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AAAAAARGH

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The thrilling conclusion to the replication saga is coming, I swear, and in fact I was working on an amendment today, when this happened.

In brief, the Right to Know Act, which I’ve posted about before, comprises two bills before New York City Council: one that requires police to provide identification during a stop, and the reason for a stop, and another that requires police to inform people that they have a right to refuse a search without probable cause, and to obtain evidence of consent.  Hundreds of community groups and thousands of people (including, in a small way, me) have been organizing for years for these laws. Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council speaker, and Chief Bratton just made a private deal to prevent the bills coming to a vote (the bills easily have the votes to pass, though only the ID bill has a veto-proof majority), because Bratton promises the NYPD will do it on its own:

The procedures, agreed to by Council leaders, the de Blasio administration and police leaders, may significantly change interactions between officers and people on the street in certain encounters. Officers would soon be required to hand out business cards when asked; officers seeking to conduct searches in the absence of a legal basis would be trained to request consent by eliciting a yes-or-no response and walk away if it is declined.

But the administrative changes proposed would not have the force of law. Compliance would be contingent on the Police Department’s enforcing the new rules, to be set forth in the Patrol Guide, the agency’s rule book.

Communities United for Police Reform issued this statement:

At such a crisis moment where people are literally losing their lives due to a lack of police accountability, including in New York City, it is beyond disappointing that our city will fail to set an example by allowing the failures in police accountability to continue without legislative oversight. The frequent abuses in people’s most common everyday interactions with police that go unaccounted for are what perpetuate and lead to police brutality and killings. New York City will fail to address this by pursuing this administrative agreement instead of legislation.

The Right to Know Act has the votes to pass the Council, is supported by over 200 community groups from across the city, and the policies it advances have been endorsed by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. An agreement with the NYPD does not hold the weight of legislative oversight and these administrative changes are watered down and on top of existing NYPD rules that are already frequently violated without repercussion. There should be no confidence that this agreement will provide meaningful change for communities – without real accountability and enforcement mechanisms, police abuses that leave community members at risk of harm will continue in everyday interactions.

I think the single part of this article that makes me the angriest is this one:

Mr. Bratton told the Council last year that he opposed measures like the search bill as “unprecedented intrusions” into the management of the Police Department. Instead, he said at the time, the department would have preferred to “collaborate” with the Council and reach common ground without legislation.

That’s right.  God forbid the elected representatives of the people of the city of New York intrude upon the guys with guns who act with effective impunity.  Oh, you were busy harassing, humiliating, and violating people?  Well then, we’re sorry to intrude.  If these measures are not too burdensome to enact as voluntary policies, then there is just no reason for Bratton and NYPD not to bloody well think about what the words “public servant” actually mean and accept that they are bound by the force of law.  Communicating with the people they stop on the street about who they are, the reason for the stop, and a citizen’s right to refuse violations of body and privacy should not be at their discretion.   

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  • Gee Suss

    Are there any other groups that are advancing similar legislation?

  • Katie Surrence

    Around the country, you mean? In the wake of the Sterling and Castile shootings, an interactive chart went around detailing federal, state, and local police reform efforts. I’m having trouble finding it at the moment; if anyone else can, I’d appreciate it.

    • Drexciya

      Are you referring to the Campaign Zero thing?

      • Katie Surrence

        yes, that was it. Thanks!

      • Gee Suss

        Thank you!

  • Dilan Esper

    Wow, no Tom Brady post today from Scott? Disappointing.

  • Warren Terra

    I didn’t even know this was going on. It’s been my impression – as a non-lawyer white guy who’s never been stopped by the police – that your right to refuse a search (of a vehicle, or of your person) has been dramatically eroded over the years, to the point where it just doesn’t seem safe to say no unless you’re willing to get arrested. So, this is very disappointing.

    Also, there’s this:

    one that requires police to provide identification during a stop

    I think this gets to a wider problem. When you read stories about police gearing up for a protest, not infrequently you’ll read of the cops putting black tape over their badge numbers. And, indeed, Even after a year or paying some attention I’ve rarely if ever seen any visible identifiers on the police attending demonstrations. It’s gotten to the point where I’m considering raising money to be sent to any cop who is identifiable in a press photo from a demonstration.

    There seems to be a real lack of accountability – and, we see in your post, a resistance to any formal increase in accountability.

