The city’s police watchdog on Monday released its first-ever report on the NYPD’s treatment of young people, ages 10 to 18 — and found that boys who are black or Hispanic are disproportionately victims of cop misconduct.
Among allegations the Civilian Complaint Review Board investigated and substantiated during the 18 months beginning January 2018:
- A black 11-year-old was stopped and frisked by plainclothes officers after high-fiving an adult in his public housing complex.
- An NYPD officer said, “Don’t f—ing kick me b—h” moments before she punched an 18-year-old black girl in the face.
- A black 15-year-old boy walking back to his homeless shelter with a bag of food got accosted by plainclothes detectives, who pulled him to the ground and frisked him in mistaken belief he fit the description of a 20-year-old deli robbery suspect. The takedown injured the teen badly enough to send him away in an ambulance.
“As young New Yorkers lead the way in calling for change in our city following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, it’s time for the NYPD to reconsider how officers police our youth, address disparities in law enforcement, and commit to swift discipline when officers engage in misconduct,” wrote CCRB Chair Fred Davies in a statement accompanying the report.
The new CCRB analysis found that its investigations substantiated complaints of misconduct against youth at a higher rate than adults (29% compared to 23%) and exonerated cops at a lower rate (13% versus 23%).
Because of state law 50-a, which has been interpreted as requiring police personnel records be kept private, the ultimate outcomes of those cases are almost never made public. The punishments themselves are ultimately controlled by the police department.
Stopped for Carrying Backpacks
The 56-page report, which emerged from work by the CCRB’s Youth Advisory Council, analyzed more than 100 “fully investigated” complaints of police misconduct against young New Yorkers between January 2018 and June 2019.
It found that black and Hispanic boys were disproportionately represented — accounting for 65% of all complaints. Among adults, the CCRB reported, black and Hispanic men account for 42% of complaints.
Overall, 64% of investigated youth complaints involved someone who identified as black, while Census figures show that 25% of young people ages 10 to 19 in New York City are black.
Many complaints sprung from interactions involving “officers stopping youth for seemingly innocuous activities, such as playing, high-fiving, running, carrying backpacks and jaywalking,” according to the report. Incidents were often complicated by youth not recognizing that plainclothes officers were cops.
According to the CCRB, 39% of the fully-investigated youth cases involved plainclothes officers, who also accounted for four out of the five cases classified as “officer unidentified.”
Nearly 85% of complaints were made by adults on behalf of kids, showing that “young people are significantly less likely to report police misconduct,” the report stated.
Harya Tarekegn, senior counsel for policy and advocacy at the CCRB, said board staff is making efforts to let young people know the CCRB exists and encourage them to file their own complaints.
“Our outreach units have been going to unconventional spaces to, you know, basketball courts, barbershops, trying to meet young people where they are because we recognize that they’re not coming to your community board meetings, for example,” said Tarekegn.
The CCRB also noted in the report that parents are not always notified when a child is brought into a police precinct.
As THE CITY previously reported, among the cases the board has investigated is the Halloween arrest of three black boys in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, who were held at a local police precinct. Parents complained they had not been notified of the arrests. The CCRB said that investigation is ongoing.
The board is calling on the NYPD to improve its data disclosure, consider the victim’s age when deciding on discipline for officers and implement youth-specific training. That would include training for the youth coordination officers involved in the department’s youth crime prevention initiative launched earlier this year.
The CCRB report also recommends the NYPD to alter its handbook to include more explicit language calling for notification of parents when their children are taken into police custody.
Board officials plan on strengthening outreach to young people across the city to ensure that not just adults, but youth themselves, feel comfortable calling out police.
“Too many young people are treated as criminals in their classrooms and on the streets. When those in power do nothing to address systemic injustices, it is up to the youth to demand change. We need more than reform; we need a radical transformation,” Winnie Shen, a member of the CCRB’s Youth Advisory Council said in a written statement.
Overall, the demonstrations have resulted in 633 new accusations of police misconduct through Friday, according to the CCRB.
The board’s recommendations come after Mayor Bill de Blasio touted his new NYPD youth strategy last Wednesday as proof of the department’s commitment to neighborhood policing.
As described by Police Commissioner Dermot Shea during his Jan. 29 State of the NYPD breakfast, the program is intended to “identify the opportunities for intervention with young people early in the progression that risks turning them into criminals” and “assist them early in their downward trajectories.”
The effort involves school safety agents, who are part of the NYPD but not overseen by the CCRB or any other watchdog body, the report notes.
The NYPD youth program got pushback from local youth advocacy groups at its January launch.
Andrea Colon, lead organizer of the Rockaway Youth Task Force, slammed the program as “unwarranted surveillance of black and other youth of color.”