9 Frightening Things About America's Biggest Police Force
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In May, the police made headlines over the brutal beating of 19-year-old Bronx resident named Jateik Reed. A video captured four police officers kicking, punching and beating the the teenager with a police baton as he lay on the ground handcuffed (read Kristen Gwynne's reporting on the incident here.)
Some of the cases of brutality are more creative, if not less sadistic. Another cop “strangled” a man’s penis with the drawstring of his pants, causing lacerations along the shaft that required emergency room attention. And, just in case you thought police brutality was limited to the human species, think again. Two NYPD officers were recently caught on camera in September shooting a homeless man’s dog.
But if you call death what it is--murder--the police take to the slanderous allegations none too kindly. In July, a duo of plainclothes officers wielded a pair of paint brushes to cover over a mural in Inwood that called the NYPD murderers, because, according to the wall’s property owner, “the police were upset about the mural and wanted it changed.”
7. Just a Numbers Game
For four friends in Brooklyn, it was supposed to be a relaxing 4th of July--just a few beers outside on the stoop--until the undercover police car showed up. In a desperate effort to hit their quotas, the two officers ticketed all four for public drinking--on their own front steps.
The NYPD’s quota system, which it claims it has already abolished, is rife with such absurdity. Recently, one cop was busted citing dead people with traffic violation tickets in an effort to meet his quotas. Another picked up a grandmother, who had never been arrested in her life, for prostitution when the woman was on her way to the hospital for an asthma attack.
Most insidiously, one former NYPD narcotics detective testified last year that he regularly watched fellow police officers plant drugs on people in order to hit their arrest quotas.
In April, a Federal judge agreed to a class action lawsuit filed against the NYPD under the allegation that the quota system “leads street cops to hand out summonses even when no crime or violation has occurred just to meet productivity demands from their bosses.”
Quotas lead to an absurdly high number of summonses--a half million per year--many of which are so ridiculous that about half are dismissed the moment the accused arrives at the courthouse. But the real problem is that they are racist. Think about it. You impose an absurdly high “goal” for the number of people police officers must stop in a multiracial city where power and money is still concentrated in the hands of whites, and you get racism faster than a Black man gets busted for shoplifting in Bloomingdales. Even a criminal court judge in Brooklyn admitted this fact when faced with yet another defendant charged with drinking in public this past June.
“As hard as I try,” he wrote, “I cannot recall ever arraigning a white defendant for such a violation.”
In 2011, the NYPD issued nearly 125,000 summonses for drinking in public--some issued against people who were sitting in the doorway of their own homes. Drinking in public was the most-issued summons and about a quarter of the half-million summons the force issued in total.
And then there were the additional 700,000 "stop and frisks", more than 80 percent committed against black or brown residents. The department has defended the practice as an effective way to get guns off the street, but guns are found in a minuscle number of cases, less than 0.2 percent according to the NYCLU. Nine out of 10 people stopped have been innocent. What the practice does accomplish, is "corrode trust between the police and communities, which makes everyone less safe," as the NYCLU points out. Th e searches are often abusive, violent and demeaning.