 75th precinct. My youngest daughter makes a point to say hello to the foot patrol officers every morning. It makes me uneasy, but one day I put all that aside and got the nerve to say hello too. The officer proceeded to grab my arm and ask me how old I was. When I replied 24, the officer looked slightly disappointed and said “I would have taken you if you were younger.” I was puzzled, embarrassed, and then outraged that someone would speak that way to me, especially in front of my children. I asked him where he would take me. He replied “I have a few places.” I grabbed my kids’ hands and took them to school. Before my son entered the school he turned and said “so mommy why would the cops take you to jail if you didn’t cross the street when the sign was red?!” I could only shake my head and say “I’ll get you ice cream later.” How do I explain to my 7 year-old “the cop didn’t want to take me to jail honey, he wanted to take me to bed.” Now I walk to a train station further away from my home so that I don’t have to pass in front of the precinct.
This is why I am part of a campaign to educate people about their rights and demand change to the NYPD.
For more information on Communities United for Police Reform, the city-wide campaign to stop discriminatory, unlawful and abusive policing practices by the NYPD, go to www.changetheNYPD.org. Streetwise and Safe (SAS) serves on the campaign steering committee.