The Risk of Stop and Frisk

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Young people fed up with the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy march across the Brooklyn Bridge, October 12, 2011.

When I was a child I fantasized about being a police officer, a beacon of all that was good in the world. I dreamed of experiencing the thrill of adventures and catching “bad guys.” Until a few years later, when I realized that I looked more like the “bad guy,” reinforced by the way the cops treated me.

I fit the description by association – where I lived, clothes I wore, how I spoke, music I listened to – all these things betrayed me. All these things that made me were also red flags for hunches and probable causes.

I wasn’t born knowing. I was taught this.


Hands behind your head.
Hands where I can see them!
Hands on the steering wheel.
Face the wall.
Face the car.
Spread ‘em.
Do you know why I stopped you?
Let me see some ID.
Step out of the car.
Lay on the ground.
You can go now.

Hands up.
Empty your pockets.
What are you doing here?
Move along.
Do you have any weapons?
Let me ask you a couple of questions.
Shut the fuck up!

No voice is no choice
We are stripped of autonomy and dignity
Under the guise of the public good

They say stop and frisk is sooo great
But they don’t state
That stop and frisk don’t lower the crime rates

It just makes people feel safe
But who supposed to feel safe
When the youth don’t feel safe
And you

Enmanuel Candelario is a member of The Peace Poets, five brothers from Uptown Manhattan and the Bronx who aim to connect communities of young people with Spoken Word performances in community centers, schools, shelters, detention facilities, museums, streets – and, on occasion, Occupy Wall Street rallies. 

Read more about the NYPD’s stop and frisk policies and how they target men of color.

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