Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Female on Franklin

Last week's CHCA meeting offered plenty of food for thought from our great gang of local leaders as well as special guests Letitia James (our councilperson) and Capt. Elvio Capocci, the new commander of the 77th Precinct. Councilwoman James spoke at length about upcoming budget cuts, and the Captain offered his ears to the community, urging anyone concerned about crime on Franklin to report what they see and hear to his officers. He took questions on a variety of issues, including one that caught my ear and suggested this post.

A young woman asked Captain Capocci whether his officers go through any training regarding sexual harassment of civilians (by this she meant the harassment of civilians by officers), and what the best course of action is for women harassed by cops to take. Her comment raised a mild stir, and the Capt. admitted that he was "afraid to ask" what such harassment might entail, but she persisted, and the Captain recovered to answer her question, noting that he would take any such accusations seriously if they were brought to him. That said, he added, he can understand if women in the neighborhood felt uncomfortable calling or coming in to the precinct following an incident. If that's the case, he urged them to file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (you can reach them at 311 as well).

The matter wasn't exactly resolved in the meeting (not that it could be, but nonetheless), and it left me thinking about the issue as I went home to the lady, with whom I had this exchange:

Me: Do you ever get harassed by cops?
The Lady: Harassed? For doing what?
M: No, no, like sexually harassed.
L: Like how? They don't holler at me.
M: But do they ever hit on you?
L: Sure, sometimes, but it's not like they follow me home or anything.
M: That's a pretty low bar.
L: It's New York.

Cynicism aside, there's a real problem here, if my sample of two is representative. It's for this reason that I'm kicking it to the women of Franklin Avenue (not least because, much to my surprise, the 77th's Community Affairs Officer claims to read local blogs, including Nostrand Park and ILFA): Do police officers on Franklin ever harass you? I'm hoping the anonymity afforded by the comment thread will allow people to speak their mind on this, because with harassment by non-cops already a problem on Franklin, the last thing we need is for the police to be part of the problem.

PS - I find that sexual harassment of this variety tends to be a fairly hetero-normative, male-bothering-female thing, but by all means, let us know about any harassment that falls outside this box too.


  1. The most obvious was an officer on foot post outside 95 South last week during the late afternoon. The officer in question whistled at a group of passing girls, in my opinion high school age, and followed with a cat call. He's missing his front left too (I kid you not), light skinned Hispanic, mid to late 20's. Maybe he knew them, I don't know.

    I'd also note that his partner did not seem as happy with the behavior, but likely did not want to lose face by reprimanding the guy publicly nor also joining "in on the fun".

    Either way, this isn't a citizen interaction by any stretch of the imagination and is only going to undermine his authority and respect from the community. It's macho crap that girls already have to deal with from the little boys pretending to be hardcore drug kingpins directly across and your average sad lonely excuse for a man.

  2. I've never seen or encountered any cop-to-civilian sexual harassment on Franklin. In fact, nearly all on-duty cops on Franklin, and there are of course many, tend to avoid eye contact with me (those who come in to buy baked goods excepted) as I pass. I can't say that I'm thrilled with that kind of 'citizen interaction,' but I much prefer it to being harassed, sexually or otherwise.

    On a related note, I'm not sure if you've covered the larger issue here, but sexual harassment by average citizens is at its usual fever pitch on Franklin Avenue, and I'd be really delighted if that got a little less socially acceptable.

  3. I agree with Katya -- I have never seen or had anything like that happen to me. At the CHCA meeting I felt a bit awkward when she said it because it made it sound like ALL women had this problem, and I had never heard of such a thing before in the area - let alone had the problem myself. The police tend to not say anything to people walking past, at least in my encounters.

    I agree, also with Katya, that the cat-calling and harassment by non-police men on the street is very unnerving at times. I hate being objectified and discussed the way that they do. I usually (now) just smile and say "thanks" back - but sometimes they follow you asking your name, commenting on your appearance, etc..

    A few years back, though, I was walking from my apartment on Franklin between Lincoln and St. Johns to go buy a granola bar at a bodega directly across the street. In front of the store were a group of men who said the usual "hey baby, you so beautiful...blabla" type of stuff. I nodded in their direction and kept walking into the store. As I entered, I heard something to the effect of "rude b*tch can't even respond?" As I walked back outside, the sentiment was repeated so that I could hear it while another dude said "I wouldn't f*ing care if something happened to her, she so rude" and flashed his gun in his waistband. I was the "Rude b*tch" because I didn't want to engage in a conversation about me as an object.

  4. when you see a gun in a waist band, call 911. Give a description.

  5. In retrospect, I should have -- and would have now. I had only been in Brooklyn for like 5 months. After being here for 4+ years I know better.

  6. On a somewhat related note...

    I take the subway to work every day around 9am. Every once in a while (maybe once a week) there are literally 10 cops at the Franklin Station. Not checking bags or randomly selecting people to search. Just hanging out. Flipping through magazines at the new stand and checking out girls as they go by. Ten of them! It's a joke.

    What is the strategy here NYPD? As far as I can tell it's just an enormous waste of tax payer money.

  7. Just to clarify, I'm not saying that I doubt that there has been sexual harassment by police, just that I haven't personally experienced it. Expert as some members of the NYPD have proved themselves expert at many other forms of harassment in various situations (see: "randomly selecting people to search," above), I'm sure it's possible.

    Liz, I also find it alarming (and completely fascinating) to be castigated for rudeness when I've just been harassed. As if I were ungrateful for the great privilege of their attention. But I could go on about this for far longer than anyone would like to read about it, so I'll leave it there.

  8. I also agree with Liz and Katya. There is a difference between someone politely saying "Have a nice day" or "Beautiful smile" (which I get from older gentlemen) to the down right harassment from the younger (sometimes high school age) males. And I also don't appreciate the "Oh, she's rude" comments. Don't harass me and I won't be rude.

  9. Carolita Johnson (CAJ) drew "A Woman Walks Down the Street" here:

  10. I wouldn't consider it harassment if a man, P.O. included, said hello. The harassment comes in the follow up comments, when a woman is clearly not interested. I've been called many names, by many men on Franklin Ave, when I don't respond to lewd, inappropiate comments; or when I just say hello but don't engage further. To me it shows the level of immaturity and disrespect by men. After living in the area 16+ years, they know now to just say hello to me and keep it moving.