Probable Cause..Black, Latino and Young


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

Much has been written about New York City’s stop and frisk policies, but until now, the evidence of who the police were stopping and why was not a matter of public record.  A recent class action suit has opened the door to learning the true numbers involved as well as the accurate demographics of just who is getting stopped by the NYPD.  “New York police officers testifying before a federal court this week said that racist quotas imposed by ranking officers are behind the police department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, confirming years of accusations made by civil rights and community advocates that the department’s tactics disproportionately target minorities. 

The class action suit, Floyd v. City of New York, is taking on New York police commissioner Ray Kelly and mayor Michael Bloomberg—both long champions of the tactic— as well as the city itself, in an attempt to prove that the NYPD has “demonstrated a widespread and systemic pattern of unconstitutional stops,” the Guardian writes. According to department data, the NYPD has made roughly 5 million street stops in the past decade, the vast majority of those stopped being young African American or Latino men.  Nearly nine out of 10 of those stopped by police have walked away without a summons or arrest.”  Common Dreams

It seems that the police are handcuffed by their supervisors requirements and forced to stop certain demographic groups and to maintain a prescribed minimum number of those stops.  Is the NYPD breaking the law when they stop and frisk young Latino and Black men just because of who they are?  “By law, the NYPD is permitted to stop a person if they have reasonable suspicion to believe the person is about to commit a crime, is in the process of committing a crime, or have just finished committing a crime. The officer is allowed to frisk, or pat down, an individual “if they have reason to believe the person is an armed threat.” And they can then reach inside the clothing, or search the individual, “if they have encountered an object they have reason to believe is a weapon.”

According to critics, these defined parameters regularly go unmet and instead, the NYPD has instituted “a sense of second-class citizenship in minority communities in which individuals—particularly young men—are routinely subjected to illegal and degrading stops,” the Guardian writes.”  Common Dreams  

The NYPD officers testifying in the class action trial allege that their supervisors required quotas of stop and frisk actions and that there were adverse consequences if those officers did not meet the quotas.

“Officer Adhyl Polanco began his testimony Tuesday by saying “there’s a difference between” the department’s policies on paper and “what goes on out there”, on the city’s streets.  Polanco testified that in 2009, officers in his Bronx precinct were expected to issue 20 summons and make one arrest per month. If they did not they would risk denied vacation, being separated from longtime partners, undesirable assignments and other consequences.

Polcano claimed it was not uncommon for patrol officers who were not making quotas to be forced to “drive the sergeant” or “drive the supervisor”, which meant driving around with a senior officer who would find individuals for the patrol officer to arrest or issue a summons to, at times for infractions the junior officer did not observe.  “We were handcuffing kids for no reason,” Polanco said. Claiming he was increasingly disturbed by what he was witnessing in his precinct, Polcanco began secretly recording his roll call meetings. ” Guardian

Officer Polcano actually went a step further and secretly recorded conversations with his supervisors and those recordings are not pretty for civil libertarians. One of his fellow NYPD officers also recorded his conversations with his supervisor.  “Bronx police officer Pedro Serrano also secretly recorded comments made by supervisors at the same Bronx precinct. His recordings were also played for the court this week.

On a track played Thursday, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack was heard telling Serrano he needed to stop “the right people, the right time, the right location”. When asked what he believed McCormack meant Serrano told the court: “he meant blacks and Hispanics.”  Later in the tape McCormack says:  ‘ “I have no problem telling you this … male blacks. And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem [to] tell you this, male blacks 14 to 21.” ‘  Guardian

Whether New York City is continuing these allegedly illegal stop and frisk policies in order to make money for the city or to prevent crime may be irrelevant.  If the testimony of these officers is to believed, NYPD is breaking the law on an immense scale.  How many of the 5 Million stops in the last decade were done without probable cause?  We may never know the exact number, but if the quotas and the demographics of who they are supposed to stop are accurate, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly are leading a massive, purposeful violation of the law.

