6:00 pm Oct. 11, 2011
David Segal was walking the one-and-half-blocks from the Myrtle-Willoughby Avenue train station to his home in Bedford-Stuyvesant after work last April or May when he heard a man yell out, "Hey, you."
Segal, who says he was unaware who the shouting was directed toward, kept walking.
The shouter followed Segal across the street and, according to Segal, he said, "You don't hear us talking to you?"
It turned out the man was a uniformed member of the New York Police Department. The officer had a partner.
Segal, dressed in a shirt, slacks and tie, is a 26-year-old Brooklyn College grad student and a spokesman for New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. He's six feet tall and an amateur boxer. He grew up in Litchfield, Conn.
By his own admission, he has "the hand-writing of a first grader" and therefore often uses rolling-ball pens (in particular, the Pilot Precise v5), which he wears clipped onto his pants pocket.
Recalling the incident in a recent interview, Segal said, "The guy's like 'What's this in your pocket?' and reaches into my pocket and goes to grab it out, and it's difficult for me to have a good reaction when some guy I don't know is reaching his hand in my pocket."
"So I immediately jump back with my hands up like this," he added, sticking his hands up in the air above his head, fingers spread. "'Get your hands out of my pocket, you have no reason for this.' I start shouting about probable cause."
At that point, according to Segal, a second policeman stepped in and said, "'Whoa, whoa whoa, calm down there. You don't know what's going on.'"
"I have a pen, I don't know what the problem is," Segal said. "So then they're like, 'Let's see some ID.' And I'm like 'It's a pen. You know, it's a pen. You still need to see my ID?'"
The officers, according to Segal, replied, "'Come on, just show me your ID.'"
Segal obliged, showing the police officers his driver's license, not his New York City Council ID.
That's Segal's most recent stop-and-frisk story. It was the second time this year he went through the process and, by his count, the sixth time since he moved to the neighborhood in 2008.
According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, more then 3 million "innocent" New Yorkers were stopped and frisked by the NYPD between 2004 and 2010. An additional 362,150 were stopped and frisked in the first six months of 2011 (only 33,805 this year were white).
"There are a number of communities, including Bedford-Stuyvesant and Washington Heights, that face serious crime problems but are populated overwhelmingly by hard-working people, who care deeply about their neighborhood," said Segal's boss, Councilman Rodriguez. "The difficulty is in striking a balance between fighting that crime and still respecting all of those hard-working residents."
For his part Segal, acknowledges it's a high-crime area where he lives—Segal said a friend who lives in the neighborhood was recently shot in the chest, but survived—and he says he understands the police are under pressure to do something about it. He has never filed a complaint or spoken publicly about his encounters with the police.
Sitting inside the temporary meeting location for the City Council in Emigrant Savings Bank during a recent hearing, Segal, with his pen clipped into his pants, said, "The surprising thing wasn't getting stopped and frisked in Bed-Stuy. The surprising thing was when I started working here and had the security staff around City Hall be just, so respectful and polite and willing to help on anything. And I'm like, what alternate reality did i just step into?
"To me, that was the jarring thing, coming out of where I'm living now," he said. "The town I grew up in had one cop that you never saw."
Debate over the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practice flared up briefly after City Councilman Jumaane Williams, an outspoken critic of the practice, was briefly arrested at a parade in early September.
Councilmember Gale Brewer, inspired by the Williams incident, wrote a letter to police commissioner Ray Kelly complaining about a prior incident in which she says she was detained by police behind a barricade, and an African-American woman in her entourage was "grabbed" and "pushed."
The NYPD press office did not respond to a request for comment about Segal's account.