    • eh

      Years ago, and I haven’t been able to recollect or Googlehack my way back to the facts, I read that cops could basically search any car in two steps: by creating a Terry stop and then one other legal-name way to search, which I remembered as something like “an O’Neill search” or something similarly spelled. I just looked up the plain view exception, which seems like it would fit, but none of the cases mentioned in WP start with an O. :/

  • Joe_JP

    Understand the anger. The article notes:

    Ms. Mark-Viverito did not rule out the possibility that legislation could be passed in the future, but for now, the Council will see how the compromise plays out.

    The City Council should formally pass a resolution to examine the procedures in let’s say a year’s time and if not satisfactory, to act accordingly. The community should demand it in writing, as it were.

    • skate

      The compromise won’t play out. When NYPD promises to provide information, they’re pretty much lying. Just ask anyone who has tried to look into their handling of traffic statistics and investigations into car-on-pedestrian crime. The only time NYPD talks is when unnamed sources in the department leak wrong info to the Post.

    • eh

      When police do something systematically wrong, we can’t rush to judgement, but when police suffer we need to pass Blue Lives Matter laws ASAP.

  • twbb

    I would suspect if the city council passes it, the state legislature would simply pass a rule preempting it.

  • Steve LaBonne

    For shame. When even the most minimal and commonsense police accountability laws can’t be passed, you know we’re essentially living in a police state.

    • Gee Suss

      I’m waiting for the police apologist concern trolls to show up on this.

  • Drexciya

    As a random reminder, since the recording’s gone into circulation again, this is a nice window into what it looks like when police leave the work of accountability to themselves (apologies for the Gawker link):

    Commanding Officer: Who commits the crimes in the city?

    Birch: Who commits the crimes? Well, it’s mostly teenagers, anywhere between the ages of 15 and 19, mostly male blacks and Hispanics.

    OK. Who are you stopping?

    Everybody. I stop everybody.

    Fifty-four TABs up to 8/20. Twenty-five of those are female. Half.

    Like I said, I stop everybody. I’m not targeting anybody.

    You just told me who the bad guys are.

    Yeah, I know that. But there’s also other people who are committing violations as well. I’m not saying that there’s not violations being made.

    The male blacks, that you told me commit the crimes—

    Plenty of people that I write summonses to are male blacks and male Hispanics.

    You stopped two male blacks.

    Not for the whole year. You’re telling me for the whole year I only stopped two male blacks on summonses?

    8/20. From January 1st to August 20th. Fifty-four TABs: two male blacks, seven Hispanics, seven other, ten white, three Asian. So where are you targeting the perps that you just told me?

    Like I said, if I don’t see a perp jumping over the turnstile, what am I supposed to do to him?

    These people are not going to pop.

    How do I know that? A female Hispanic that I stopped in Sheepshead Bay did pop, actually, for a warrant, and I arrested her. Female Hispanic. The Hispanics that we’re supposed to be going after. That are committing the crimes. The people that I—

    Did you think that she was going to pop?

    Did I think she was going to pop? I didn’t put no thought into it. If you come up for a collar, I’m taking you in.

    Here’s what I see. You just described to me who’s committing the crimes. You’re fully aware of it. But you’re not targeting those people.

    I am. I’m targeting everybody.

    Two male blacks.

    Whoever is out there. If I—

    So you only saw two male blacks jump the turnstile?

    If you’re saying that’s what’s in front of you, then yes, that’s all I saw, is two male blacks for the whole year jumping the turnstile. If you’re saying that’s what’s in front of you, I’m not disputing that. If that’s what I got there.

    That is what you have. That is not disputed here.

    I’m saying, we’re also talking Hispanics as well. I stopped a lot of Hispanics, too.

    Seven male Hispanics. But more than half are female.

    And like I said, everybody’s committing violations in front of me.

    The commanding officer in the bolded text, Constantin Tsachas, has since been cleared for a promotion. A likely consequence of doing what he’s supposed to do.

    • (((Hogan)))

      OK, so what if I grab every black male I see, throw them over the turnstile, and then TAB them? Does that work for you?

  • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

    Interesting dichotomy that police union reps claim: police are brave, strong people with really sensitive fee-fees which will be irrevocably hurt if elected officials criticize them or set any limits on their actions.

  • Pseudonym

    But that article Erik linked to in the SWAT post told me that it took a reformer named Bratton to fix the LAPD!

  • shah8

    Of course, as the recent article in the San Francisco press shows, police unions are basically the key stumbling block to such accountability measures.

    Gonna have to crush them…

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