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“Death, Mayhem, And Disorder, The Protests Were Not”: The NYPD Is Giving Cops Machine Guns To Control Peaceful Protests

he New York Police Department announced this week a new approach to community policing. By Commissioner Bill Bratton’s account, the new strategy will allow more precinct cops to spend more time in neighborhoods, leading to better mutual relations between police and New Yorkers.

It also happens that these Strategic Response Groups will arm 350 police officers with “long rifles and machine guns,” the commissioner said during a Thursday news conference. “Unfortunately,” he added, such materiel is “sometimes necessary in these instances.”

The instances in question: possible terror attacks and large crowd assemblies. “It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris,” Bratton said. By such phrasing, a reasonable listener might infer the recent protests in New York begat horror on the scale of hundreds dead and wounded over a coordinated series of bombings and shootings (Mumbai) or the slaughter of a magazine’s editorial staff and police and civilians and an accompanying hostage crisis that killed even more (Paris).

Rather, the protests in New York were a triumph of peaceful democratic expression, in which tens of thousands of people of all colors, creeds and classes, marched peacefully through the heart of America’s largest city, joining as a united voice to call for social justice. Now, it happened that the actions that spurred this action were the unaccountable killings of civilians by cops. Sure, you’d have to be blind to miss the occasional “fuck the police” cardboard sign. But death, mayhem, and disorder, the protests were not. They just happened to piss off many of New York’s Finest.

Friday morning, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, for one, jumped on the association, calling for the newly announced police groups to be disbanded. “Thousands have marched in a massive civil rights movement demanding police reform,” the group’s executive director, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, said in a news release, “and the NYPD has decided to respond to the community instead by arming the police with machine guns.” Since at least late last year, in fact, Bratton, union brass, and the rank-and-file have been treating elected leaders and citizens as some sort of invading force. Police have been shunning the mayor, turning police funerals into spectacles, and slouching on the job just to show the city what it’s like to live without them making ticky-tack arrests. Most of us in New York did just fine, actually.

The police position makes more sense given some of the surrounding circumstances. The police are in a contract negotiation with the city; any point of leverage, you can expect them to use. Also, when Ismaaiyl Brinsley drove to town explicitly to kill police, claiming on Instagram that it was some sick tit-for-tat for police killing Mike Brown and Eric Garner, he scrambled the equation. By aligning himself nominally against the same predicating force as the protestscops’ unaccountable use of lethal forceBrinsley unjustly yoked the 25,000 people who flooded down Broadway to his act by association.

New York cops should know better. Not every New York cop put a fatal chokehold on Eric Garner, and in fact, no protester killed Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in their squad car. Police watched over those demonstrations, in which thousands of people vented their anger, their fear, their frustration, and yes, at times, their hatred. They did so peacefully, with a political agency that comes from feeling you have a voice. And it was New York’s finest who watched over them and blocked cross-street traffic, who helped provide the venue for that voice. The city called for better policing, and it was good policing that allowed them to do so. The protests could have been a watershed moment for cop-citizen relations, if police had taken the message of Black Lives Matter as a wake-up call rather than fighting words.

At best, it’s sloppy for Bratton to tell the city he’ll have counter-terrorism forces armed to the teeth, watching over protests with the same force police reserve for bombings and mass shootings. At worst, it conflates peaceful assemblies with villainy. If he wants his announcement to have a chilling effect on demonstrators, he may succeed. He should also ask himself whether broad, peaceful protests are really the worst thing for the city and for the safety of his officers in tense times.

 

By: Sam Eifling, The New Republic, January 30, 2015

February 1, 2015 Posted by | NYPD, Police Abuse, Weaponization of Police | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Dangerous Is Police Work?”: Being A Policeman Is One Of The Safer Jobs You Can Have

After the senseless death and tragic funerals of two young New York City policeman, cops have got to be thinking about assassination. “I want to go home to my wife and kids,” said a cop to the New York Post.” I am concerned about my safety.”

On NBC’s Meet the Press,” NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton said that cops across the country “feel under attack”

They have good reason to worry. Getting killed is a hazard in many occupations, but there is one glaring difference between death risks of law enforcement officers and those of other dangerous occupations: only police officers face the threat of murder as a part of their job. No one is out trying to kill fisherman or loggers or garbage collectors.

A cop on the street endures daily contact with drunks, the mentally disabled and violent criminals. They endure life-and-death situations on a daily basis.

