Thursday, 11 October 2012

NY cop: "The civilian population are being hunted."

This excellent video by Ross Tuttle and The Nation rips the nightie off NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly’s occupation strategy of intimidating and harassing young blacks and Latinos in exchange for the placid contentment of the fearful masses. It is an excellent metaphor for the deal we as a nation have cut with the security state in exchange for our freedom.

The video includes an audio recording of the stopping of a Harlem teen named Alvin under the euphemistically named ‘stop-and-frisk’ policy, which actually should be called ‘brace-beat-and-terrorize’ given that that is what the cops do. Last year alone, 680,000 stops were recorded, up from only 100,000 ten years ago, and until public opposition began to make itself felt, the NYPD was headed for 800,000 this year. Alvin’s recording included a threat by the cops who bullied him to break his arm ‘for being a fucking mutt’.

But the Tuttle piece goes further by showing that the hundreds of thousands of harassment stops aren’t just the work of rogue cops getting out of line but rather a conscious policy established at the top and enforced by Kelly and his boss, Mayor Bloomberg. Beat cops who don’t cooperate by racking up stops soon find that they themselves are harassed and their careers and livelihoods threatened.

None of this is news to New Yorkers, and polls show that most minority residents are unhappy about it while white residents continue to cheer (possibly influenced by the fact that their kids are far less likely to be targeted). But the NYPD is beyond the reach of the laws it is supposed to uphold, and everyone knows that, too. Arrest quotas are prohibited in New York State, but that part of the statute gets no respect. When law enforcement is the lawbreaker, you’ve got a problem—ask the Mexicans.

However, popular anger at stop-and-frisk and its evil cousin, police killings of unarmed civilians, is growing and, I maintain, having an impact. The City Council held a hearing on the policy yesterday, and the police brass demonstrated their contempt for democracy by refusing to show up. (The Council has no subpoena power and can’t force them to, despite the huge chunk of our tax money the cops get.) The NYPD’s lawyer came instead to lecture our elected representatives that they had nothing to say about police procedures, despite paying for the blue uniforms.

The NYPD would say that, of course, but it is getting uncomfortable with all the attention. I am proud to say that my Councilman, Robert Jackson, confronted the NYPD lawyer specifically over the Alvin video to the point where the Council’s main cop shill, Peter Verrone Jr. from Staten Island [below], told him to shut up. He in turn was told to shut up by another member. Racial fireworks ensued. None of this is good news for Kelly and Bloomberg.

Shining a light on stop-and-frisk is the only way citizens can object to having their kids treated like criminals based on how they dress and made to feel that they don’t have the right to occupy the streets or even the front porches of their own domiciles. This works well for comfy middle-class folks who want the harassment to continue so their purses don’t get snatched and assume that police abuses will just never happen to them because they’re law-abiding and respectable. On a micro level, it’s the same mentality that tells Obama to go ahead and assassinate the bad guys in Yemen and keep suspicion-looking types in jail for life without charges so that we can go about our pleasant lives worry-free.

The police have earned themselves a hefty dose of resentment all these years. One Rodney King-type incident here would unleash plenty of it, and then the Bloombergs and the Kellys will shed many crocodile tears. But they, and we, were warned, repeatedly.

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