The officers who bravely testified and secretly recorded the conversations with their supervisors have taken a huge personal risk.  They forwarded their complaints to Internal Affairs and their confidential claims were “leaked” to their supervisors.  The Village Voice

Will they lose their jobs and or their pensions because they saw a wrong and wanted to right it?  What impact do these allegedly illegal stop and frisk policies have on the Latino and African-American communities?  Would it be surprising to think that these stops could cause even more unrest in the communities that the NYPD claims they are trying to prevent?

Is the rule of law dead in New York City?  I can’t imagine what laws would have been broken if these young men of color had been stopped while drinking a Big Gulp!  What do you think?

80 thoughts on “Probable Cause..Black, Latino and Young”

  1. An old New York Times article that some may find interesting:

    College Town in Uproar Over ‘Black List’ Search


    Published: September 27, 1992

    It is called “the black list” in headlines here.

    The list was drawn from a roster of all black and Hispanic males registered at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, following an attack on a 77-year-old woman in the early morning hours of Sept. 4. The only clue she gave the state police: she believed her attacker was a black man wielding a “stiletto-style” knife whose arms and hands she cut fending them off.

    The school supplied the list to the state police, who — along with the city police and campus security — used it to track down black and Hispanic students in their dormitories, at their jobs and in the shower. From each, the police demanded to know his whereabouts when the attack occurred; each had to show his arms and hands.

    “Any black man walking down the street, they would grab his hands,” said an outraged Edward I. (Bo) Whaley, an instructor and counselor in the school’s Educational Opportunity Program for disadvantaged students, clutching a visitor’s wrists. “The only probable cause they had was, ‘You’re black, you’re a suspect.’ ”

    Three weeks later, the incident continues to reverberate through this picturesque town of about 15,000 residents in the Catskill Mountains. It has prompted the suspension and demotion of the school vice president who released the list, and the resignation of the campus security chief. Black students and teachers are preparing a legal challenge to the release of the list, which was a violation of Federal law.

    The list jolted many minority students and faculty who had grown accustomed to years of racial slights, including an incident last year, in which two young black men suspected in a rape case were sent medical bills for DNA testing, although someone else was convicted. And while the larger community struggles with what Alan B. Donovan, the school president, described as “the most serious problem at the heart of society,” and the town plans to begin mandatory “sensitivity” training for its police officers, some blacks at Oneonta are reassessing their place at the university and in the town.

    “This particular situation has raised an awful lot of raw nerves, not to mention the civil rights that were violated,” David W. Brenner, Oneonta’s Mayor, said this week. “I don’t think it was intended that way, but it’s been a real wake-up call.”

    Michael Christian’s experience with the police was typical. Campus security and two state police officers showed up at the door of his dormitory room at 10 A.M., rousing him from sleep and saying they wanted to question him downtown. “That didn’t sound right,” said Mr. Christian, a freshman.

    The officers asked him where he was on the night of the attack and demanded to see his hands. And then they left.

    Like many of the minority students who had come to Oneonta from New York City, Mr. Christian’s arrival marked a triumph over the streets and schools that sometimes seemed to conspire to keep him from ever leaving the Bronx. His mother encouraged him to attend Oneonta because she wanted to get him away from the violence of the city. Seeking Help on Campus

    His roommate, Hopeton Gordon, a Jamaican student who graduated from Evander Childs High School with Mr. Christian, was questioned in front of other residents from their dormitory earlier that day.

    “They said they wanted to see my hands. And I said, ‘Why do you want to see my hands?’ And they said, ‘Why? Do you have something to hide?’ ” Mr. Gordon recalled.

    The incident humiliated him in front of his suite mates, he said, and in front of women students. “The girls were looking at me, like, ‘What did you do wrong?’ ” Mr. Gordon said. It also bruised his sense of what America stood for. “This isn’t supposed to happen here,” he said.

    So he and Michael Christian showed up at Mr. Whaley’s door, just beneath the sign that says “Loud and Boisterous Behavior Shall Be Kept to a Minimum,” to talk about the strange events of the weekend.

