Gun-running, planting drugs, spying on whole communities, spewing racist epithets in online forums, pepper spraying protesters, roughing up City Councilmembers, conducting stop-and-frisk searches at record rates and gunning down an unarmed teen-ager in his own home. That’s just some of what the NYPD has been up to recently. The police and their advocates treat each outrage as an aberration, if they bother to acknowledge their critics at all. But taken as a whole what emerges is a department that is a law unto itself.
Since 9/11, members of New York City’s Muslim community have suspected they were being monitored by the NYPD. But no one knew the exact scale of the NYPD’s surveillance until the end of last summer when reports by the Associated Press and NYPD Confidential’s Leonard Levitt detailed the scale of the surveillance. One AP report described the “Moroccan Initiative”, an NYPD spying operation that probed into every nook and cranny of the city’s Moroccan community. According to documents obtained by Levitt, the NYPD compiled information on 250 mosques, 12 Islamic schools, 31 Muslim student associations, 263 places it calls “ethnic hotspots,” such as businesses and restaurants. On Feb. 18, 2012 the AP reported that the NYPD has tracked Muslim students across the Northeast and had even sent an undercover informant on a white water rafting trip conducted by 18 Muslim students from City College of New York.
The documentary film “Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America” gives voice to the loopy, far right fantasy about Muslim extremists seeking to take over America that has plagued our culture like a bad dream for the past decade. It’s good for scaring the bejeezus out of red-state yahoos but no respectable city official in multi-cultural New York would touch it with a 10-foot pole, right? Think again. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly gave an interview to the show’s producers and the film was shown on “a continuous loop” to roughly 1,500 officers receiving anti-terrorism training over a period of time that extended somewhere between approximately three months to a year. Kelly denied all of the above through his spokesperson Paul Browne before journalists ferreted out the truth and forced him to fess up to his lies.
Politically Motivated Spying
The NYPD’s politically motivated spying extends well beyond the Muslim community. On February 13, veteran police reporter Leonard Levitt reported that New York police had spied on a May 3, 2008 meeting at of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network at which plans were made for organizing large-scale protests over the acquittal of three NYPD officers in the shooting of Sean Bell. In the same Feb. 13 report, Levitt also describes how two undercover officers had told him in 1998 that they had previously been tasked with spreading rumors that Sharpton was gay.
Roughing Up City Councilmembers
While walking to an official function during last September’s West Indian Parade, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams (D-WFP-East Flatbush) was wrestled to the ground and place in handcuffs despite repeated attempts to identify himself. Ten weeks later another Citycouncilmember, Ydanis Rodriguez (D-WFP-Washington Heights), received cuts to his face when he was forced to the ground by police while trying to make his way to Zuccotti Park on the night the Occupy Wall Street encampment was evicted. He was held for 17 hours before being released on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
The police officers who joined a Facebook page last September to gripe about having to cover the annual West Indian American Day Parade weren’t looking to friend the Brooklyn’s Caribbean community. On the Facebook page, parade goers were described as “animals”, “savages” and “filth” in comments that filled 70 printed pages. One commenter suggested the parade be “moved to the zoo” while another suggested “Drop a bomb and wipe them all out.”
Soaring Stop-and-Frisk #’s
The number of New Yorkers subjected to police stop-and-frisks in 2011 grew to 684,000, a 14% increase over the previous year. Of those targeted in 2011, 85 percent Black or Latino and 88 percent were innocent of any crime, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Four million New Yorkers have been stop-and-frisked since 2004. One of the upshots of stop-and-frisk is a heavy load of pot cases, roughly 50,000 a year, or enough to fill Yankee Stadium. (79)
Shooting Unarmed Civilians
Cop opens fire on a young man of color and asks questions later. From Amadou Diallo to Timothy Stansbury to Sean Bell, it’s a depressingly familiar ritual in New York. On Feb. 2 it was Ramarley Graham’s turn. Graham, 18, was shot dead in the bathroom of his grandmother’s home in the Bronx on Feb. 2 after fleeing from plainclothes narcotics police. The plainclothes officer, Richard Haste, who gunned down Graham entered the apartment without a warrant. Graham was unarmed at the time of the shooting. Haste’s partner has told investigators that Haste identified himself as a police officer, told Graham to show his hands and then yelled “gun, gun” before firing while Graham’s grandmother maintains that officers did not state their identity before entering her home and that Haste did not say anything to Graham before shooting him.
Corruption in the Brooklyn South narcotics unit led to the arrest of eight police officers for planting drugs or lying under oath, the dismissal of hundreds of tainted drug cases and payouts of more than $1 million to settle false arrests lawsuits. During the trial last fall of one of the narcotics detectives accused of planting drugs, ex-cop Stephen Anderson revealed that the practice – known as “flaking” - was all in a night’s work.
“It was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators,” Anderson testified. “Seeing it so much, it’s almost like you have no emotion with it. The mentality was that they attach the bodies to it, they’re going to be out of jail tomorrow anyway, nothing is going to happen to them anyway.”
Before he was netted in an FBI sting last October, William Masso, an 18-year police veteran, bragged to a government informant that his smuggling ring of eight current and former NYPD members could move anything from “A to Z.” Among his group’s haul: black-market cigarettes, stolen slot machines, counterfeit merchandise and illegal firearms including three M-16 rifles, one shotgun, 16 handguns. On February 6, Masso became the first defendant in the case to plead guilty. He faces up to six years in prison.
Manipulating Crime Stats
Suspicions that New York’s miraculously low crime rate has been built on rigged numbers have festered for years. In 2005, leaders of the Patrolmen’s and Sergeant’s Benevolent Associations alleged the department under Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was downgrading felonies to misdemeanors. In 2009, police whistleblower Adrian Schoolcraft alleged that higher-ups were doctoring crime stats. In 2010, two academics released a survey of more than 100 retired senior police officers who said that intense pressure to lower crime rates had prompted them to manipulate crime statistics across the city. Kelly appointed a three-person commission last year to study the matter but it still has not issued a report, though it is more than six months past due.
Occupy Wall Street
Beginning with the unprovoked pepper spraying of four young white female protesters that helped Occupy Wall Street go viral, the NYPD played a starring role in the OWS protests as it put its casual brutality and its militarized tactics on full display. There were more than 1,300 OWS-related arrests in New York last fall, about a fourth of the total Occupy arrests nationwide during that time. During their Nov. 15 raid that demolished the Zuccotti Park encampment, police dressed in storm trooper gear tossed the OWS library’s donated collection of more than 5,000 books into garbage trucks and dumpsters, most of the texts were never recovered.
When 16 officers were arraigned Oct. 28 on charges emenating (SP/CK) from a ticket fixing scandal that has engulfed the department, hundreds of their brethren packed the Bronx Courthouse. They unleashed what the New York Times described as a “stunning display of vitriol” - blocking traffic, sullying the courthouse with refuse, taunting nearby welfare recipients and grabbing journalists’ cameras to keep them from documenting the proceedings. While police union officials insist ticket- fixing for friends, family and the well-connected is a “professional courtesy”, prosecutors say it is a crime that costs the city millions in revenue.
Sources: NYPD Confidential, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York World, NYCLU, Associated Press, Huffington Post, The Indypendent, PSC/Clarion, DNAinfo.com.