The vast majority of complaints about New York City police officers' mistreatment of youths stemmed from encounters with black and Hispanic children, according to a new study by the city’s police watchdog agency.
Nearly two-thirds of youth complaints to the Civilian Complaint Review Board involved young boys of color, the report says, including some “stopped for seemingly innocuous activities such as playing, high-fiving, running, carrying backpacks, and jaywalking."
The report, based on a review of more than 100 complaints, highlights several instances of racial profiling and comes amid mounting calls for police reforms in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Thousands of New Yorkers have taken to the streets to protest Floyd's death and call for greater accountability.
“It’s time for the NYPD to re-consider how officers police our youth, address disparities in law enforcement, and commit to swift discipline when officers engage in misconduct," Fred Davie, chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, said in a statement.
The watchdog agency recommended New York City police take steps to prevent the “over-policing” of minority youths and break out its use of force data by age and race.
The NYPD said even one case of police misconduct is unacceptable.
“A top priority Commissioner (Dermot) Shea has set for the NYPD is to reimagine doing all we can to protect and serve New York City’s kids," the department said in a statement. "After careful review, we accept each of the CCRB’s thoughtful and constructive recommendations — some of which are already in the process of being implemented and all of which will strengthen our new Youth Strategy.”
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The report describes a 2018 incident in which police frisked a group of black and Hispanic boys ages 8 to 14 who had been laughing and playing with sticks. The officers apparently mistook the children for a group of Hispanic men in their 20s reported to be “chasing and fighting" with a machete and a stick, according to the report.
Two of the children, including an 8-year-old, were taken into custody for disorderly conduct. But the officers later gave “inconsistent statements about what the children were doing before they were stopped," the report says.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board recommended disciplining the officers, saying they “did not have reasonable suspicion to believe any of the boys were armed when they were frisked.”
The mother of the 8-year-old said her son had not been treated properly, the report says, “and that his dreams of being a police officer were over."