    More Stories Emerge

    Mr. Whaley, a kind of “Great Santini” to about 260 students he calls “my kids,” came here as a student himself in 1968 and stayed. He bellows, coaxes and befriends youngsters into making it through school, “doing for them what somebody should have done for me,” he said.

    Mr. Whaley says he could only have learned of the list through the freshmen.

    “The older ones, things like this have happened to them so much they have a thick scab over the humiliation, the embarrassment,” he said.

    That may be, but senior black students, teachers and administrators here describe a steady erosion of their civil rights over recent years and say this latest humiliation is but the darkest star across a bleak sky: while they are the first suspects when a crime is committed, leading black administrators say police are indifferent when they are the victims of crimes — at times even refusing to take complaints.

    An initial meeting with the two students, campus security officials and Mr. Whaley provided no real answers about what exactly had happened, so the school organized another meeting with senior officials.

    Mr. Whaley understood the administration hoped to keep the meeting small. So he approached some black men on the campus, asking if their hands had been examined. He started with the thought of inviting only those who had been questioned. Then he realized that the police had approached every black male had been examined, solely on the basis of his color.

    Painful Memories

    At the meeting, attended by 120 of the students, Mr. Whaley heard the state police say they would not have compiled a list of white students under the same circumstances, because, the police said, that would not have been practical. Oneonta has about 4,000 students, the large majority of them white. About 125 names were on the list given to police, which was drawn by the college’s computer from information the students filled out for registration.

    Mr. Whaley also heard Oneonta’s chief of police, who heads an all-white force, say he was only “following orders.”

    As he listened, Mr. Whaley remembered a black student who was being stalked by a white man with a shotgun, whose calls for help he said the police refused to answer.

    And he saw all all of the slights that his bluster and friendliness had until then overshadowed: how he had been followed by salespeople in the Oneonta stores who presumed he would shoplift; how women clutched their pocketbooks a little tighter when he joined the line at the grocery.

    “It’s all tied together,” Mr. Whaley concluded. And he wept. “I cried and cried, from Tuesday to Friday,” he said. “It got so bad that on Thursday the phone rang, and my six 6-year-old took the call. She looked over at me, and said, ‘He can’t come to the phone now. He’s crying.’ And she skipped on outside to play.” Admissions Officer Rethinks

    Sheryl Champen, an admissions coordinator who recruits heavily from the harsher corners of New York City, also examined whether she had chosen the right career.

    “I was devastated, ashamed of being an admissions coordinator. I felt, ‘Damn. I recruit these kids. Am I setting them up?” she said. “Thank God, none of the students had cut their hands working on something. That would have been enough to put them away.”

    Ms. Champen, who is black, was herself stopped by state police that Friday. They demanded she show identification before she could board a bus bound for New York City, she said, and she said three other black women, traveling with children, also had to show identification before the police would allow them on the bus.

    She believes that what happened in Oneonta that weekend was not an example of police shortchanging civil liberties in their eagerness to nab a criminal. “I know what it was,” she said, after recounting 13 years of incidents that began with sacks of garbage outside her dormitory when she was a freshman at the school. “It was a chance to humiliate ‘niggers.’ ”

    Amid the devastation, however, were hopeful signs. Black and white students did not divide up along racial lines — though they socialize little — but came together to oppose the administration’s action in two peaceful demonstrations.

    Mr. Whaley persuaded the students to tell their parents what had happened, not an easy matter, given the fears their parents had of trouble with the law. He said he would like the parents and teachers to take the lead in legally challenging the school. Releasing the list violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, also known as the Buckley Amendment.

    Leif Hartmark, the vice president who was sitting in for school President Donovan that weekend and authorized release of the list, has been suspended for a month without pay, and demoted from the number three job to director for finance and administration, a job that removes him from the line of temporary succession when the president is out.

    The school sent out 125 letters of apology to the black and Hispanic students whose names were given to police. John Edmondson, the school’s security chief, resigned.

