By Sasha Gonzales and Kevin Deutsch
The Legal Aid Society released a video Saturday of what they say is an illegal search of a Bronx man frequently subjected to unlawful stop-and-frisk searches by the NYPD.
The legal defense organization said their client, 19-year-old Destin Burgess, filmed the footage in September. It shows Bronx officers “illegally” searching Burgess and his friend “entirely without provocation” or probable cause, the attorneys said.
“According to Mr. Burgess, this kind of misconduct from the officers at issue is neither unique nor even unusual,” Legal Aid said in a statement. “He and his friends in the community must contend with it regularly.”
The 36-second video shows cops pulling up outside a NYCHA complex in Throggs Neck in a dark, unmarked car. One of them gets out and starts frisking Burgess’ friend, then frisks Burgess.
“Sup, Mister Burgess?” the cop asks.
“You all do this to us every day,” Burgess says. “You’re not going to find nothing because we don’t do nothing.”
Under current law, such stops are illegal, according to Legal Aid. Legislation passed by the City Council last year requires officers who stop people to identify themselves, provide their target with a business card including their name and shield number, and explain the reason for the stop.
None of those steps were taken during Burgess’ encounter with police, the video shows.
Burgess, who has no criminal record, faces criminal charges in an unrelated case, stemming from his allegedly spitting in the face of an officer in September 2018. Prosecutors charged him with resisting arrest and harassment in that case.
The teen has denied the allegations, claiming NYPD Housing PSA 8 officers stopped-and-frisked him on Dewey Avenue without cause. He said officers searched him repeatedly – three times in all – but did not find anything illegal. In response, Burgess said he questioned the officers about the baselessness of their search before they arrested him, punched him in the face, and took him to jail.
His lawyers said the outlawed practice of stop-and-frisk continues across the city, with grievous consequences for minority New Yorkers.
“This frisk flagrantly violates New York’s carefully graded laws governing police-civilian encounters, as well as the NYPD regulations that codify those laws,” Shannon Griffin, Staff Attorney with the Bronx Trial Office at Legal Aid, said of Burgess’ videotaped search. “Officers in the Bronx and other boroughs routinely profile and subject our clients and other New Yorkers of color to searches such as this one with impunity. We are calling on the Bronx District Attorney’s Office to dismiss the charges pending against our client – which arose from an incident nearly identical to what is captured in the video depicting the violation of his rights. Furthermore, we demand action from the DA’s office and the NYPD to hold these officers accountable for flouting the law.”