Wednesday, 16 April 2014

When cops go off the rails

Several stories about the important shifts taking place within the NYPD under the surprisingly deep de Blasio reforms illustrate how the dysfunction in that institution is often more old-fashioned corruption rather than race-based ill will. Not that there isn’t plenty of the latter as well, despite the substantial diversity of the NYPD’s composition. But a lot of the bad behavior coming from the cops looks to be more driven by greed rather than hate.

The newly appointed Internal Affairs chief, Joseph Reznick [above right looking none too pleased], reamed the boys in blue Monday by calling out their absurd habits of racking up lousy arrests for the purposes of charging the Department for overtime. You’d think a career that guarantees a full pension after 20 years of service might be enough to keep the defenders of laws sticking to the letter and spirit of their own. But according to Reznick’s blistering public criticism, the armed defenders of the peace frequently game the system to extract a few more tax dollars.

The New York Daily News quoted from an internal memo sent out last week in which Reznick called for a stop to an oddly named NYPD routine:

Reznick believes that too many recent arrests were examples “collars for dollars,” as the practice is known within the department.

“The reasons for enforcement were nonsense,” the tough-talking Reznick says in a April 8 memo, which was sent out to the commanding officers of six groups within IAB in response to an explanation of recent overtime.

On the same day, William Bratton, de Blasio’s new commissioner, closed down the ridiculous city cop unit dedicated to spying on Muslims. Aside from the serious civil liberties issues involved in singling out a religious group for collective suspicion, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman laid out in a lengthy report in New York Magazine last September how the NYPD Intelligence Division had turned ferreting out terrorist threats into an excuse to eat out at nice restaurants on the city’s dime.

The amateur spies expensed their outings by saying that they had to “infiltrate” local Bangladeshi or Afghan communities by enjoying bountiful meals in their favorite hangouts. But, the article noted, they tended to gravitate to social clubs that had the finest cuisine. So now that praying-while-Muslim is no longer grounds for opening a file on you, the wannabe secret agents—who developed exactly ZERO cases during the unit’s two years of existence—can go back to buying their own doughnuts.

Speaking of suspicion, I wonder which of our innumerable policing and security agencies had their sights on Frazier Glenn Miller, the lifelong, violent nazi anti-Semite, who just shot up a Kansas Jewish community center. Would preaching racial hatred and supporting the slaughter of Jews over several decades be enough to attract the attention of the trillion-dollar safety industry? Or does that only work if your name is Ahmed?

The change of leadership and tone at the NYPD is long overdue and IMHO a big reason why de Blasio came from nowhere to crush his opponents in the Democratic primary last year—nobody else was talking tough about police abuse, and people are fed up. It’s a good sign that the new mayor is putting out a strong message that blank-check police impunity is over. It will be interesting to see how it plays out if another unarmed kid gets shot down in a Ramarley Graham-style “confusing incident.”

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