The Arrest of Brooklyn Teen Nicholas Simon is the Latest Example of the NYPD’s Long History of Targeting Black Youth


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The family of Nicholas Simon, 17, is accusing police of falsely arresting and “kidnapping” the teenager in early June. The Brooklyn, New York, high school student says he was walking home from the park when police in the Crown Heights neighborhood stopped him.

Surveillance footage obtained by local station News 12 Brooklyn, shows the teenager dribbling a basketball before police approached and arrested him. The teen was put in the back of a squad car where he said officers asked him “Where is the gun?” Nicholas says he had no weapon and that officers did not explain why he was arrested. Nicholas was brought to a local police precinct and charged with disorderly conduct, according to News 12 Brooklyn.

The teenager’s attorney, Keith White, is calling for police to drop the charges against Nicholas. The family also plans to file a lawsuit against the NYPD for the way Nicholas was treated.

“It has to be framed as a kidnapping and an unlawful arrest because if not, we normalize the police’s ability to lock us up until they find a crime for us,” White told AURN. “If we call it what it is which is a kidnapping and wrongful arrest, then can we properly identify and begin to solve the problem,” he continued.

The NYPD has not responded to a request for comment.

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Nicholas Simon is a 17 year old DJ and Student. He has a serious medical condition that prevents him from attending regular high school classes, so he’s home schooled. He’s 5’3” and 119 lbs. This is Nicholas in this video. Nicholas has never had any trouble with the law. On this day, Nicholas was coming home from the park when police officers from the 71st Precinct in Brooklyn, New York, ran up to him and kidnapped him without cause. While being kneeled on and placed in a wrestling hold, Nicholas was interrogated. Nicholas’ medical condition requires that he stay hydrated, however, when Nicholas asked for water he was denied. When Nicholas’ mother and other concerned members of the community arrived at the precinct to inquire about his arrest and his well-being, they were disrespected, denied access and scoffed at. Nicholas was eventually charged with Disorderly Conduct and Conduct Threatening to the Safety of others. But the video speaks for itself. This is normalized behavior. No one is surprised here. Even I’m not surprised- I get these cases all the time. I even have a rough estimate of how much money I’ll get for Nicholas based on these officers conduct. But when does our abuse stop being transactional? The city budgets include a fund for these cases. But when do we make systemic changes? This doesn’t make the news and all these politicians can ignore it because it’s normal now- it’s not egregious enough. But imagine a similarly situated rich white kid being kidnapped by the police and then given a fake charge to substantiate the false arrest? All of the heartfelt responses to “when they see us” were cute. But this happened last week. And if Nicholas had not been smart enough to remain silent and there had been a crime to pin on Nicholas, this story would have ended differently. But this is america. Share if you care.

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Nicholas’ case is the latest example of the NYPD’s long history of excessive policing of Black youth in New York City. The police’s stop-and-frisk activity disproportionately targets black and brown youth, ages 14 to 24, according to a 2019 data analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union called “Stop and Frisk in the DeBlasio Era.” The age group is five percent of the city’s population but made up 38 percent of all stops between 2014 and 2017, the report states.

“The decline in the sheer number of stops is important progress, but it does not change the fact that black and Latino New Yorkers are still disproportionately targeted by stop-and-frisk policing,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a news release.

The Central Park Five, possibly the most famous example of the NYPD’s excessive policing of black youth, has recently received renewed attention because of Ava Duvernay-directed Netflix film When They See Us based on the case. The film outlines how the police department and New York County District Attorney’s Office framed then teens Yusef Salaam, Antron Mccray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana Jr., and Korey Wise as criminals, ultimately leading to their imprisonment. The men were exonerated in 2002 after a serial rapist confessed to the crime for which the Central Park Five was convicted.

“I don’t want to conflate and I don’t want to minimize what they [Central Park Five] went through because what Nicholas went through is not what they went through, but the process started the same,” said White. “There are layers to how problematic this case is and starts with why he was even approached in the first place without him being questioned.”

Going forward, Nicholas’ family and attorney are concerned with the emotional trauma he will face after the incident. They want to see the NYPD takes more steps to create policies that stop these incidents from occurring again in the future.

“We also need to have some conversations around what community policing should look like,” said White. “Should it look like a bunch of big white guys coming in and jumping on top of a black boy? That does not look like community policing in my mind.”

Nicholas Simon
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