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Tyranny in NYC: The NYPD's Wasteful, Ineffective, Illegal, and Unjust Targeting of Blacks and Latinos

Mayor Bloomberg's critics are silent as the NYPD breaks the law to attack blacks and Latinos with harmful, low-level arrests for marijuana.

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Moving Forward

That the city’s Police Department pursues such a misguided and aggressive arrest-driven policy is disturbing but should not be completely surprising. History and experience tell us that whenever powerful law enforcement agencies, like police or prisons that can forcibly deprive people of their freedom, operate without checks and balances within government or without external, independent oversight, abuses and corruption are inevitable. That is what Attica and Abu Ghraib teach us. That is what recurring police scandals that have blighted New York’s landscape all too often teach us. And at this historical moment, the New York City Police Department is a revered, sacrosanct and politically untouchable agency. It is effectively accountable to no political figure including the city’s current mayor, or any government or civic body. Its commissioner is, for better or worse, an iconic figure; he and his policy setting team have to report or account to no one when they set arrest priorities or any other policy for the Police Department. Such unlimited power is dangerous, and should be unacceptable, to all New Yorkers, not just the black and brown residents of our inner city communities who bear the brunt of the Police Department’s harsh current policies.

It is way past time that the New York City Police Department stop its wasteful, ineffective, illegal, unjust, and racially biased arrest practices. It is way past time that the city’s citizens and elected officials demand transparency from Police Department leaders. New York City should take a page out of the Boston or San Diego Police Departments’ book and engage in collaborative problem-solving policing that cuts crime while stabilizing rather than disrupting communities and fosters adherence to social norms while building positive rather then hostile relationships with local residents. Such an approach would help provide New Yorkers of every race and income level with the chance to fully experience a more safe, livable, and inclusive city.

Robert Gangi is Senior Policy Analyst at the Urban Justice Center. He has been visiting prisons, conferring with officials and inmates, and writing reports on relevant criminal justice subjects for more than twenty years. During this time he has served as the Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York.

 
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