Yahnick Martin, the Brooklyn man tossed in jail by New York cops for being a “smart ass,” is getting some measure of satisfaction this week as Roman Goris, one of the officers who arrested him, becomes the first New York cop to face an independent disciplinary hearing for taking the city’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy a step too far.
The city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, under new powers it assumed earlier this year, may now take up stop-and-frisk cases on its own, investigating whether officers abused the policy. Under stop-and-frisk, police may stop and search anyone they suspect of carrying an illegal object or substance.
The original intent of the law was to help police curb gun violence by seizing illegal guns before they could be used. But of the staggering 533,000 people stopped by police under the policy in 2012, only 729 were found to be carrying guns.
In all, about 29,000 were stopped for possessing marijuana, which is actually decriminalized in New York. About 5,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession.
Martin (pictured) filed a $2 million lawsuit against the city for his wrongful arrest. The suit gives details of the incident for which Goris now faces disciplinary charges.
A 35-year-old real estate broker and married father, Martin was waiting by his car, parked in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, while his wife delivered Christmas presents on Dec. 23, 2011. He was puffing on a cigar.
Goris and two other cops, saying that they smelled marijuana, asked Martin if he had any. Martin said he did not and blew out cigar smoke to make his point.
Goris searched him anyway, emptying his pockets and finding nothing. Then Martin, perhaps unwisely but certainly not in violation of any known statutes, thought it would be amusing to make a joke.
"Where's the $100 that was in my pocket?" he quipped.
“You want to be a smart ass and make accusations, you’re going to jail,” one of the humorless officers replied.
The officers cuffed the real estate broker and took him to the 77th Precinct Station where he was slapped with disorderly conduct charges — which were quickly dropped.
Before they hauled him off, Martin asked to shut off and lock his automobile, which was filled with Christmas presents and still running. The cops refused to allow him to secure the vehicle.
The car was stolen by the time his wife came out of the building, according to Martin’s lawsuit.
Martin is African-American. Almost 90 percent of people stopped under the stop-and-frisk policy in 2012 were black or Latino.
Until the recent reforms, the civilian board was able only to make recommendations to the NYPD which then conducted internal disciplinary hearings.
"When it comes to prosecuting police officers accused of mistreating civilians, it is essential that those cases be handled by someone independent of the police department," said Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has frequently challenged the city’s stop-and-frisk policy.
SOURCES: DNAinfo, ThinkProgress (2), New York Daily News, National Public Radio