Thursday, 3 November 2011

Who will police the police?

Police rallied outside a Bronx courthouse a few days ago to denounce the prosecutors who dared to indict their fellow officers for the ‘professional courtesy’ of fixing parking tickets. Gang leader Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, shouted and stamped his feet over the dastardly arrests since, as he insisted, ‘taking care of your family’ is not a crime.

This headline and story followed two days later: [bold highlights added]

‘Brooklyn Detective Convicted of Planting Drugs on Innocent People’

By TIM STELLOH, New York Daily News

The New York Police Department, already saddled with corruption scandals, saw its image further tainted on Tuesday with the conviction of a police detective for planting drugs on a woman and her boyfriend.

Before announcing the verdict, Justice Reichbach scolded the Police Department for what he described as a widespread culture of corruption endemic in its drug units.

“I thought I was not naïve,” he said.

“But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”

The case was rooted in a far larger tale of corruption in Police Department drug units: Several narcotics officers in Brooklyn have been caught mishandling drugs they seized as evidence, and hundreds of potentially tainted drug cases have been dismissed. The city has made payments to settle civil suits over wrongful incarcerations.

During the trial, prosecutors described the corruption within the Police Department drug units that Detective Jason Arbeeny worked for. One former detective, Stephen Anderson, who did not know the defendant, testified that officers in those units often planted drugs on innocent people.

The detective’s lawyer, Michael Elbaz, tried to discredit the most important prosecution witnesses, Yvelisse DeLeon and her boyfriend, Juan Figueroa. Ms. DeLeon had testified that the couple drove up to their apartment building in Coney Island and were approached by two plainclothes police officers. She said she then saw Detective Arbeeny remove a bag of powder from his pocket and place it in the vehicle.

“He brought out his pocket,” Ms. DeLeon told the court. “He said, ‘Look what I find.’ It looked like little powder in a little bag.”

In the department’s Brooklyn South narcotics unit, for instance, drugs seized as evidence are not counted or sealed until they reach the precinct and can be handled by multiple officers along the way, Justice Reichbach said, adding that such unacceptable practices “pale in significance” to the “cowboy culture” of the drug units.

Anything goes in the never-ending war on drugs, and a refusal to go along with questionable practices raise the specter of blacklisting and isolation,” he said.

The accused, 14-year veteran detective Jason Arbeeny, faces only four years in prison for ruining people’s lives with phony accusations, ironically far fewer than the terms he saddled his victims with.

But ‘anything goes’ in the war on drugs and, needless to say, its capitalized first cousin, the War on Terror, and that simple phrase illustrates how Dick Cheney, Barack Obama and all their little friends are playing not just with fire but a warehouse full of Roman candles in setting whole categories of their enforcers above the law. Police states don’t just appear overnight—they require careful preparation, indoctrination and coaching, and a populace complicit with its crimes. Ours is eager to the point of embarrassment.

Note the similarities between Detective Arbeeny’s tactics and those loved by our Homeland Security teams: you find a guilty party and then figure out how to create evidence around them. So far, the terrorist-hunters haven’t been accused of total fabrications, but what’s stopping them? The day they face NYPD-style quotas to keep their funding intact cannot be far off.

Incidentally, there is a direct line between these abuses of policing power and the criminal behavior of the still-untouched Wall Streeters and their collaborators, the money-churning mortgage packagers and servicers. The nearly dead mortgage market may, in fact, turn out to be the one place where impunity’s consequences most quickly become obvious for the indifferent masses as they see the value of their principal asset—home equity—go up in smoke. This already has happened to millions, but many, many more could suffer a similar fate unless the ongoing legal shenanigans are investigated, exposed, prosecuted and thereby stopped. The Obama/Geithner team’s insistence that all will be well if we just let the banks get away with all their crimes is going to end badly—how is the housing market ever going to recover if people cannot trust even the deeds to their own properties?

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