Amid the police terror that has swept the nation these last few months, there has been a missing facet from the conversation: the fact that women are brutalized by cops just as severely as men. For every John Crawford and Ezell Ford there is an Ersula Ore or a Marlene Pinnock (you can view the footage of Pinnock's beating by a California Highway Patrol officer here).
The assault on the bodies of Ore and Pinnock, and similarly on women like Stephanie Maldonado, Rosan Miller, and Denise Stewart here in New York City, underlines a truth we can no longer ignore: woman are all too often the targets of police brutality. An organized push for justice in the wake of police violence might start with the story of a Michael Brown or an Eric Garner, but the stories and faces of victimized women—as well as gay, lesbian, and trans people, and the poor and elderly—must too be included as we call for police reform.
As part of an ongoing series, Gawker is publishing stories from New Yorkers who have been victims of, or witnesses to, police harassment and brutality by the NYPD. Police brutality, which we believe should be treated as a national crisis, is not limited to the streets of New York or Los Angeles. But examining the actions of the country's largest and most famous police force, and giving a voice to the victims of its violence, is a start.
In the previous three weeks, I have received a great deal of support and criticism in my attempt to share the stories of NYPD victims. These aren't real, some have said. This happens to everybody or Why won't you publish their names, others have wondered. For now, I will continue to publish stories anonymously. Many responders have expressed fear that releasing their name will only cause more harm from NYPD. I want to honor their concerns.
What we're doing is not easy, nor should it be taken lightly, but overtime I believe we will begin to show the everyday horror residents deal with—the hyperpolicing, the lack of respect, the bullying, the overcriminalization of black and brown bodies. It is a horror so commonplace that at times we don't even bother to bat an eye at it or speak out. May these stories, and those yet to come, serve as proof that even the smallest infractions by officers should never go unnoticed.
i was about 14 years old, on my way home from school. i lived in east flatbush, brooklyn, coming home from school in manhattan. i exited the utica avenue train station, still in my school uniform, clearly underage. a young white cop came up to me and said hello - i stopped and said hello, thinking there must be some reason for him to speak to me. he asked to walk with me, i said i'm just going to the bus on the corner. we got to the corner and he asked for my phone number. i said i don't give out my number. he - very deliberately - rested his hand on his gun in it's holster, told me i'm pretty, and that he wanted to be able to get in touch with me. i didn't know what to say, i paused, and then he said "do you think it's a good idea to disobey a police officer?" - hand still on his gun. at this point the bus came and i ran into it as fast as i could.
My first encounter with NYPD was shortly after I'd moved here to be with my boyfriend who was a Queens native. I had a female friend who lived in Washington Heights, and I was out front of her apartment building, waiting for my boyfriend to pick us up. She had run back upstairs because she forgot something, and while she was gone, two Hispanic cops rolled up in a cruiser, and one got out and began interrogating me on the sidewalk. He asked my name, where I was from, and wanted to see my ID (which was still my Texas ID). I answered his questions as politely as I could but once he saw my ID he demanded to know why I was so far from home and what I was doing in the area. He even asked if I was there to buy drugs, and whose baby I was carrying (I was about 7 months pregnant). I told him that my friend and I were going to dinner with my boyfriend, and showed him which building she lived in. When she returned and saw him with me, she made this face, like it wasn't at all surprising to her; she even cussed at him in Spanish and told him to back off me and leave me alone, almost like she knew him, sort of. He backed down a little until my boyfriend rolled up (he's Italian) - that started a whole new round of 20 questions as the second cop demanded all the same info from my boyfriend. I started to really fret that something was going to go wrong here, and I started to pray in my head. At that moment, a little old lady in the building next door stuck her head out the window amid a plume of black smoke and began screaming for help in Spanish, saying her kitchen was on fire. The cops (seriously, I am not making this up) looked at her, looked at us, looked back at her, looked back at us, and took some time to decide whether they should protect and serve the old lady, or continue to inexplicably harass us. They pointed their fingers at us and said sternly, "You stay right here and don't move!" We nodded and jumped in the car the second they were gone.
My story dates back many years ago. At the time, I lived in East Flatbush Brooklyn b'twn Lenox and Linden. Our neighborhood was quiet, well maintained, filled with children and mostly Caribbean. I was (still am) a stay-at-home Mom and my husband took the train that day and left me the car so I could take our son to Prospect Park. I backed out of the driveway and proceeded to head towards Lenox Avenue. A NYPD car rushed towards me, going the wrong way down our street. I was so startled and nervous. Thank goodness there was enough space for me to pull over to let him by. As the cop car slowed down, both of our windows down, I looked at him and he at me. I'm sure my face showed a "What the fuck?" grimace but I was horrified that he would do this on a one-way street with so many playing children. What if he had hit my car with my toddler in it? Or hit some playing children? The officer stopped his car alongside mine and said to me, "What the FUCK are you looking at?" I was SHOCKED. He was very young, maybe 20'ish, white and had that bad ass demeanor. I calmly said, "I'm looking at you going down the wrong way on a residential street." I pulled off and proceeded to my destination.
I waited at a light on Lenox Avenue, looking into my rearview mirror. I had a sinking feeling this officer was going to be an ass and circle the block to come behind me, which he did. He flashed his lights and I ignored him. He followed me around the corner, this close to my bumper, onto Utica Avenue and then took a left and disappeared.
One time was out for drinks with a beat cop friend of the guy I was dating at the time. This was about 8 years ago. And prior to this conversation I thought he was a "good guy".
This cop was lamenting how much he hated the fact he was stuck on 'the rape desk' for a couple months, meaning he was the guy you'd speak to if you came in with any sort of sexual issue. He went on and on about how every single one was just a slut who felt guilty about drinking too much. "every single one is just a little liar". Every. One.
Then he said there was only one girl who was telling the truth, who was 15 and had been raped by two men. Then he told me and the rest of the table precisely what they did to her, in detail. He talked about how pretty and slim she was and how she had a great body. Then composed himself a bit and said "but you know, we got them".
Then as soon as my boyfriend left the table he tried to see if I wanted to have a threesome with him, this wasn't 1 minute after him creaming his shorts under the table while talking about a 15 year old kid being raped.
He was so drunk he stumbled into the street and banged his head against a shop window as we were leaving and called some of his mates to drive him home.
I'm a light brown Cuban girl who rides a bike between Brooklyn and Manhattan daily. Like most New Yorkers I go through red lights if I there's no oncoming traffic. Anyway, cops are starting to use their sirens to get me to pull over and they try to pick me up. Asking me for ID and where I'm going then for my phone number to get together.
I'm timid generally but there's a particular helplessness from being coerced by someone who can arrest you.
Share your story with us. Have you ever been unfairly stopped or harassed by the NYPD? Has an officer used excessive force when it was unwarranted? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your encounter in Kinja below.