    Mr. Donovan is now requiring the campus security office to report to the Office of Student Affairs and is convening a task force to establish formal rules for the schools relations with outside police agencies.

    Meanwhile, the police say they are continuing to look for the assailant.

    The incident has triggered a fresh look at Oneonta’s relations with the town’s minorities, with students considering boycotts of certain large stores notorious for harassing black customers.

    “For 75 years, we’ve had only four or five black families, and everybody knew who they were,” said Mayor Brenner. “That’s quite a different history from a community that’s cosmopolitan or urban.”

    “If black students are stopped more frequently than others, we want to know why,” he continued. “I want our people to learn how to discern one kind of person, one kind of behavior, from another.”

    Mayor Brenner decries the setback in progress toward integration that the list has signaled for the town of Oneonta. But for the blacks who have made their homes here, the changes they seek will be more drastic.

    “This whole community, this college, has got to be torn down and rebuilt, and, we hope, healed,” Mr. Whaley said. “But torn down.”

  2. “No one knows how all of this testimony is impacting Manhattan Federal Court Judge Shira Sheindlin. She has told all of the lawyers involved that she doesn’t want this trial to go on for two months. She wants them to pick up the pace.” -from the Huffington Post link (Dominic Carter)

    Same judge as in the Operation Clean Halls case.


    “What comes from the Operation Clean Halls case is going to result in a major step toward dismantling the NYPD’s out of control stop and frisk practices,” she said.

    U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled this year that changes to the program must be made, but she reserved judgment on what those changes will be until the other stop and frisk cases are heard.

    The second pending case deals with stops in public housing. The third, which challenges the practice in general, goes to trial this month.

    Scheindlin said that police have systematically crossed the line when making trespass stops outside Clean Halls buildings.

    “For those of us who do not fear being stopped as we approach or leave our own homes or those of our friends and families,” she said, “it is difficult to believe that residents … live under such a threat.”

    I like this judge. Let’s hope that we see a little justice here. And then hand the NYPD an oversight process with teeth — give Kelly and Bloomberg the watchdog that they so richly deserve and have earned.

  3. Ryan Devereaux: Just How Important Is New York’s Stop-and-Frisk Trial?

    Nation in the News on April 5, 2013 – 1:05 PM ET (with video)

    “Of the NYPD’s 5 million stops-and-frisks over the last 3 years, more than three quarters have targeted black and Latino people—a reality attested to during the federal lawsuit Floyd v. City of New York, currently underway. “It’s important to remember that we’re talking about the largest police department in the country and how they deal with young men of color, on a regular basis, on a day-to-day basis,” says Nation contributor Ryan Devereaux. “You travel to different neighborhoods around New York City, and you hear the same sorts of stories over and over again.” Devereaux joins a panel on Democracy Now! to discuss the realities of stop-and-frisk and the evidence against its legality.” —James Cersonsky

  4. Where Were These Dems Asking about CIA-on-the-Hudson During Brennan’s Confirmation?

    Posted on April 4, 2013 by emptywheel


    Although Holder referred to the reports of the NYPD’s actions as “disturbing,” that’s not the view of everyone in the Obama administration. CIA Director John Brennan, formerly a top White House counterterrorism adviser, praised the NYPD’s surveillance program in April 2012. “I have full confidence that the NYPD is doing things consistent with the law, and it’s something that again has been responsible for keeping this city safe over the past decade,” Brennan said.

    Brennan is not just the former White House counterterrorism [and homeland security] czar, but he’s also the guy who, when CIA-on-the-Hudson was being set up in the days after 9/11, was in charge of logistics and personnel at the CIA. Which means there’s a pretty decent chance he had a role in dual-hatting the CIA guy who operated domestically to help NYPD spy on Americans.

    But Brennan’s role in finding a way to use CIA tactics domestically barely came up in his confirmation hearings. As I noted, he was asked whether he knew about the program (and acknowledged knowing about it), but he was not asked — at least not in any of the public materials — whether he had a role in setting it up.