However, the misconception that police work is dangerous, propagated by the media and police unions, could become a self-fulfilling prophecy— especially, if police believe that they are going into deadly battle when they head out on patrol. They are likely to be nervous and trigger-happy and might affect their decision-making in a stressful situation.

The fact is: being a policeman is one of the safer jobs you can have, according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor.

In five years, 2008 to 2012, only one policeman was killed by a firearm in the line of duty in New York City. Police officers are many times more likely to commit suicide than to be killed by a criminal; nine NYC policemen attempted to take their own lives in 2012, alone. Eight succeeded. In 2013, eight NYPD officers attempted suicide, while six succeeded. If police want to protect themselves, a wise move might be to invest in psychiatric counseling, rather than increased firepower.

2013 had the fewest police deaths by firearms since 1887 nationwide.

The national figures vary widely from year to year. In 2014, police deaths in the line of duty, including heart attacks, spiked upward from 100 in 2013, to 126 in 2014.

But the trend has been clearly downward in the last 40 years. Police work is getting progressively safer compared with historical averages:

  • From 1970 to 1980 police deaths averaged 231 per year.
  • 1980 to 1989: police deaths averaged 190.7
  • 1990 to 1999: police deaths averaged 161.5
  • 2000 to 2009: police deaths averaged 165
  • 2013 to 2014: police deaths averaged 113.

Statistics are drawn from the police friendly National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund which also show that felony killings of police dropped by 50 percent from 1992 to 2013 from 10,000 to 5,000 annually per 100,000 residents.

Statistics are notably unreliable both from the federal government and from law enforcement friendly sites. The best statistics come from the New York City Police Firearms Discharge Reports.

The Report for 2013 noted the following:

—- In 1971, 12 officers were killed by other persons and police shot and killed 93 subjects.

—- In 2013, no officers were shot and killed and police killed 8 subjects.

To put the risk of policing in perspective: fisherman and loggers are 10 times more likely to be killed on the job than a police officer, a farmer is 2 times more likely to die on the job, according to national figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A logging worker is eight times more likely than a police officer to die on the job, and a garbage man is three times more likely to die while working.

The 10 Deadliest Jobs: Deaths per 100,000

  1. Logging workers: 128.8
  2. Fishers and related fishing workers: 117
  3. Aircraft pilot and flight engineers: 53.4
  4. Roofers: 40.5
  5. Structural iron and steel workers: 37
  6. Refuse and recyclable material collectors: 27.1
  7. Electrical power-line installers and repairers: 23
  8. Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers: 22.1
  9. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers: 21.3
  10. Construction laborers: 17.4

Out of approximately one million police and law enforcement personnel, with 126 deaths per year, the death rate for police is 12.6 per hundred thousand.

The most dangerous job in the U.S. is being president. Eight out of 44 presidents died in office, about 18 percent. Four were assassinated, just over 9 percent.

Most policemen killed on the job die in accidents (mostly auto), not from firearm assault, according to the FBI.

According to FBI figures (which are slightly different than other tabulations), 14 of the 76 police deaths in 2013, nation-wide, were due to auto accidents —- when the officer wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Tragic for sure.

Of the 76 cops who died in the line of duty in 2013, 18 of them were from gunfire. The rest were traffic fatalities or slips and falls.

Assailants used personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.) in 80.2 percent of the incidents, firearms in 4.3 percent of incidents, and knives or other cutting instruments in 1.7 percent of the incidents.

About 40 percent of officers (30) who die in the line of duty are homicides, which would give police a murder rate of 3 per 100,000, compared with the average national murder rate for the general population of 5.6 per 100,000.

The average citizen of Chicago had a murder risk of 18.5 in 2012, more than three times the murder risk of policeman. Police killings are almost always classified as line-of-duty.

In reality, police don’t draw or fire their guns very much.

Many NYC cops never draw their weapons in their whole career. In New York City, only one cop in 755 fired his or her gun at a suspect intentionally in 2012. In 2013, only one of 850 officers fired a weapon at a suspect intentionally.

In 2012, 80.2 percent of officers who were assaulted in the line of duty were attacked with personal weapons (e.g., hands, fists, or feet).

4.3 percent of the officers were assaulted with firearms.

The reason a policeman’s job is getting safer is simple. There has been a dramatic drop in crime in the last two decades. Less crime means safer working conditions for the people who try to stop it.

The act of policing needs to be safer. Use body cameras. Cut down on the number of traffic accidents. Mandate the use of seat belts on duty. Enforce better and more professional training to avoid dangerous situations, and offer better counseling to deal with the stress of the job.

