We have been discussing the controversy of the use of unmarked cars by federal officers to arrest people in Portland. As I have written, the use of unmarked cars and (even those these officers worn police markings) plain clothes is a common practice and not unconstitutional. Now an arrest by the NYPD using an unmarked carhas led to similar objections. MSNBC host Chris Hayes even declared that the view below constitutes a “kidnapping.” It isn’t. It is not even illegal or improper to use an unmarked vehicle. The basis for the arrest can be challenged but the rhetoric of the coverage is outstripping the reality of the law. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has declared the video to be evidence of an authoritarian takeover.
Hayes declared on Twitter “This is…kidnapping” after the posting of this video of plainclothes NYPD officers taking a woman into custody in an unmarked van on Manhattan’s East Side.
Hayes does not appear concerned over the violence against officers or the conditions leading to the use of an unmarked vehicle.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) agreed with Hayes’ view:
“Our civil liberties are on brink. This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.”
This was not a “snatching.” It was an arrest using an unmarked van and police showed videotapes showing the women committing alleged crimes.
The NYPD sates that the officers were arresting a suspect in five crimes. Moreover, it was clearly arrest with uniformed police also present at the scene.
The NYPD also indicated that this was an arrest being conducted in highly difficult circumstances. “In regard to a video on social media that took place at 2nd Ave & 25 Street, A woman taken into custody in an unmarked van was wanted for damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents in & around City Hall Park. The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks & bottles . . . When officers from the Warrant Squad took the woman into custody in a gray NYPD minivan this evening, they were assaulted with rocks and bottles. The Warrant Squad uses unmarked vehicles to effectively locate wanted suspects.”
Once again, I am deeply concerned with the hyperbolic and inaccurate coverage. While MSNBC has been quick (and often justified) in criticizing President Trump for inaccurate statements and fueling divisions, this is an example of how such rhetoric goes unchallenged by its own hosts and commentators. The legal analysis and members of Congress on MSNBC and other networks has often advanced highly dubious theories of criminality against Trump or his Administration.
Claims that the use of unmarked cars is unlawful or constitutes kidnapping is the type of unhinged commentary that has fueled violence against officers. Hundreds of officers have been injured or killed since the start of these protests. Calling them kidnappers only give greater cover for rioters and groups like Antifa who are targeting officers. The same is true when Speaker Nancy Pelosi called federal law enforcement in places like Portland “stormtroopers” or other politicians referring to them as “Gestapo” or “secret police.”
Such comments by figures like Hayes are no doubt popular but this hysteria will only fan the flames of further unrest. Indeed, while he may believe that these irresponsible comments will only undermine those with opposing views, history has shown that such unhinged rage is neither predictable more controllable. Declarations of state kidnappings and authoritarian takeovers will be used a license for greater violence and rioting by extremist groups on both ends of the ideological spectrum.