Figueroa-Levin: A view of stop-and-frisk from the bubble
I remember the first time I heard of someone getting stopped and frisked. It was an African-American college classmate who was on the way to class. He told me what happened and I thought it must be a fluke.
I remember the first time I actually saw someone get stopped and frisked. I was waiting for the train. A Hispanic-looking kid was waiting near me. An officer walked up to him and demanded ID. Then the officer searched his bag, frisked him, and asked a bunch of questions. Why was he waiting for a train at a station right outside a college, with a bag filled with books, Captain Obvious demanded.
I half expected to be searched next. I made eye contact but the officer just said, "Good morning" and went on his way. The mystery of the brown kid with books at school was solved.
I live in a bubble. A happy, safe, white-girl bubble. I've never been stopped and frisked. I'm the proverbial white Hispanic. Unless I tape a Puerto Rican sign to my forehead, I'm not suspicious.
On the other hand, my brother, who has one of those super-scary Afros, drives "suspiciously" a lot. Nobody knows what that means, but when he gets stopped he keeps his hands visible, follows instructions, doesn't protest and is polite. He has to.
It's not just my brother, either. Even police chiefs can look suspicious, apparently. In 2008, the highest-ranking African-American in the NYPD was pulled over for driving suspiciously. Maybe he can tell us what that means.
If a cop ever searched my car I would throw a fit. I would loudly announce that I don't consent to anything. My hands would disappear to get my phone to call my lawyer. A white woman was stopped and frisked in Williamsburg recently, and it actually made the news. In white-girl-bubble land, we have rights.
All that said, I'm wary of government oversight of NYPD policy. Under the Community Safety Act -- Mayor Mike Bloomberg's veto is likely to be overridden -- oversight would be by the Department of Investigations. But the change in stop and frisk really has to come from the NYPD itself.
The policy is creating a generation of kids who hate the police. For what? The only thing that usually results from a stop is distrust of the people whose job is to protect us -- and a reminder that not everyone enjoys the benefits and security of the white-girl bubble.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican, @EveryGentrifier and @ElBloombito.