Wednesday, November 28, 2012


New Yorkers still fighting illegal police practices that go back generations

by Larry Geller

The New York Civil Liberties Union announced today that the federal appeals court in New York had reinstated their case challenging a punitive quota system in a Bronx police precinct.

According to the NCYLU, a judge in April rejected the NYCLU's argument that the NYPD's retaliatory actions against a police whistleblower violated his free speech rights under the First Amendment and the New York Constitution. In its decision today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the April decision, allowing the NYCLU's challenge to move ahead.

That the NYPD operates quota systems did not surprise me. As I’ve written before, I no longer refer to the NYPD as “law enforcement.” Whether it’s arresting journalists or innocent bystanders at demonstrations, routinely lying about the circumstances of their arrests, conducting approximately 1,600 unconstitutional stop-and-frisks each day in the city, spying on mosques up and down the East Coast and far from their jurisdiction, keeping records on innocent people (including extensive cellphone records obtained by subpoena) who have committed no crime (in fact, just reporting a cellphone missing in NYC seems to result in a police file including call and text data), and making illegal arrests after stop-and-frisks… I could go on… the NYPD is engaged each and every day in violating civil rights.

When I was a kid in Brooklyn, a police officer who lived in our building entertained us on the Fourth of July by shooting off illegal fireworks that he had confiscated in the days before the holiday on an empty lot behind the apartment building.

This taught me something about New York police officers at an impressionable early age.

Growing up, I would occasionally hear from adults who had received traffic tickets that they were cited only because the cops “had a quota to fill.” It was beyond my capability to sort out whether that might have been true or whether it was just an excuse to avoid blame for a real infraction.

These two police behaviors come together, of course. Police always have the opportunity to (for example) keep part of the cocaine confiscated in an arrest to use as a plant in another arrest, in order to meet their quota. So some poor schnook gets sent up for a few years because he’s black and the judge always believes the cop. 

According to the NYCLU:

The 42nd Precinct's quota system reflects a wider problem within the NYPD. For years, the Department has been mired in scandals about its use of quotas that lead to unjustified stops and arrests of innocent people. Starting in May 2010, the Village Voice ran a series of articles exposing a quota system in the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn as revealed by audio tapes secretly made by Officer Adrian Schoolcraft. A police officer in Queens recently admitted that the use of enforcement quotas led officers to plant cocaine on innocent people in order to boost arrest numbers.

"It's no secret that the NYPD is using enforcement quotas," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "Instead of retaliating against officers who expose this unjust and illegal practice, the NYPD should work to ensure that nobody is stopped and arrested because of arbitrary and illegal quotas."

Enforcement quotas have been illegal in New York State for years with regard to traffic violations, and since 2010 for tickets, summonses, arrests, and stop-and-frisk encounters, according to the NYCLU.

The responsibility for all of the NYPD law-breaking can be placed squarely with its police commissioner and mayor. Why the citizens of NYC have tolerated this blatant failure of leadership is beyond my understanding.

Afterthought: A New York Daily News article published today, No one reported shot, stabbed or slashed in New York City on Monday, police sources say (NY Daily News, 11/28/2012) raises the possibility that one day the majority of crimes on a given day might be committed by the police themselves. How’s that for a cynical thought.


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