Friday, 28 June 2013

Snoop cameras to be turned on NYPD

It’s not a Brazilian- or Turkish-style upheaval, but New York’s revolt against its domestic Praetorian Guard, the NYPD, is an encouraging sign after years of resentful tolerance of its abuses. The City Council passed two measures Wednesday to rein in the free-lance bullying by a largely unfettered security force that has distinguished itself in recent years by mass criminalization of minority youth (stop-and-frisk), frequent assassins of same (Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham), and Stasi-style snooping (the CIA-NYPD spying on Muslims). Add to that the frequent use of agents provocateurs to generate crimes where arguably none would otherwise have been committed and the NYPD’s shameless service of Wall Street during the Occupy period, and one can wonder where protection from crime morphs into political control.

One of the two bills passed establishes an external inspector to monitor the department, which of course makes the boys in blue completely insane. This one passed overwhelmingly and looks solid enough to override a mayoral veto. The other also garnered a 2/3 majority but only just—to facilitate lawsuits for racial profiling. It’s possible the police and Bloomberg can peel off one of those votes and stop that measure, but the outside IG has a good chance to become law.

Bloomberg’s reaction has been completely hysterical. He’s trotted out every Bush-Cheney-Obama trick of fear-mongering and demagogy, screeching about how this will endanger ‘our’ children. (I think the Bells and the Grahams might find this statement ironic.) The cops naturally insist that the day these laws take effect, wild hordes of violent criminals will seize power in New York City and proceed to burn and pillage Sixth Avenue. They showed up en masse as a sea of blue uniforms to intimidate the council members out of supporting the bills, but this time it failed.

The momentum for these changes has been building over years. The half-million annual stops were making black and Hispanic families furious despite their eager desire for effective policing given that they are the principal victims of crime. Those totals are down now as the NYPD saw the opposition build, but only to head off any regulation. Sean Bell’s death and the subsequent acquittal of his assassins (50 shots at an unarmed driver partying on the night before his wedding) put in stark evidence how the cops act with impunity when the victims are non-white. Two active-duty cops taped their C.O.s demanding arrest quotas, which is now an obvious department policy despite official denials. A state senator testified how a high-ranking police chief told him the stop-and-frisk law was specifically designed to keep black kids afraid. Recent revelations of NSA abuses are a reminder that the NYPD has benn part and parcel of this spy system for years.

We also have a mayoral election in full swing, which is making it harder for active-duty pols to side with the cops, which is what most of them would prefer to do. Christine Quinn has been forced to take her distance from Bloomberg, supported one of the two bills. Mysteriously popular Anthony Weiner, who has now surpassed Quinn in the polls, is the only candidate playing to the white outer-borough vote by siding with the cops. (Weiner, as suspected, has channeled Mayor Koch and has become a depressingly viable candidate for the same reasons.)

The times are against reduction of police powers, but these signs of resistance to a full-fledged police state are important. And hey, if the police are doing nothing wrong, why worry about being watched?

[P.S. This is post #1000 since I began this blog in 2007 -- am preparing a longer essay with an overview to celebrate.]

No comments: