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NYPD’s Astonishing Admission

The NYPD has to comply with a new set of rules passed by the city council (over the veto of Mayor Bloomberg) to rein in the rampant constitutional abuses that have been going on there for years, so they’ve started telling their officers how to act in accordance with those rules.

The four-page message, sent to all commands on Friday and read to officers before their shifts over the last few days, sought to clarify the law and explain how race, as well as other demographic features, can be considered by an officer in deciding whether to act. While race can be a factor, it cannot be the only factor. For example, if a victim “describes a crime suspect by race, sex, clothing description and direction of travel, a person who has those physical characteristics and is traveling in the direction described may be the subject of law enforcement action,” the internal memo reads.

“It would be unlawful,” it adds, “to stop or otherwise engage that individual if the deciding factor for doing so was that he/she matched only the race of the person described in the radio run.”

Think about that for a minute. They had to tell their police officers that they couldn’t stop someone just because they’re black. That speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

The message read to officers in recent days appeared aimed at providing clarity. To avoid liability, officers were told, they need to “adhere closely” to established department rules and “demonstrate that probable cause for an arrest or the issuance of a summons existed or reasonable suspicion for a stop was present.”

So apparently that did not matter prior to this new law passing. Until now, evidently, officers didn’t need to make sure that they had probable cause for an arrest or reasonable suspicion for a stop. Which we knew, of course, by the mere fact that well over 90% of their stop and frisks found no wrongdoing whatsoever. If you think you have reasonable suspicion a thousand times and 950 times that suspicion was false, it’s time to redefine what is reasonable. That the NYPD actually had to be forced to acknowledge that tells you just how far down the authoritarian rabbit hole they are.

Comments

  1. doublereed says

    Doesn’t that mean people police officers have been doing illegal and unconstitutional things and should get punished by Internal Affairs or something?

  2. Artor says

    Silly doublereed, that’s not what Internal Affairs are for. They’re for investigating wrongdoing and determining that every violation went “according to procedure.”

  3. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    I don’t know about NYPD Internal Affairs, but from what I’ve read, LAPD Internal Affairs exists for the sole purpose of giving Harry Bosch a hard time.

  4. scienceavenger says

    They had to tell their police officers that they couldn’t stop someone just because they’re black. they matched only the race of the person described in the radio run.

    FTFY. Your case is ironclad strong, let’s not sully the waters with hyperbole and give your critics an easy target.

  5. dmcclean says

    Ed, I have to disagree with the principle that telling people not to do X is an “admission” that you previously sanctioned their doing of X. Other possibilities are (a) a reminder, or (b) something you previously thought was so obvious that you didn’t feel you needed to tell people.

    I agree with you that they have been allowing and encouraging this for years, but I don’t think this episode is “astonishing” or an “admission” really. Which is too bad, because they should make an admission.

  6. wscott says

    @5: exactly. Anyone that has worked in a large organization, or especially for any government agency, has had to sit through these sorts of “We know you know this, but the legal department requires us to remind you…” The most recent one I had was a reminder that you can’t do political campaign work on company time or using company resources. Every single person in the room already knew that, but we had to remind them, mainly so that if anyone does violate it, they can’t claim they didn’t know better.
    .
    There’s no question (in my mind) NYPD has a racism problem. But this isn’t evidence of anything other than “We’ve been taking a lot of flack for ____ so don’t do _____.”

  7. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    If you think you have reasonable suspicion a thousand times and 950 times that suspicion was false,

    Oh, it’s worse than that. If, as in the classic case of the Ohio street corner, you suspected folk of “casing” a store and you found out that they were, in fact, casing a store, your suspicion was correct. If you have a suspicion that that some small group were casing a store, and you find no evidence of intent to commit burglary or robbery, no weapon or burglary tools or anything reasonably related, but you do find 2.5 grams of marijuana on the person of one in the group, in NYC they call that having your suspicion confirmed.

    Yeah. That.

  8. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    They had to tell their police officers that they couldn’t stop someone just because they’re black. they matched only the race of the person described in the radio run.

    FTFY. Your case is ironclad strong, let’s not sully the waters with hyperbole and give your critics an easy target.

    “Meaning in context” is a thing. For fuck’s sake.

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