Attacks on police are a great media story, but if the false narrative — that policing is getting more dangerous — continues to spread it will have a significant effect on how police do their jobs —- making them more fearful than they already are, with increasingly deadly results for the general public.

 

By: Blake Fleetwood, Ten Miles Square, The Washington Monthly, January 15, 2015

January 18, 2015 Posted by | Crime Rates, Dangerous Occupations, NYPD | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The NYPD Slowdown’s Dirty Little Secret”: Not All Of Them Want The Slowdown To End

The police slowdown in New York, where cops have virtually stopped making certain types of low-level arrests, might be coming to an end soon. For a lot of police officers, it’ll be an unhappy moment, because they never liked making the penny ante collars in the first place.

“We’re coming out of what was a pretty widespread stoppage of certain types of activity, the discretionary type of activity by and large,” police commissioner Bill Bratton told NPR’s Robert Siegel in an interview Friday.

In the rank and file of the police department, there are mixed feelings about the slowdown and a possible return to the status quo.

“I’d break it down like this,” an officer in East Harlem told The Daily Beast. “20 percent of the department is very active, they’d arrest their mothers if they could, and they want to get back to work. Another 20 percent doesn’t want any activity period; they’d be happy to hide and nap all day.”

The officer added, “And then there’s the great middle that thinks things are fine now as far as their concerned and all they want is good arrests.”

The not good arrests, by implication, were all the low level infractions policed as part of the so-called “Broken Windows” approach to law enforcement, defended by both Bratton and Mayor de Blasio. It holds that one of the ways to bust high-level crooks is to crack down on seemingly minor crimes.

Between December 29 2014—January 4 2015, arrests across New York city dropped by 56 percent and summonses were down 92 percent compared to the same time last year.

It’s not novel to point out that the police slowdown, which pitted the police and their unions against city hall, granted one of the central demands of the #blacklivesmatter protestors—an end to Broken Windows policing.

Less noted though, is how many police officers are themselves ambivalent about actively enforcing low level offenses, and how that bodes for the post-slowdown future of policing in New York.

Retired NYPD lieutenant Steve Osborne made the point in an op-ed for the New York Times that was sharply critical of both de Blasio and the protestors.

“More police productivity has meant far less crime, but at a certain point New York began to feel like, yes, a police state, and the police don’t like it any more than you,” Osborne wrote.

“The time has probably come for the Police Department to ease up on the low-level ‘broken-windows’ stuff while re-evaluating the impact it may or may not have on real, serious crime,” he added. “No one will welcome this more than the average cop on the beat, who has been pressed to find crime where so much less of it exists.”

Day to day, no one has been telling police officers in New York how not to do their jobs.

“It sounds very unusual,” the officer in East Harlem said, “but I haven’t seen any coordinated activity besides the union putting the message out and then saying jump.”

It hasn’t taken much effort to coordinate the slowdown because, as Osborne notes, average beat cops were never that excited in the first place with going after public urination and loitering arrests. To them, it was a distraction from stopping more serious crimes.

Broken Windows advocates argue that some cops always resisted more active policing. When Broken Windows was first introduced, they say, police officers had to be pushed, by Bratton among others, to adopt the active policing approach that brought crime down to its current historic lows in new York.

But as New York got safer, the methods rather than the results became the measures of success. More arrests meant better policing as the tail started to wag the dog.

Bratton himself has said nearly as much in criticizing his predecessor Ray Kelly’s overuse of the controversial stop and frisk tactic that overwhelmingly targeted minorities.

“The commissioner and the former mayor did a great job in the sense of keeping the community safe, keeping crime down, but one of the tools used to do that, I believe, was used too extensively,” Bratton said in March 2014.

Stop and Frisks have fallen considerably since their high in 2011 when 685,724 New Yorkers were stopped by police, but some numbers driven approaches remain embedded in the department.

As a detective in the Bronx tells The Daily Beast, “there technically are no quotas” in the police department “but you can call them what you want, “productivity goals,” they are back door quotas.”

And those back door quotas can put pressure on officers.

“I have to suspend my disbelief,” the officer in East Harlem said, “to see how sentencing a guy with an open container is going to really bring crime down.”

“Violent crimes haven’t gotten worse in my little slice of heaven despite the slowdown on summonses and misdemeanors,” the officer added. “We’re still responding to robbery patterns. We haven’t gone down in presence for the more serious offenses.”

He acknowledged that it was too soon to say how such a policing strategy would play out over an extended period. “Whether it works will reveal itself over time. That remains to be seen.”

