By Rebecca Henely
Jacques Leandre, a community attorney, told a group of about 15 people at the Springfield Community Church in South Jamaica Saturday that minority members of the community need to know their rights and become more active in community policing efforts to fight unreasonable stop-and-frisks.
“Culturally, we don’t like to get involved with law enforcement if we don’t have to,” Leandre said. “We got to say, ‘It’s got to stop.’”
State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) hosted the talk at the church, at 177-06 129th Ave., in light of a class-action lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court last week against the city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and various NYPD officials.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said the 103rd Precinct, which includes Hollis, Jamaica and parts of South Jamaica, counted 17,000 people through the stop-and-frisk program in 2011. Of them, 91 percent were black or Latino and 88.7 percent were not given a summons or charged with a crime.
Adrienne Felton, a spokeswoman for Huntley, pointed out that the senator did not want to ban stop-and-frisk since the practice has removed guns from the neighborhood.
But she said she wants reform through more specific guidelines, more transparent records and requiring police officers to inform those they stop why they are under suspicion.
“She’s just against stop-and-frisk being used as a tool of racial profiling,” Felton said.
Leandre and former Rikers Island Correction Officer Lorenzo Steele Jr. led most of the discussion. Leandre, who is black, said while he has no criminal record, he had been stopped several times as a young law student. The attorney said he still gets stopped, but he often is not searched because he knows he and others do not have to consent to unreasonable search and seizures.
He also encouraged residents to take part in community precinct council meetings as well as set up block watches so residents cannot only track crime in their neighborhood but determine when residents are being unfairly targeted by police.
“I think it’s really important to empower the community with the tools that we have,” Leandre said.
Steele said it was also important to fight the perception among minority youth that jail is a rite of passage and work at reducing violence.
“Jail is the last place on earth that you ever want to be,” he said.
Cyi Holder, a 17-year-old black Hollis resident, said he had been stopped 15 times by the police, even though he has never been arrested or convicted of a crime.
“I felt like there was a target on me,” Cyi said of the experience.
Crystal David, 20, of St. Albans, said that as a young black woman she thought it was important for people to tell their stories of being stopped and frisked and of being in prison. She asked Leandre and Steele to partner with young people to raise awareness through marches and social media.
She said the current stop-and-frisk practices breed animosity between young minority men and police.
“It does nothing but tear them down,” David said. “If you don’t trust the cops, who can you trust?”
An awareness march about stop-and-frisk will be held June 5 at the Colosseum Mall on 165th Street at 2:30 p.m.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.