    Sort of a key question for the guy now in charge of the entire CIA, whether he thinks the CIA should find loopholes to get around prohibitions on CIA working domestically, don’t you think?

    Serwer names several House Democrats — Rush Holt, Mike Honda, Judy Chu — who have been asking about this investigation. Obviously, they didn’t get a vote on Brennan’s nomination. But it seems the nomination period would have been a very good time to ask questions about how and why, at a time when Brennan played a key role in logistics and personnel at the agency, the government decided to set up this workaround. Asking at that time might have clarified why it is that the Administration seems uninterested in investigating this program.

    As it is, we’re now left with a guy who publicly applauded such work-arounds — and CIA involvement through cooperation in fusion centers — in charge of the entire CIA.

    End of excerpt

  5. “Nicholas K. Peart, 23, has been stopped and frisked by New York City police officers at least five times.”

    Why Is the N.Y.P.D. After Me?

    Published: December 17, 2011

    His words:

    “WHEN I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.

    One evening in August of 2006, I was celebrating my 18th birthday with my cousin and a friend. We were staying at my sister’s house on 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan and decided to walk to a nearby place and get some burgers. It was closed so we sat on benches in the median strip that runs down the middle of Broadway. We were talking, watching the night go by, enjoying the evening when suddenly, and out of nowhere, squad cars surrounded us. A policeman yelled from the window, “Get on the ground!”

    I was stunned. And I was scared. Then I was on the ground — with a gun pointed at me. I couldn’t see what was happening but I could feel a policeman’s hand reach into my pocket and remove my wallet. Apparently he looked through and found the ID I kept there. “Happy Birthday,” he said sarcastically. The officers questioned my cousin and friend, asked what they were doing in town, and then said goodnight and left us on the sidewalk.

    Less than two years later, in the spring of 2008, N.Y.P.D. officers stopped and frisked me, again. And for no apparent reason. This time I was leaving my grandmother’s home in Flatbush, Brooklyn; a squad car passed me as I walked down East 49th Street to the bus stop. The car backed up. Three officers jumped out. Not again. The officers ordered me to stand, hands against a garage door, fished my wallet out of my pocket and looked at my ID. Then they let me go.

    I was stopped again in September of 2010. This time I was just walking home from the gym. It was the same routine: I was stopped, frisked, searched, ID’d and let go.

    These experiences changed the way I felt about the police. After the third incident I worried when police cars drove by; I was afraid I would be stopped and searched or that something worse would happen. I dress better if I go downtown. I don’t hang out with friends outside my neighborhood in Harlem as much as I used to. Essentially, I incorporated into my daily life the sense that I might find myself up against a wall or on the ground with an officer’s gun at my head. For a black man in his 20s like me, it’s just a fact of life in New York.

    For young people in my neighborhood, getting stopped and frisked is a rite of passage. We expect the police to jump us at any moment. We know the rules: don’t run and don’t try to explain, because speaking up for yourself might get you arrested or worse. And we all feel the same way — degraded, harassed, violated and criminalized because we’re black or Latino. Have I been stopped more than the average young black person? I don’t know, but I look like a zillion other people on the street. And we’re all just trying to live our lives.

    As a teenager, I was quiet and kept to myself. I’m about to graduate from the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and I have a stronger sense of myself after getting involved with the Brotherhood/Sister Sol, a neighborhood organization in Harlem. We educate young people about their rights when they’re stopped by the police and how to stay safe in those interactions. I have talked to dozens of young people who have had experiences like mine. And I know firsthand how much it messes with you. Because of them, I’m doing what I can to help change things and am acting as a witness in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights to stop the police from racially profiling and harassing black and brown people in New York.

    It feels like an important thing to be part of a community of hundreds of thousands of people who are wrongfully stopped on their way to work, school, church or shopping, and are patted down or worse by the police though they carry no weapon; and searched for no reason other than the color of their skin. I hope police practices will change and that when I have children I won’t need to pass along my mother’s advice.”

