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“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

“ABC News’ Rightward Lurch”: Scraping The Bottom Of The Right-Wing Pundit Barrel

ABC News recently hired Laura Ingraham to be a regular contributor to their prestigious Sunday morning political talk show, “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” Why on earth would anyone hire Ingraham, a second-rate right-wing bomb-thrower whose shtick is well past its sell-by date? You could ask ABC News, but they’d presumably answer with boilerplate press release-ese about how they seek out a “diversity of viewpoints” and welcome her “provocative” take on world events. Read Digby for a good rundown of exactly how provocative Ingraham’s hot takes have been — Ingraham’s greatest hits includes writing a book in which a central, reoccurring joke was that Michelle Obama constantly ate or craved ribs — but Ingraham’s not the only sorry character ABC has picked up recently.

Last October, “This Week” hired Bill Kristol, the bumbling neoconservative scion, who is famous for his disastrous predictions and his even more disastrous lobbying for war.

In addition to being morally culpable for the meaningless violent deaths of hundreds of thousands, Kristol is also a terrible pundit. He is not just terrible at predictions, he is also dull. He was too lazy a writer and thinker for the New York Times — a paper that still pays Thomas Friedman handsomely — leading them to decline to renew his contract after one year as a columnist. (He moved, naturally, to the Washington Post.) Only a Sunday show producer (or Washington Post opinion page editor) could imagine that Bill Kristol’s take on the issues of the day would be useful or enlightening or even entertaining to anyone.

More recently, ABC picked up Ray Kelly (as a “consultant,” not a mere contributor). Kelly is the former police commissioner of New York City, best known for his racist policing tactics and his blatantly dishonest defenses of same. In November 2013, New York City voters overwhelmingly voted to elect as mayor a man who made the removal of Kelly, and the complete rejection of Kelly’s entire philosophy of policing, a cornerstone of his campaign. Kelly, whose police department routinely lied to journalists (and beat and arrested a few too), is considered a law enforcement genius, because violent crime in New York, having already plummeted from a historic high years prior to the election of Michael Bloomberg, remained relatively low during Kelly’s tenure as commissioner, probably due to environmental and historical trends. He is also considered a great and important man because he knows how to schmooze with the smart set.

Kelly worked for a Democratic mayor and a centrist independent one. He considered running for office as a Republican, but he is probably more of an authoritarian “centrist” than a movement conservative. Still that’s three hires in six months that ought to disgust any decent person. (Even conservatives, who ought to be embarrassed to be “represented” by Ingraham and Kristol). Whatever does it mean?

Perhaps ABC News is repositioning itself as more conservative. NBC’s “Meet the Press” is struggling. It’s easy to imagine a television professional thinking that NBC’s problem is that viewers think it is too liberal, and that therefore the best way to beat it is to become more conservative. Perhaps they are over-correcting for the fact that “This Week’s” Stephanopoulos is a former Clinton White House operative, although at this point that was a lifetime ago, and George has been studiously centrist ever since.

As has been well-documented, none of the big network Sunday shows are remotely liberal, “This Week” included. According to Media Matters’ research, in 2013, “This Week’s” guests and panel lineups were not appreciably more left-wing than its major competitors. (Fox’s Sunday show was significantly more conservative, but that show isn’t aimed at the same “insider” Acela corridor “centrist” audience that the other three fight for.) All the networks skew white, male and right-wing. If ABC is aiming to win over a more conservative audience, it seems to be scraping the bottom of the right-wing pundit barrel.

But maybe there was no strategic thinking behind these three hires at all. Maybe each one just made sense to whomever was responsible at the time. Maybe three completely odious people who do not in any way deserve such large and well-compensated platforms for their discredited opinions all just got hired by the same network because the news media elite, like the finance and political elite, refuse or are unable to recognize the obvious and total moral bankruptcy of members of their own clan.

Or maybe Bill Kristol just has an amazing agent.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, April 15, 2014

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Media, Pundits | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Does ‘Some Woman’ Know?”: Commissioner Ray Kelly, “No Question” More People Will Die Without Stop And Frisk

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly enthusiastically defended the New York Police Department’s use of the controversial “stop and frisk” program during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning. Kelly went so far as to claim that more New Yorkers would die without the procedure in place.

Stop and frisk is a commonly used practice wherein NYC police officers question tens of thousands of pedestrians and may frisk them for weapons and contraband. The program disproportionately targets young black and Latino men, leading many to claim that it constitutes racial profiling — a view that was affirmed by federal judge Shira Scheindlin, who ruled the practice to be unconstitutional last week.

Host David Gregory asked Kelly if more Americans would die if the judge’s ruling — which Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (I) administration has already appealed — were to stand and the program be dismantled. Kelly replied, “No question about it, violent crime will go up,” before launching into a more extensive defense of stop and frisk premised on higher crime rates among minorities:

We need some balance here. The stark reality is that violence is happening disproportionately in minority communities. And that unfortunately is in big cities throughout America. We have record low numbers of murders in New York City, record low numbers of shootings, we’re doing something right to save lives. […]

This is something that’s integral to policing. This happens throughout America at any police jurisdiction. You have to do it. Officers have to have the right of inquiry, if they see some suspicious behavior. So I can assure you, this is not just a New York City issue. It’s an issue throughout America. And this case has to be appealed in my judgment because it will be taken as a template and have significant impact in policing throughout America.

In her ruling against stop and frisk, Scheindlin wrote, “[T]he policy encourages the targeting of young black and Hispanic men based on their prevalence in local crime complaints. This is a form of racial profiling.”

