Eric Garner, and how to clean up police depts or Graces and Disgraces of the Law and Order in New York City
The role of the police is to protect the lives, the liberty and the happiness of the people, from one another. But equal protection under the law also means equal protection from the law, and nationally it has become apparent that the current system is producing police with a shoot first mentality, rather than a protect the citizens mentality, as well as far, far too many prisoners. It is this on going imbalance that led me to the Eric Garner march on Staten Island.
I found it to be reassuring that things are moving in the right direction, especially considering the caliber of the speakers who were there, and the stated convictions of the speakers- respectful of the role of police officers as necessary to the community, but reinforcing of the simple idea that police themselves must obey the law, and be very displined. Included were the family of Eric Garner, along with that of Ramarley Graham, Sean Bell, and Diallo, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries a Bishop, Dan Cantor of Working Families Party (huge in NYC and growing outward), heads of the Teachers Union, SEIU, and CWA, and of course, the brilliant and controversial speaker, organizer of the event Al Sharpton. He said he was helping the officers, getting them to remove the bad apples before they spoiled the bunch. One of the most informative speeches came from a retired 20 year veteran of NYPD, who revealed that officers in the cases of all of slain men violated NYPD protocol in the process of the killings.
To give an idea of my perspective, and understand why the issue of brutality and police misbehavior is important to me is that I was beaten badly by police with my hands in the air, because I pointed out that they were beating someone else (white, actually), and I ended up getting the worst of it. A quarter inch gash in my leg, and a charge of assaulting a police officer, for “ kicking and punching the officer while sitting on his chest” As though he was ever more than 10 feet away from 8 other cops at the concert.
All was not flowers and candy though- the change in location from the VeraCruzano bridge to a location on the mostly black North Shore. was a little disappointing, as it seems to be a nod towards not disrupting business as usual,which you gotta do sometimes. They also shut down the busses out of the terminal and routed everything on the subway to another stop, meaning SI’s mostly white South Shore community was routed completely around the march, meaning it essentially occurred in an echo chamber, allowing the community to vent- let off steam- without anyone else seeing. This came as a request from the Mayor Bill DeBlasio. A mayor who had spoken at Occupy’s Zuccotti Park, and had been a verbal opponent of stop and frisk. Post election though, he has shown support for what he calls “ limited” use. He also hired Bill Bratton.
Bratton’s version of broken windows, is a discredit to the name of a valid social theory regarding how chaotic environments (i.e. broken windows) contribute to crime levels. Some how that has become stopping petty crimes somehow stops major crimes, like a “gateway crimes” theory. It has led to a 100+% increase in subway dancer, and subway swipe arrests, as the correlation between subway dancing and armed robbery is well documented, by no social scientist, ever. It seems to be a direct line from the stop and frisk concept, more people shook down, intimidates people into behaving better. It has also very obviously been disproportionately applied. There was at one point 5 people in a jail cell (so I heard) that were there for using someone else’s reduced fare metrocard, at least 3 of them, who would miss work going through the system. Another person was there for SWIPING someone else on.
I also have a hard time not thinking through the cost benefit analysis- you have a police officer, who, between equipment costs salary, pension and administration costs the city somewhere in the neighborhood of 120,000 a year- at least 400$ a shift, watching to nab a person using a reduced fare card- 1.50 instead of 2.50… so 399$ net cost, plus staff at the jail, and the courthouse, over 24 hours… almost forgot- overtime, sometimes, because from nab to booking, takes 4-8 hours. I’d tell you some about the deliberate overcrowding of cells, but to belabor the acute and petty miseries they deliberately inflict is almost a digression. All of this to get someone who paid fare to get on the subway system. Insanity.
No, broken windows is a direct line from stop and frisk, a way to get around the blatant unconstitutionality inherent in frisking.
Nation wide, police accountability is lacking, and the measure by which police can use lethal force is completely lacking; there is a de facto immunity to prosecution for police.Equal protection under the law surely means equal protection from the law. If you’re going to enforce the law, you have to obey the law, and be seen as as a moral authority, practicing peace, and protecting the lives of those you serve.
Until officers are retrained to be officers of the peace, until they are all trained thoroughly in protecting the rights of the citizens, and certainly, until Richard Haste, guilty of breaking and entering – on camera, and manslaughter, until MP-5s are a specialty weapon for swat teams in multi gun, multi opponent situtations, there is not justice being dispensed by the NYPD.
It’s the same story, except now I believe, in Staten Island, they will roll a couple of heads so they can keep rollin. It sounds like they are taking it seriously, but, there has to be a culture shift. Police are paid well to be good, and though they definitely have a tough job, it must be done well, there are no other options.
To be quite honest with you, I’m not sure any organizational body, and possibly even an industry with omni present competition, can fully police itself. Whistleblowing is hard as hell.. really, are you trying to see somebody you worked with, behind bars- and maybe you can imagine being in the same situation. I don’t blame just NYPD, because it is a national problem, and it’s mayors, and its lawyers who tolerate the bending of clear intents of the law. Police need to know the law too, and not be allowed to lie to the public. It takes active participation from the community, civilian review boards with some teeth, probably combined with an annual review of cases and best practices, likely in a round robin fashion from other states, and the feds, with the feds themselves being audited by a couple of states according to a template that’s laid out clearly. I think on body cameras is definitely a step in the right direction, as well.
I’m glad they’re moving in the right direction, but the work to move them there is far from over, and it will not be until NYPD no longer tolerates killers in it’s midst, and de militarizes. Having a SWAT team for a city this size is definitely a plus, but giving machine guns to work the Apple store in Columbus Circle is madness. There’s a reason they call petty crimes petty crimes, and you turn officers into petty officers when you focus on small things, especially the crimes of poverty.