by Joseph Goldstein

“‘While it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the N.Y.P.D. has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops outside TAP buildings in the Bronx,’ Judge Scheindlin ruled.

*  *  *  *

“In the decision released on Tuesday, the judge ordered the police ‘to cease performing trespass stops’ outside the private buildings in the program unless officers have reasonable suspicion, a legal standard that requires officers to be acting on more than just a hunch.”

I realize I’m late to the party in sharing this article, but figured I ought to given the amount of space I have devoted on this blog to stop-and-frisk related issues.  This is a good first step, but it will be interesting to see where the rest of the litigation goes.  As usual, the NYPD’s response to this decision is pure politics and completely distorts its effects.  The argument that the decision interferes with the department’s crime-fighting tools is ignorant and offensive:  does the Constitution limit police ability to catch criminals?  Of course it does to some extent, but this is the compromise that we concluded was appropriate in light of the abuses effected by the British forces in pre-revolutionary America.  We as a society have agreed that it is worth letting a few guilty people go free to have sufficient procedural protections to ensure that innocent people are not being harassed or convicted.  When police harassment becomes a bigger problem than the crime that police are supposedly there to prevent, as seems to be the case here, then it is in everyone’s interest that the balance shifts.

Furthermore the examples of people recently arrested under the stop-and-frisk “program” bear no relation to the ruling in question:  if officers see a gun protruding from a person’s pants, they clearly have reasonable suspicion (if not probable cause) to stop him; if a person is on the roof of a building (which I understand are generally not meant to be open to the public), then the police probably have reasonable suspicion to stop him.  Additionally, as I understand the decision from the article (admittedly I have not read the actual opinion), the decision only limits the ability of the police to stop persons outside of public housing buildings, and only if they lack reasonable suspicion (which is the alleged standard anyway).

My real fear is that this opinion will have no effect at all, other than to cause police to reformulate their lies that “justify” stops and arrests.

 

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Not that I am a huge Tarantino fan (though I do generally like his movies), but I’m glad this idea is getting some more attention.

by Ross Gittins

“‘Consider the pulse of the corporate sector as opposed to the pulse of the employees working in it:  corporate profits in 2010 were at an all-time high, chief executive salaries in 2010 rebounded strongly from the financial crisis, Wall Street compensation in 2010 was at an all-time high, several Wall Street firms paid civil penalties for financial abuses, but no senior banker faced any criminal charges, and there were no adverse regulatory measures that would lead to a loss of profits in finance, health care, military supplies and energy,’ he says.

“The 30-year achievement of the corporatocracy has been the creation of America’s rich and super-rich classes, he says.  And we can now see their tools of trade.”

Not that this news is groundbreaking, but this analysis is fairly concise.

by Garth Johnston

“While better crime prevention practices certainly have also helped make cities much safer in the past two decades, the research Drum collects argues that when you follow the post-war introduction and later banning of gasoline with lead—thanks for that, General Motors!—it matches up shockingly well with the rise and fall of crime roughly twenty years later.  And this isn’t just a national argument, it turns out it appears to hold up on a local level . . . .”

As if the broken windows theory required any further discrediting . . . .  This is a weird theory, but the correlation does seem to be pretty remarkable.

by Graham Rayman

“A number of cases like Bozeman’s have lately cast Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes and his office in a less-than-flattering light.  There have been repeated allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, political influence peddling, and basic ineptitude.  Hynes has been widely criticized, for example, for shielding rapists and pedophiles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn as a way of currying favor with politically influential rabbis.  And several high-profile criminal cases have fallen apart after revelations that his office has either manipulated evidence or withheld exculpatory evidence it is required to disclose to defense attorneys.  In several cases, innocent men spent months or even years behind bars.”

Long but well worth the read.

by Ben Yakas

A friend of a friend was standing in front of me, and she had a big piece of confetti on her coat,’ paradegoer Ethan Finkelstein told the Post.  ‘She saw it had something on it, and we read it said SSN, like Social Security number.  We started picking all the confetti up, and it had all kinds of stuff—birth dates, addresses, account information.’  The Tufts freshman added:  ‘At first I thought it might be documents from Macy’s employees until I saw that there were detectives’ names and information about crimes in there.  This is really shocking!’

“This isn’t the first time important documents have made their way into a ticker tape parade:  last February, sensitive documents that included people’s social security numbers were among the pieces of papers being thrown around during the parade for the Super Bowl XLVI Championship Giants.”

Woops.

by John Del Signore

Low-level pot possession continues to be the number one cause of arrest in NYC; in 2011 the NYPD made 50,680 arrests for low-level marijuana offenses, and half a million have been arrested during the past 15 years.  When asked about this incredible statistic, officials will often point to the ‘broken windows’ policing strategy, which relies on a theory that arresting people for small offenses like pot possession preemptively thwarts criminals for whom smoking weed is just the tip of the iceberg.  But a new study (in full below) from Human Rights Watch tells a very different story . . . .

This presents a gross oversimplification of broken windows theory, but the point is still valid:  arresting people for low-level marijuana possession is not an effective way to tackle crime generally, and is a waste of police and governmental resources.

by John Del Signore

“A tourist from Atlanta who was enjoying Central Park with his family in August of 2011 got swept up in the NYPD’s controversial ‘Operation Lucky Bag’ after he noticed an old, ‘smelly’ purse abandoned by a bench.  Yakov Dubin, 49, had stopped to tie his shoe when he spotted the handbag and peered inside, discovering a cool $27 and no identification.  According to a $1 million lawsuit filed against the city, Dubin ‘removed the cash from the purse, with the intention to then find a park ranger or other officer, to which he could turn the money over.’  Unfortunately for him, the officers were already there.

“Plainclothes cops immediately swooped in and arrested Dubin, who tried to explain that he’d just withdrawn $100 from an ATM and had no intention of keeping the $27.”

Operation Lucky Bag is yet another of the NYPD’s tactics that veer dangerously close to entrapment.  Under New York State Law, anyone who finds property worth twenty dollars or more has a duty to return it to the owner or turn it over to the police.  How soon will the NYPD simply be leaving twenty dollar bills on the sidewalk and arresting the first person to pick it up?

by Bruce E. Levine

“Television is a ‘dream come true’ for an authoritarian society.  Those with the most money own most of what people see.  Fear-based TV programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for an authoritarian society depending on a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy.  Television isolates people so they are not joining together to govern themselves.  Viewing television puts one in a brain state that makes it difficult to think critically, and it quiets and subdues a population.  And spending one’s free time isolated and watching TV interferes with the connection to one’s own humanity, and thus makes it easier to accept an authority’s version of society and life.  Whether it is in American penitentiaries or homes, TV is a staple of American pacification.”

Interesting, considering I just plugged this book on here the other day, to see an article referencing and expanding upon it.

by Conor Friedersdorf

“Innocent people are daily stopped by police on the streets of New York, shoved up against a car or a wall, and told that if they verbally complain they’ll be physically assaulted on the spot.  It’s official NYPD policy to temporarily detain and frisk pedestrians who aren’t committing any crime.  The threats and other abusive behavior aren’t officially sanctioned but happen all the time. 

“The stops themselves happen more than 1,800 times per day.”