Friday, March 5, 2010

Why NYC Is Randomly Arresting People To Meet Quotas

NYC local ABC affiliate has this story:
When Officer Adil Polanco dreamed of becoming a cop, it was out of a desire to help people not, he says, to harass them.
"I'm not going to keep arresting innocent people, I'm not going to keep searching people for no reason, I'm not going to keep writing people for no reason, I'm tired of this," said Adil Polanco, an NYPD Officer.
Officer Polanco says One Police Plaza's obsession with keeping crime stats down has gotten out of control. He claims Precinct Commanders relentlessly pressure cops on the street to make more arrests, and give out more summonses, all to show headquarters they have a tight grip on their neighborhoods.
"Our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them?" said Officer Polanco.
Polanco goes on to describe how the NYC police department's quotas result in officers routinely arresting people on trumped charges, explaining that they are often arrested for "engaging in tumultuous and violent conduct that caused public alarm, given a summons for unlawful assembly and locked up overnight."

Engaging in tumultuous conduct, of course, is a catch-all charge that officers use when they want to arrest you. It's similar to our old friend "disturbing the peace," which last made headlines after being used on Harvard Professor Louis Gates, Jr. It's also the charge which is sometimes known as "contempt of cop."

And think of how outrageous arrest quotas are. It is a policy that literally promises to arrest a given number of people for crimes, regardless of whether crimes are actually committed! This cannot be constitutional, and yet it exists, right here in the United States.

What's apparently happening is NYC is that the Bloomberg administration is pressuring the police department to keep up the arrests, because their rich, white voting base likes to be reassured that all the colored people are being kept in check. And the other tool they use to do this is the NYC "stop and frisk" policy. As Bob Herbert wrote in the local NY rag:
From 2004 through 2009, in a policy that has gotten completely out of control, New York City police officers stopped people on the street and checked them out nearly three million times, frisking and otherwise humiliating many of them.
Upward of 90 percent of the people stopped are completely innocent of any wrongdoing. And yet the New York Police Department is compounding this intolerable indignity by compiling an enormous and permanent computerized database of these encounters between innocent New Yorkers and the police.
Not only are most of the people innocent, but a vast majority are either black or Hispanic. There is no defense for this policy. It’s a gruesome, racist practice that should offend all New Yorkers, and it should cease.
It is hard to describe how wrong all of this is. The NYC Police Department is literally forcing its officers to arrest people for no reason. These people are having their civil rights grossly violated (can you imagine being arrested off the street for no reason being thrown in jail for the night?), are being saddled with an arrest record, and are then often simply let out the back door with no reason given for their arrest or for the lack of charges. It's a heinous crime against innocent people which harms them, makes them afraid and resentful of our "criminal" justice system and cops, wastes money, and makes the people of NYC less secure, not more. And it is representative of a pattern of police behavior all over this country.

It should hardly be surprising. We live in a country where those in power believe that security is more important than freedom-especially when they aren't the ones whose freedom is in jeopardy. Consider the policies that this country has adopted over the last few decades: an unconscionable war on its own citizens who use drugs, the use of incarceration for non-violent crimes (especially drug crimes), arrest quotas, stop and frisk, three-strikes, and so on. We are far and away the world leader in imprisoning people, both in absolute numbers and on a per capita basis. Over 2.3 million Americans were in prison in 2008. 

These numbers are staggering. We imprison people at rates that countries like Iran and China (who we deride for their lack of freedom) can only dream about. 

But these policies affect primarily black, brown or poor people. If you steal a pair of sneakers, you're going to jail. But if you steal a trillion dollars from the taxpayers, you'll probably just get flown to Washington and treated to lunch and a casual Q&A with Congress. 

Look, I realize that there has always been a different system of justice for the elite. It's been that way throughout history, and in every country. The promise of America was that there would be liberty and justice for all, not just for the few who could afford lawyers. But this promise has never been fulfilled, and it is now slipping further and further from our grasp. 

We should certainly stop lecturing the world on freedom. But more importantly, we should do something to change this. Vote for politicians that have a record of supporting civil rights. Vote for people that support ending the drug war. Vote against extra funding for police and prisons. Vote for people that oppose the use of Tasers. If these people aren't running, then go find one and encourage them to run for office. If you can't find someone suitable, do it yourself.

But if you don't want to live in the police state that this country is rapidly becoming, do something.

1 comment:

  1. Fuck cops, I laugh when cops get killed, anyone evil enough to sign up to be a cop deserves to die.