Occupy Wall Street

Cops Blame Occupy Wall Street for Surge in Shootings But City Wastes Money Policing Nonviolent Protesters

NYPD floods Wall Street with cops to pen in protesters, then blames Occupy Wall Street for diverting resources as gun violence spikes across the city.

The Occupy Wall Street protests and the new mini-society that has formed in Liberty Square in Lower Manhattan, continues to tax the city’s budget. Recently, it has also sparked howls of protest from top police commanders who blame OWS activists for an increase in gun violence across New York City.

High-ranking police commanders told the New York Post that they attributed a surge in gun violence – the number of people shot in the city spiked 28 percent in the last month – to the fact that special NYPD task forces have been diverted to the protests. “They are always used when there are spikes in crime as a quick fix. But instead of being sent to Jamaica, Brownsville and the South Bronx, they are in Wall Street,” an unnamed top cop told the Post.

As AlterNet reported last week, the New York City Police Department has already spent more than $3.4 million on overtime hours as a result of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Over the same span of time, the NYPD has arrested around 1,000 people associated with the movement.   

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To put these numbers in perspective, 1,806 arrests resulted from the four-day Republic National Convention in New York City in 2004. The total security cost, according to a report by ABC News “was $80 million, which included overtime for NYPD officers.” While the federal government picked up the lion’s share of the costs, the mayor’s office reported that the city ended up paying about $8 million of the tab.

The $3.4 million on overtime spent as a result of OWS is, however, a mere drop in the bucket when it comes to police overtime. According to statistics from the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office, in fiscal year 2011, which ended on June 30, NYPD overtime was nearly $550 million. This includes millions of dollars spent on annual “planned events” and other non-emergencies including the Thanksgiving Day Parade ($192,763), Yankees/Red Sox games ($410,948 for games last August and September), and the New York City marathon ($2.3 million).

If history is any guide, New York City is also likely to spend millions more settling lawsuits as a result of the NYPD’s heavy-handed tactics -- from a pepper-spray attack on young women to mass arrests -- toward nonviolent Occupy Wall Street protesters. 

Following the 2004 convention, more than 90 percent of the RNC arrest cases were dismissed or ended with not-guilty verdicts, resulting in a raft of litigation against the city. To date, according to a report earlier this year by Thomson-Reuters, “152 plaintiffs have settled, withdrawn or dismissed their suits, and the city has spent $1.8 million on settlements, according to the New York City Law Department. Cases are still pending for an additional 474 plaintiffs.” As many as 1,400 individuals each still stand to receive thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in damages as a result of a class-action law suit.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com and a senior editor at AlterNet. His latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso). You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook