Last year, police officers in New York City stopped and frisked people 685,724 times. Eighty-seven percent of those searches involved blacks or Latinos, many of them young men, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The practice of stop-and-frisk has become increasingly controversial, but what is often absent from the debate are the voices of young people affected by such aggressive policing on a daily basis. To better understand the human impact of this practice, we made this film about Tyquan Brehon [member of Make the Road New York], a young man who lives in one of the most heavily policed neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
By his count, before his 18th birthday, he had been unjustifiably stopped by the police more than 60 times. On several occasions, merely because he asked why he had been stopped, he was handcuffed, placed in a cell and detained for hours before being released without charges. These experiences were scarring; Mr. Brehon did whatever he could to avoid the police, often feeling as if he were a prisoner in his home.
His fear of the police also set back his education. At one high school he attended, he recoiled at the heavy presence of armed officers and school security agents. “I would do stuff that would get me suspended so I could be, like, completely away from the cops,” he recalled. He would arrive late, cut classes and refuse to wear the school uniform. Eventually, he was expelled.
Mr. Brehon’s life turned around when he transferred to Bushwick Community High School and joined Make the Road New York, a community organizing group that is part of Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of organizations. Because of his experiences, he now hopes to attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice and to become a lawyer, in part so he can help others who are subjected to racial profiling.
Mr. Brehon’s story is just one in what we hope will be a bigger project to examine more closely the impact of the stop-and-frisk policy on this city’s residents, including police officers.