by: John Rodriguez
New York City Police Officers roughed-up and detained a 15-year-old student for 90 minutes simply for looking “too old” after spotting her using a student Metrocard. The NYPD has opened an investigation into the unnecessary force and detainment of Alexis Sumpter, a 15-year-old student from Harlem Village Academies, who was approached by officers and taken into their custody on July 26th for using her student Metrocard which the officers believed didn’t belong to her because she didn’t look the appropriate age.
“They called me a liar,” said Sumpter, remembering the interaction with the officers. “Then they grabbed me by my arms and flung me up the stairs. I kept saying, ‘I’m only 15—why are you guys doing this?’ They said they didn’t owe me an explanation.” But that was then, and with an investigation currently being taken out against the three officers they may have to explain themselves.
The incident occurred after Sumpter swiped her school Metrocard, which is active until August 17th, at a turnstile at the 125th station where she was heading Downtown, after she got out of summer school, to start her first day at a marketing internship on Canal St. While having a seat on the platform bench waiting for the A train, Sumpter was approached by two men.
Although worried they were police imposters since they were in plainclothes, Sumpter complied with them when they began asking her questions. The officers demanded to know Sumpter’s age because, it has been reported, that the cops might have approached her after seeing a light on the subway turnstile which indicates when a student card had just been swiped. When Sumpter told the officers her age they did not believe her, and unfortunately due to having been recently mugged she no ID on her.
“They didn’t approach me in a calm manner and they were very rude the whole time,” said Sumpter, describing the interaction with the officers from an experience she has described as being shaken and humiliated by. “They were talking to me like they were trying to show they were superior to me.”
After physically removing her from the platform and taking her upstairs, a third officer got involved and pressed Sumpter against the wall while the two officers who retrieved her placed her in handcuffs. The first person the officers called was Sumpter’s father, William Sumpter, a Con Edison worker, who through the phone call confirmed his daughter’s age but still disbelieving her age the officers then called Sumpter’s mother. Marisol Sumpter, who works in real estate, raced to the station where her daughter was kept.
Upon arrival, Sumpter’s mother was told by officers that her own child didn’t look like a child but an adult. Seeing she wasn’t going to be able to convince the officers, Marisol, 32, returned to the family’s home for the birth certificate.With birth certificate in hand, Sumpter’s mother was able to get Alexis uncuffed and eventually released once her age was proven.
“I definitely think it was over the top,” said Sumpter’s mother about her daughter’s incident, “They used physical force that was not necessary.” Once she was released, Sumpter had to go to the hospital due to her wrists being swollen from the handcuffs being too tight. While it is not unusual for police officers to detain someone suspected of doing something wrong, especially someone with identification, the aggressiveness taken out on Sumpter for a total of 90 minutes for an inconsequential matter of suspecting fare-jumping appears to be too much for Sumpter’s mother.
The NYPD has confirmed there is an investigation of the incident, but have not answered questions brought up about what happened to Sumpter. Meanwhile, Sumpter is trying to move on from the terrible encounter with the police officers, so much so that she has opted to take a different train. “I don’t want to see them again,” said Sumpter, “I don’t want to have to go through that again.”
Sumpter is just one of the few young victims who have experienced an aggressive encounter with New York City Police Officers. Also in July, Sean Pagan, 19, was body-slammed by a NYPD transit officer at the 45th Street Station near his Sunset Park home. In a recorded video, Pagan is shown being confronted by a uniformed cop who puts Pagan’s hands against the walls and frisks him. When Pagan feels the frisk becomes too intimate he squirms a bit which makes the officer body slams him to the ground and puts him into a headlock.
“I was just in shock he really did that,” said Pagan about his encounter, “I’m sure there are other kids who got the same treatment or worse treatment that wasn’t recorded.”
According to Authorities, Pagan was seen writing graffiti in a restricted area of the station but a friend of Pagan says on the video, in Spanish, that the officer believed he Pagan may have jumped the turnstile. Pagan was charged with theft of services, resisting arrest, criminal mischief, making graffiti, and trespassing. Pagan was held overnight and released the next day. There is no known investigation into the aggressiveness on Pagan’s arrest.
Discretion is the key tool a Police Officer has in making an arrest of any kind, and while they are free to use it in order to “capture” a “culprit” it doesn’t grant them the privilege to be aggressive to suspected individuals. And because a suspect is young or non-white, aggressive measures shouldn’t be utilize unless given a true reason to.