Once New York is out of the slowdown, it’s not clear what kind of policing the city will see on the other side. Will Bratton push the police to bring arrests back up to levels before they dropped off or will the department test its ability to back off?

Maybe there will be some new middle ground possible despite the bluster and rhetoric. According to The Daily News, the combative president of the police union is pushing for just a slowdown that’s a little bit faster. As one police source told the paper, “He said they should go back to at least 50% of what they used to do.”

 

By: Jacob Siegel, The Daily Beast, January 10, 2015

January 14, 2015 Posted by | Broken Windows Policing, NYPD, Police Abuse | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Die Is Cast”: The NYPD Is Running An Unethical Experiment On New Yorkers; Let’s See What Happens

Scientific knowledge sometimes isn’t worth the ethical cost. For example, when it was first suspected that smoking causes lung cancer, a strong way to test the theory would have been to take a bunch of babies, expose half to lots of cigarette smoke for decades, and see what happened. That would have resulted in valuable evidence but obviously would have come at too high an ethical cost.

The New York Police Department is apparently not moved by these sorts of considerations. Enraged by the murder of two police officers, which has been ludicrously blamed on Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city’s finest have been conducting a work slowdown in protest. (The official line is that there is no coordinated slowdown, but the numbers don’t lie.)

It’s unclear what the motivation is behind the slowdown. There are three possibilities. First, the NYPD hopes that reduced policing will spark a crime spree, leading the public to turn on de Blasio. Second, the force is cutting back on ticketing to hit the city government in the wallet. Or third, it is a visceral lashing out at a city that isn’t providing the unquestioning, worshipful deference the cops apparently think they deserve at all times.

None of these are mutually exclusive, of course. I’d put some weight on all three, with the bulk of it on the last one. In any case, it’s a seriously unethical experiment on the citizens of New York. How much policing does the city really need? We’re about to get an answer, whether we like it or not.

The New York Times has compiled some interesting data on the reduction in policing activity. Just about every category of law enforcement is down from this time last year. Subway policing has basically stopped altogether. Arrests and citations for minor offenses (parking tickets and the like) have fallen by 90 percent or more. Arrests for violent crime are down by a small amount and appear to be returning to normal. But only detective bureau arrests have returned to their previous level, after a sharp reduction last week.

It’s probably fair to say that after a week of genuinely risking public safety, the NYPD is beginning to think better of its rash behavior and is scaling back the slowdown on violent crime.

Still, crime of any kind barely budged, either last week or this week. This suggests that the NYPD is not the only thing standing between New York and a blighted dystopian hellscape.

It casts more serious doubt on the “Broken Windows” theory, beloved of police departments and city governments in New York and across the nation. This idea holds that the way to reduce serious crime is to crack down on minor offenses. For two weeks running, minor offenses have gone essentially unpunished. The result? Bupkis.

This is not dispositive proof, of course. There are dozens of potential confounding factors, and the situation is changing daily. In particular, two weeks may just be too short a time for crime to take root. But when it comes to policing, experiments of any kind are rare. Undoubtedly, experts will be sifting the resulting data in the ensuing months, and whatever conclusions they draw should get wide attention.

Finally, there’s the issue of government funding. New York City took in $890 million from fines and tickets in fiscal year 2014, out of an overall budget of $70 billion. That’s a fairly small fraction of the total, especially compared with the brutally oppressive little municipalities surrounding St. Louis that run mostly on fines. However, it’s still true that unnecessary fines are perhaps the worst of all possible sources of government revenue, since they tend to disproportionately come from heavily policed poor and minority communities. If these tickets aren’t actually necessary for public safety, or are just a way to extract money from those least able to defend themselves, then New York ought to be finding that money elsewhere.

No ethicist could have signed off on this experiment. But the die is cast. We might as well glean what lessons we can.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, January 8, 2015

January 12, 2015 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, NYPD, Public Safety | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Race, The Police And The Propaganda”: There’s A Different Criminal Justice System For Civilians And Police, And They Know It

Welcome visitors to New York City! This has been the best time ever to urinate on a street, sneak onto the subway or run a red light, for the police force has been on a virtual strike.