  6. You said it, Malisha:

    “Shame on them SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!”

  7. See, here’s why I don’t trust government.

    There are obvious problems like this in New York and you have the mayor carrying on about the size of your sodapop? HOW DAMN DARE HE and how DAMN dare he spend the city’s money on that crap!

    It’s criminal, what our government officials do with their time, with our money, with the public trust. Shame on them SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!

    If they can’t tell right from wrong, how can we ever expect a criminal defendant to be able to tell right from wrong?

  8. “NYPD lieutenant’s mysterious suicide comes after recent probe of crime report filings”

    “Lt. John Walton, 44, was found in his Bay Ridge apartment Easter night, apparently having shot himself through the mouth. The 23-year veteran of the NYPD worked in an administrative role overseeing clerical staff and the filing of reports.”

    “Walton worked at the 69th Precinct, where one month ago he moved from patrol to his new role as the administrative lieutenant, working closely with the precinct’s commanding officer, overseeing clerical staff and preparing reports.

    A recent anonymous tip sparked an investigation at the precinct by the NYPD’s Quality Assurance Division, sources said. QUAD, as it is known, investigates how police take and classify crime reports.”

  9. :”There is at least the suggestion that citizens have allowed police-state methods to be introduced with little or no positive effect.” -bigfatmike

    In response to your comment about a quote pulled from Sirota’s Salon piece, I agree with your remarks, but would add that the “police state methods” that have been adopted have had a decidedly negative effect, overall. This will become apparent over time, IMO.

    As you rightly suggested in an earlier comment, that many are being radicalized is a certainty.

  10. “NYPD veteran Officer Jose Tejada busted for posing as a cop to rob drug dealers”

    “Tejada, 45, is also accused of supplying NYPD uniforms, handcuffs and other police swag to his stickup crew so members could dress up as New York’s Finest in more than 100 robberies. Disgraced NYPD officer Emmanuel Tavarez was one of the 21 members of the ruthless gang.”

    By John Marzulli AND Shane Dixon Kavanaugh / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

    Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013, 7:28 AM


    Oversight, oversight, oversight.

  11. “Testimony, Recordings at Trial Reveal the Racial Biases and Arrest Quotas Behind NYPD’s Stop & Frisk”

    SECRET NYPD RECORDING: If you get too big of a crowd there, you know, they’re going to get out of control, and they’re going to think that they own the block. We own the block. They don’t own the block, alright? They might live there, but we own the block, alright? We own the streets here.

  12. Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013 07:45 AM EDT

    Suddenly, NYPD doesn’t love surveillance anymore

    Law enforcement agencies monitor our most basic acts. But try assigning them a watchdog and they resist with fury

    By David Sirota

    “The Big Brother theory of surveillance goes something like this: pervasive snooping and monitoring shouldn’t frighten innocent people, it should only make lawbreakers nervous because they are the only ones with something to hide. Those who subscribe to this theory additionally argue that the widespread awareness of such surveillance creates a permanent preemptive deterrent to such lawbreaking ever happening in the first place.

    I don’t personally agree that this logic is a convincing justification for the American Police State, and when I hear such arguments, I inevitably find myself confused by the contradiction of police-state proponents proposing to curtail freedom in order to protect it. But whether or not you subscribe to the police-state tautology, you have to admit there is more than a bit of hypocrisy at work when those who forward the Big Brother logic simultaneously insist such logic shouldn’t apply to them or the governmental agencies they oversee.

    This contradiction is now taking center stage in New York City, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly wage a scorched-earth campaign to prevent the public from being able to monitor its own police force. And in that crusade comes the frightening assumption about how the terms “safety” and “security” are now defined.

    To appreciate the rank hypocrisy of Bloomberg and Kelly opposing the creation of an independent police monitor, remember that they are two of the faces of the modern American Police State — and two of the biggest proponents of 24/7 monitoring of citizens.

