Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect

Like I tell them [police officers], I’m on your side to make sure there is courtesy, professionalism and respect. Isn’t that what you advertise on the side of your car? Seems like you’d want me to do it, unless what you’re providing is not courtesy, professionalism and respect.

Meet Joseph Hayden, Harlem’s 71 year-old horn blowing police watchman.

Having grown up during a time of extreme police brutality against Black Americans, he sees it as a personal responsibility to ensure that the NYPD is continually held accountable for their actions. To promote police transparency, he patrols Harlem in his old jeep and captures their actions on film with a hand-held video camera.

Hayden was recently pulled over for a broken tail light and due to the controversial “stop and frisk” practice, was charged with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon – a small Yankees baseball bat and a broken pocket knife. He was facing two to seven years in prison, but the charges were recently reduced to five days of community service.

Hayden still contends this arrest came after he posted a video of a stop and frisk that took place last July on his website. Other community activists in Harlem have been similarly targeted as “Professional Agitators” by the NYPD.  Hayden says,

This is what Harlem has turned into, an open-air prison. You can get stopped for anything.

Joseph Hayden’s courage is to be noted. Stop and frisk practices by the NYPD have long been criticized as a tactic that unfairly targets young Black men and violates their 4th Amendment rights – which gives people the right to be secure in their “persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” It is not illegal to openly record police activity in 48 states – the exceptions being Massachusetts and Illinois – but Gizmodo offers seven things you should remember if you take your cell phone camera out. Similarly, you never have to consent to a search of yourself, your belongings, your car or your house. The NYCLU provides some other tips for handling yourself if you’re stopped by the police.

by Lacy Davis

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8 Comments

  1. Lindsay Smith

     /  October 20, 2012

    Stories like this are the kind that should be featured more on the news. Hayden is a community watchdog, and likely a hero to those who have escaped police brutality from his whistle-blowing. I personally loved reading the tips for recording police action from Gizmodo.

    With everything in the news related to the current Stop and Frisk policy, I’m surprised more isn’t being done to limit, regulate, or end it altogether. The quotas that police are required to fulfill is absurd.

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  2. Courtney S

     /  October 22, 2012

    Thak you for sharing this; Hayden has a very interesting story. I find it ironic that citizens feel the need to patrol their communities for a group of people who are suppose to be there for to protect the community. It bothers me that as a collective our society is so accepting of this stop and frisk practice; especially because we always claim to be “color blind” and past the stage of racial degredation of the past. YET it is okay for us to sweep this raicail profiling of young men of color under the rug because the people who are being stopped are probably involved in something illegal anyway right? I just feel like the entire justice system in our country is bullshit and nobody cares to make it a political platform because the unfair, racist practices of the justice system are only really hurting people of color.

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  3. Kristina

     /  October 22, 2012

    The case of Joseph Hayden is very important to share and discuss. The more people know the more people can do to join the movement to bring a radical change in the system. It is sad that it has come down to citizens patrolling police when they are suppose to be the protectors. Brave men like Hayden are needed when polices such as stop and frisk are still in practice even after such long evaluation that it is not the best way.

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  4. Noora M.

     /  October 23, 2012

    Citizens watching and reporting the misconduct of officers is democracy in action. Police officers are given a level of power because of their professional title and uniform. When this power is being abused, citizens have a right to challenge that power, to be heard, and to make the abuse of power visible through video as Hayden has done. The Human Rights Watch, for example have volunteers who record and report on police brutality during protests (The NY Times recently reported on these volunteers recording police brutality during protests in Chile: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/world/americas/helmeted-volunteers-monitor-student-protests-in-chile.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) Hayden’s story and the HRW’s volunteers show a group of citizens that volunteer to police the police. This citizen-watch group is a global movement that needs to get more media coverage.

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  5. Mike K

     /  October 23, 2012

    The Massachusetts law was struck down in part in Gilk last August by the First Circuit. The court ruled unanimously that Glik had a right to videotape police in action on Boston Common which he was arrested for doing. Gilk was standing a few feet away when he was arrested for violating the Massachusetts wiretap statute (Ch. 272, Sec. 99) which prohibits willful interception–in secret–of any oral communication, without having obtained the prior authorization of those taking part. I believe the court was right in ruling for Gilk since his actions in a public space were not in secret and it was a video tape of a public action by a government actor where there would be no application of a privacy claim.

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  6. Thanks so much for the education lesson. I’ve always been ready and poised (never actually been in the right or wrong situation at the right time to do it.) Education is key here, so this is really something quite important to learn. I wish this was the sort of thing that my teachers were telling/teaching me in High school while I was looking up sparknotes for Anna Karenina. I glimpsed the Hayden article, but was really captured by what Gizmo detailed. Thanks again!

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  7. Danielle

     /  October 25, 2012

    Search and frisk is clearly misused. I can understand if a person is acting suspicious or outwardly agressive to stop and search someone. But jut to take a look at a person and frisk them is nonsense. The police should fun something better to do with their time. The NYPD in my opinion is the largest gang in the city.

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  8. Courtney L

     /  October 27, 2012

    The tips shared by the NY Civil Liberties Union about what to do in different scenarios of being stopped by the police was very informative. Particularly the point about [in New York] you do don’t have to carry ID or required to show your ID when stopped, questioned and/or frisked, unless you are issued a summons or arrested.

    My only concern with not producing identification is that the person in question could appear to be uncooperative and encourage more harassment. I recent saw a segment about Stop & Frisk on BET by TJ Holmes (http://www.bet.com/video/dont-sleep/highlights/2012/sleep-talkers-108-12008.html) in which he had conducted a panel discussion of how to prepare young Black and Brown men for the psychological damage of being stopped and frisked – often multiple times before their 21st birthday – and the negative feelings they harbor towards police and authority. Its a heavy subject, because the panel acknowledges that NY police department allege this policy has dropped crime rates in the area – overlooking many other variables.

    How do you make yourself look less suspicious? As a woman of color, I think its a hard question to ask yourself ever morning and not sure it’s always possible. So what is critical, is know your rights and educate others. Hayden’s work is not a labor in vain, but a fight to expose injustice.

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