Police officers may be making a point for contract negotiations. But many also are genuinely frustrated and, along with millions of other Americans, seem sympathetic to an argument that goes like this:

The real threat to young black men isn’t white cops. It’s other black men. Police officers are numerous in black neighborhoods not because they want to hang out there, but because they’re willing to risk their lives to create order on streets where too many residents have kids outside of marriage, or collect government benefits but disdain jobs. Instead of receiving thanks for their efforts, cops have been cursed and attacked. Hate-mongering led by President Obama built a climate of animosity that led to the murder of two of New York’s finest. And where are the street protests denouncing those racist murders? Don’t blue lives count?

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and de facto spokesman for that viewpoint, put it this way in November when he was asked about Ferguson, Mo., on “Meet the Press”: “I find it very disappointing that you’re not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks. We’re talking about the exception here.”

“What about the poor black child that is killed by another black child?” he added. “Why aren’t you protesting that?”

After the assassination of the two New York police officers, Giuliani declared: “We’ve had four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everybody should hate the police.”

That view has gained traction, creating an astonishing impasse in America’s largest city. In one week in late December, the number of police citations, summonses and arrests in some categories fell by 90 percent from the same week the previous year.

That’s not “a few bad apples.” That’s the apple basket.

Most of us understand that police officers are often in an impossible position, and we appreciate their courage and good work. When they work.

So let’s examine the narrative that Giuliani and others have spread.

Take the argument that police killings are a red herring because the biggest threat to blacks is other blacks. The latter part is true. Where the perpetrator has been identified, 93 percent of murderers of blacks are also black. Then again, it’s equally true that 84 percent of murderers of whites are fellow whites.

So?

How would we feel if we were told: When Americans are killed by Muslim terrorists, it’s an exception. Get over it.

Some offenses are particularly destructive because they undermine the social system. Terrorism is in that category, and so is police abuse. Unfortunately, there’s evidence that such abuse is too common.

In 2012, an African-American detective in the New York City Police Department, Harold Thomas, hobbled from a nightclub to his car (he had been shot a year earlier by a would-be armed robber). Other police officers didn’t recognize him and, according to Thomas, slammed his head into his vehicle, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him. He is suing the city.

Thomas, who retired last year after 30 years, admires the police force but says the racial bias is ingrained — caused by a small percentage of officers who “make everyone look bad.”

Reuters interviewed 25 African-American male police officers, some retired, in New York City and said all but one reported having been subjected to unwarranted incidents — from stop-and-frisks to being thrown into prison vans. Five said they had had guns pulled on them.

A 2010 New York State task force report on police-on-police shootings identified 14 officers around the country killed by fellow officers over the previous 15 years in mistaken identity shootings. Ten of the 14 were officers of color.

Then there’s a ProPublica investigation that found that young black men are shot dead by police at 21 times the rate of young white men.

It’s true that some on the left who are aghast at racial profiling are sometimes prone to career profiling: We should stereotype neither black youths nor white cops. Some extremist protesters turned to the slogan “arms up, shoot back,” or to chants of “What do we want? Dead cops.” That was inexcusable. But, of course, that’s not remotely what Obama was saying.

PunditFact reviewed all of Obama’s statements and found that he never encouraged hostility toward police; it labeled that Giuliani assertion as “pants on fire.” Good for Obama and other politicians — including Mayor Bill de Blasio — for trying to shine a light on inequality in law enforcement.

“Many of my peers were deeply racist,” Redditt Hudson, a former St. Louis cop, wrote in The Washington Post last month. He described seeing force used unnecessarily, particularly against blacks, such as the time a boy who couldn’t walk was punched, handcuffed and dragged by his ankles from his home to a car.

Hudson said that the fundamental need is an end to impunity.

“Cops aren’t held accountable for their actions, and they know it,” he wrote. “These officers violate rights with impunity. They know there’s a different criminal justice system for civilians and police. Even when officers get caught, they know they’ll be investigated by their friends, and put on paid leave.”

Race is a nettlesome issue, and I recognize that I’m calling for more diversity and accountability in police forces even as my own institution — the press — doesn’t look like America either.

We can all do better. Put yourselves in the shoes of the family of Tamir Rice, the black 12-year-old boy shot dead in November in Cleveland. A 911 call had reported someone carrying a “probably fake” gun, and Tamir was carrying a pellet pistol.

A white police officer, who had previously been judged unprepared for the stresses of the job, shot Tamir. A video released a few days ago shows the boy’s 14-year-old sister rushing to her fallen brother — and then tackled by police, handcuffed, and placed in a police car a few feet from her dying brother. The officers stood around and gave him no medical aid.

To those who see no problem in policing, just one question: What if that were your son or daughter?

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 10, 2015

January 11, 2015 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, NYPD, Police Abuse | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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