    That is not an overstatement. Bloomberg and Kelly are the proud autocrats who brag of “hav(ing) my own army in the NYPD” and who used that army to spy on peaceful Occupy Wall Street protestors. They are the unapologetic masterminds of a surveillance program aimed at Muslim students. They are the unrepentant overseers of the city’s so-called stop-and-frisk policy, which seems to presume guilt, clearly violates civil liberties and disproportionately targets minorities. They are the champions of a Minority Report-esque system to integrate all the city’s cameras for ubiquitous real-time surveillance. They are the happy proponents of intensifying a drug war, again disproportionately against people of color. And they are now floating the idea of using drones to surveil the Big Apple.

    As a justification for all of this, Bloomberg and Kelly typically cite New York’s declining crime rates as ends-justifies-the-means proof that their methods work. In this, they are extrapolating William Bratton’s old “broken windows” theory of crime, insinuating that because New Yorkers know they are under such intense and brutal police scrutiny, they are more prone to avoid breaking the law.

    Yet, in now opposing the creation of an independent monitor to surveil, analyze and assess lawbreaking by police and municipal agencies after a wave of complaints about alleged crimes, Bloomberg and Kelly are crying foul. Somehow, they argue that their own Big Brother theory about surveillance supposedly stopping current crime and deterring future crime should not apply to municipal officials themselves.

    This is where an Orwellian definition of “safety” comes in, for that’s at the heart of the Bloomberg/Kelly argument about oversight. Bloomberg insists that following other cities that have successfully created independent monitors “would be disastrous for public safety” in New York City. Likewise, the New York Daily News reports that “Kelly blasted the plan as a threat to public safety,” alleging that “another layer of so-called supervision or monitoring can ultimately make this city less safe.”

    If this pabulum sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve been hearing this tired cliché ad nauseam since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Whether pushed by proponents of the Patriot Act, supporters of warrantless wiretapping, or backers of other laws that reduce governmental accountability, the idea is that any oversight of the state’s security apparatus undermines that apparatus’ ability to keep us safe because such oversight supposedly causes dangerous second-guessing. In “24″ terms, the theory is that oversight will make Jack Bauer overthink or hesitate during a crisis that requires split-second decisions — and hence, security will be compromised.

    This, indeed, was precisely the argument of the spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police when in 2011 he articulated the Big Brother case against allowing citizens to even record police actions on their own property. Police officers, he said, “need to move quickly, in split seconds, without giving a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences for them might be.” He added that “anything that’s going to have a chilling effect on an officer moving — an apprehension that he’s being videotaped and may be made to look bad — could cost him or some citizen their life.”

    As I wrote during that controversy, nobody wants to stop police officers from doing their much-needed job. In fact, civil liberties organizations have been pushing for oversight to make sure police are doing all of their job — including protecting individuals’ civil liberties. With police brutality a persistent and intensifying problem, we should want more officers feeling “apprehension” about breaking civil liberties laws, we should hope more of them “give a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences” will be if they trample someone’s rights and we should crave an immediate “chilling effect” on such violations.

    But, then, that suggests terms like “safety” and “security” are apolitical, which they most certainly are not.

    As Bloomberg and Kelly imply, those terms don’t seem to apply to those being targeted by police actions, however unwarranted or violent those actions are. They don’t seem to apply to the thousands of people of color stopped, frisked, harassed and jailed, nor do they seem to apply to peaceful protesters. Evidently, the Big Brother theory posits that those populations are safety and security threats — and declares that those populations are not themselves entitled to safety and security from Big Brother itself.

    If that sounds right out of Orwell’s Eurasia, that’s because it is. But as Bloomberg and Kelly most recently prove, it is right out of 21st century America, too.”

    1. ” typically cite New York’s declining crime rates as ends-justifies-the-means proof that their methods work.”

      There are some serious questions regarding how much if any effect the methods had on crime rates.

      Some data suggest the decline was general and not limited to areas and cities where the methods were implemented.

      There is at least the suggestion that citizens have allowed police-state methods to be introduced with little or no positive effect.