More than 5 million New York residents have been stopped and frisked under the program since Bloomberg took office in 2002. Over 86 percent of those who have been stopped are either black or Latino. But the mass random stops haven’t been particularly efficient — a staggering 4.4 million of New Yorkers who were targeted under the program, which cost taxpayer $22 million in civil rights lawsuits last year, were innocent.

There have also been incidents where a stop and frisk ends with deadly consequences. In March, overzealous NYPD officers shot and killed 16-year-old black male Kimani Gray after stopping him for “suspiciously” adjusting his belt. The NYPD claims that Gray had drawn a weapon on the officers — but eyewitness testimony disputes that account, and an autopsy revealed that several shots were fired from behind Gray.

That hasn’t stopped the Bloomberg administration from singing the practice’s praises. Bloomberg recently dismissed Scheindlin as “some woman” who knows “absolutely zero” about policing. “Your safety and the safety of your kids is now in the hands of some woman who does not have the expertise to do it,” he said during a radio interview Friday.

By: Sy Mukherjee, Think Progress, August 18, 2013

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Stop and Frisk | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ending Stop-And-Frisk But Keeping The Racism”: Systematic “Post-Racial Colorblind Racism” In All Its Glory

On Monday, US district court judge Shira Scheindlin dealt a serious, but non-lethal blow to the New York City police policy known as “stop-and-frisk.” After weeks of testimony and evidence presented in the case of Floyd v. City of New York, Scheindlin ruled that stop-and-frisk violated individuals’ Fourth Amendment right to privacy and Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law. She did not, however, call for an end to the policy altogether, instead opting to appoint an independent federal monitor to oversee the program and the implementation of reforms that would bring it in line with the Constitution.

Undoubtedly, this is a huge victory for the activists who have been doing work around the issue of stop-and-frisk for years, and perhaps an even bigger victory for the black and Latino young men whose lives have been disproportionately disrupted by repeated violations of their rights. In her ruling, Scheindlin wrote that “the policy encourages the targeting of young black and Hispanic men based on their prevalence in local crime complaints. This is a form of racial profiling.” The ruling may not put an end to stop-and-frisk in its entirety, but at the very least there was a recognition from the court that for years the city’s police force has engaged in a racist practice that has infringed upon the rights of millions.

The same can’t be said of NYC’s current political leadership. In a press conference yesterday afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly were visibly dismayed with the ruling. Stop-and-frisk has been a signature crime-fighting tool during the Bloomberg years, one that defines his legacy. Kelly has received praise from high places, in large part because of the work he has done in executing the stop-and-frisk policy. For a judge to rule their “success” unconstitutional surely grates. But their defense of “stop-and-frisk,” despite weak attempts to deny as much, went on to show just how racist it is.

To start, Bloomberg noted the racial diversity of the NYPD, presumably to protect against charges of racism by pointing to the fact that people of color are active parts of the police force. But having your rights violated by someone who looks like you doesn’t somehow make that violation less racist. The fact is that out of roughly 5 million stops conducted over a decade, an alarming majority of them involved black or Latino men, and almost 90 percent of those stops turned up no evidence of wrongdoing. You can add some color to the faces conducting the stops, but that’s an institutionalized form of racism that doesn’t rely on white skin to operate.

He didn’t stop there. Bloomberg then deployed some lazy racist rhetoric about how the greatest perpetrators of crime happen to be young black and Latino men, so it only makes sense that the stops would disproportionately affect them. It’s the close relative to his argument that the NYPD has been, given crime statistics, stopping too many white people. Bloomberg and Kelly added the paternalistic line of reasoning that it was young black and Latino men who would also disproportionately be the victims of crimes stop-and-frisk has prevented, so the policy is really for their own benefit. Aside from erasing the opinions of those whom the policy is supposedly meant to protect, that reasoning also perpetuates the racist idea that black and Latino men are inherently violent and criminal, and therefore ignoring their rights is a necessary measure of protection. It also flies in the face of the evidence—stops of white people turn up higher rates of criminal activity. Based on the results of their own policy, it would have been prudent to shift the tactic to include more stops of white people, something that never happened and would likely have caused actual riots in the street.

But none of that is what Bloomberg and Kelly wanted us to focus on. Their most compelling argument: stop-and-frisk works. The city’s homicide rates are down and the police have recovered more than 8,000 guns that may have been used in potential crimes. For the sake of argument, let’s say that stop-and-frisk actually did reduce crime (a claim for which there is no actual evidence, only Bloomberg’s anecdotal belief that it instills fear in would-be criminals to the point they decide a life of crime isn’t worth the police harassment they’re going to receive). Even if that were the case, it still does not justify the use of a racist tactic that violates basic rights guaranteed to every citizen of this country. It’s disingenuous to suggest that the only way to reduce crime is to decide that the rights of certain segments of the population can and should be violated. Not only does this ignore the true drivers of crime (and not call into question whether some of these infractions should even be crimes, e.g., marijuana possession), it’s a frustratingly insidious justification for racism.

To recap: Bloomberg and Kelly denied that stop-and-frisk is racist, but then claimed it wasn’t racist enough, and now want everyone to believe that even if it is racist it doesn’t matter because it works. This is post-racial colorblind racism in all its glory.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see what type of reforms to stop-and-frisk are implemented in order to make it constitutional, though I doubt it can be any less racist. We are a society that starts with the presumption the greatest purveyors of crime are young black and Latino men. Any policy based around the idea of reasonable suspicion that then leaves that up to the discretion of people reared with that pervasive racist ideology will be disproportionately suspicious of men of color. Declaring stop-and-frisk unconstitutional is an important first step, but undoing the racism that creates the justification for the policy will be a much longer process.

 

By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, August 13, 2013

August 15, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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