Broken Windows, the now-debunked criminal justice theory that provided what many deem an academic justification for racial profiling, was nonetheless taken up by the NYPD in the 1990s and gave rise to “stop-and-frisk,” a policing tactic that fed thousands of black and brown bodies into New York’s grinding criminal justice system via its jails and prisons.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which for decades led litigation to reform militant police practices, including stop-and-frisk (which was eventually ruled unconstitutional by a judge in 2013), recently put out a study that measured the effects of aggressive policing on local communities and includes these sobering statistics:

  • During the first nine months of 2011, 514,461 city residents were stopped by the NYPD. Of those, 451,469 were innocent (88 percent), while 54 percent were black, 31 percent Latino and 9 percent white.
  • More than two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents in heavily policed communities feared having a friend or family member killed by police versus 15 percent of respondents in lightly policed communities.
  • 85 percent of survey respondents in heavily-policed communities said they actively changed things about their behavior, relationships, use of space, or schedule to avoid police surveillance.
  • More than a third (41 percent) of respondents in heavily-policed communities reported enduring extreme physical force from police, compared to just 4 percent in lightly-policed communities.
  • Almost half (48 percent) of respondents in heavily-policed communities said the police wrongly accused them of committing a crime.

Last week, the NYCLU, in conjunction with the Soze Agency Museum, curated the Broken Windows Pop-Up Exhibit in New York City’s Greenwich Village at 9 West 8th Street to display 60 works of art from 30 artists illustrating a critical look at the practice of “broken windows policing.”

“….and counting” by Ann Lewis (1,093 toe tags documenting every police-related death in 2016)
Photo: Sy Abudu for NYCLU

As reported by the Guardian, many of the artists featured in the pop-up exhibition have been personally affected by these policing strategies.

The Smithsonian reports:

… Philadelphia artist Russell Craig spent seven years imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses, and upon his release in 2013, crafted a piercing self-portrait on a canvas covered in court documents pertaining to his case. Jesse Krimes, another formerly incarcerated artist, used hair gel and a plastic spoon to transfer ink from copies of the New York Times onto his bedsheets.

In addition to those, more renown artists such as Dread Scott, whose contribution is a stark black banner inscribed with the words “A man was lynched by police yesterday,” and an animated short by Molly Crabapple, “Broken Windows,” which explores the death of Staten Islander Eric Garner, whose pleas of “I Can’t Breathe” became a mantra for a movement.

Hank Willis Thomas and Dr. Baz Dreisinger “Writing on the Wall”
Photo: Sy Abudu for NYCLU

In addition, there are a series of talks and screenings for the remainder of the exhibit:

Thursday, Sept. 27, 7:00 p.m.
Smart Justice. A panel of experts, including Nicole Triplett (NYCLU), Rashad Robinson (Color Of Change), and Darren Mack (Just Leadership USA), discusses how Broken Windows police tactics drive the mass incarceration crisis in New York, and how we can achieve smarter justice.

Saturday, Sept. 29, 3:00 p.m.
Ending the Police Secrecy Law. Family members of people who have been killed by police will speak about the impact of a state law that shields police misconduct records from public scrutiny. They will also discuss efforts to repeal that law this legislative session. *Please check back for exact start time.

Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:00 p.m.
Screening: Crime + Punishment. A screening of the new Hulu documentary Crime + Punishment, which is about the NYPD 12, a group of officers of color who challenged the NYPD’s quota system.

The pop-up is FREE, open to the public and ends on Sunday, Sept. 30. For more information, visit the Museum of Broken Windows.