      There is an aphorism that those who surrender liberty to gain safety will gain neither.

      As for enhanced safety on the streets? Just ask a young brown skin man if he feels safer with NYPD on patrol.

  13. Bruce,
    Did you know that murders were down over 40% recently in Chicago?

  14. NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly ‘wanted to instil fear’ in black and Latino men

    At stop-and-frisk trial, New York state senator and former police captain Eric Adams testifies about 2010 conversation with Kelly

    by Ryan Devereaux in New York
    Monday 1 April 2013 18.23 EDT


    The commissioner of the New York City police department views the controversial practice of stop, question and frisk as a means to instil fear in young African American and Latino men, a New York state senator testified in a federal court on Monday.

    State senator Eric Adams, who retired from the NYPD after rising to the rank of captain during a 22-year career, said commissioner Ray Kelly described his views on stop and frisk during a July 2010 meeting in the office of then-governor David Patterson.

    Adams had traveled to Albany for a meeting on 10 July 2010 with the governor to give his support for a bill that would prohibit the NYPD from maintaining a database that would include the personal information of individuals stopped by the police but released without a charge or summons. In discussing the bill, which ultimately passed, Adams said he raised the issue of police stops disproportionately targeting young African American and Latino men.

    “[Kelly] stated that he targeted and focused on that group because he wanted to instil fear in them that every time that they left their homes they could be targeted by police,” Adams testified.

    “How else would we get rid of guns,” Adams said Kelly asked him.

    Adams told the court he was stunned by the commissioner’s claim and immediately expressed his concerns. “I was amazed,” Adams testified. “I told him that was illegal.”

    According to Adams, also at the meeting were a former New York City council member, Hakeem Jeffries, who is now a US congressman, and another New York state senator, Martin J Golden. Adams said he was “shocked” the commissioner would describe an effort to instill fear among African American and Latino youth in the company of three elected African American politicians – referring to himself, Jeffries and Golden.

    End of excerpt

  15. Re: Anonymously posted

    Although most divisions of the U.S. Justice Department need fundamental reform, the divisions that specialize in police corruption are excellent – this is the “medicine” that is required to reform these practices and remove corrupt officers.

  16. Editorial

    Monitoring New York City’s Police


    Published: March 27, 2013

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and Commissioner Raymond Kelly are apoplectic about a bill pending in the City Council that would create the position of inspector general, an official with broad powers to review the policies of the nation’s largest police department. Given the department’s long history of episodic misconduct, the idea is one whose time has clearly come. The City Council should press ahead with the bill and be prepared to override a veto by the mayor.

    Mr. Kelly’s assertion that an inspector general might impinge on law enforcement — or somehow make the city less safe — is utter nonsense. It ignores the fact that inspectors general scrutinize other city departments as well as police departments in other cities and federal agencies like the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. Their job is not to run things but to recommend improvements. The assertion that oversight is unnecessary ignores not only history but also the present — the department’s increasingly problematic stop-and-frisk program. The program is the subject of three federal lawsuits. In Floyd v. the City of New York, plaintiffs argue that the department is stopping and frisking people on the basis of race rather than reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior.

    The argument that the department already has sufficient oversight is equally weak. The Civilian Complaint Review Board, established in 1993, deals mainly with individual accusations of misconduct, not with broad policy issues. The Commission to Combat Police Corruption also has a narrow brief.

    Ideally, the inspector general would have an independent office with its own budget and broad subpoena powers. But creating a free-standing office would require the City Council to amend the city charter through a ballot initiative, which the mayor could easily block. As the next best thing, members of the City Council have suggested installing the new inspector general in the existing Department of Investigation, whose commissioner has subpoena powers. Under this arrangement, the Police Department could not shrug and say no when it was asked to produce information about its various programs.

    Other changes are needed. A companion bill pending in the Council would outlaw discriminatory profiling by the police and allow victims to sue for injunctive relief.

    But a new inspector general would represent an important first step in restoring trust in law enforcement all over the city.


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