New York Police Department is the poster child for abuse

If you want to know how bloated US police departments are and how militarized they have become and how blatantly they disregard civil liberties, the NYPD is the place to look. This article by Tana Ganeva and Laura Gottesdiener from back in 2012 lists the “nine frightening things about America’s biggest police force.”

The NYPD is the biggest police force in the country, with over 34,000 uniformed officers patrolling New York’s streets, and 51,000 employees overall — more than the FBI. It has a proposed budget of $4.6 billion for 2013, a figure that represents almost 15 percent of the entire city’s budget.

What has the NYPD been doing with all that cash and manpower? In addition to ticketing minorities for standing outside of their homes, spying on Muslims who live in New Jersey, abusing protesters, and gunning down black teens over weed, the NYPD has expanded into a massive global anti-terror operation with surveillance and military capabilities unparalleled in the history of US law enforcement.

In an email published by WikiLeaks, an FBI official joked about how shocked Americans would be if they knew how egregiously the NYPD is stomping all over their civil liberties. But what we already know is bad enough. Here’s a round-up of what the department has been up to lately.

Last fall, Mayor Bloomberg famously bragged, “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world.” So far he’s refrained from imposing military rule on the city, at least in the white neighborhoods, but the department nevertheless boasts an impressive arsenal.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told “60 Minutes” that the NYPD could shoot down a plane last year. When asked for details at a press conference, Mayor Bloomberg basically told reporters to fuck off, saying, “The NYPD has lots of capabilities that you don’t know about and you won’t know about.”

The New York Times has reported that the department’s Harbor unit has 6 submarine drones; four cost $75,000 and the two others cost $120,000, according to the Times. They are developing a portable radar that can see under clothes in order to search for weapons. Militaristic “Hercules teams,” are deployed to random parts of the city armed with automatic weapons and body armor. Their explicitly stated role is to terrify people. In a piece by Popular Mechanics, detective Abad Nieves described the unit’s job thusly: “The response we usually get is, ‘Holy s—!’ […] That’s the reaction we want. We are in the business of scaring people–we just want to scare the right people.”

Last year, one of us asked a heavily armed Hercules team member what they were up to at the Lincoln Center. “Keeping you safe!” he barked, rolling his eyes at our unbelievable stupidity.

The force operates in 11 foreign cities, including London, Lyons, Hamburg, Tel Aviv and Toronto. This year they added Kfar Saba, Israel, to their list of conquests — there, the NYPD has its own office complete with a department insignia and a banner inside which reads, “The New York Police Department. The Greatest Police Department in the World.”

NYPD officers have flown to Afghanistan, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, and Guantanamo, where they have been known to conduct “special interrogations,” according to New York Magazine. Domestically, the NYPD collaborates with the FBI in Washington. Under Commissioner Kelly’s watch, and with the blessing of the CIA, the force has also built a hidden counterterrorism bureau, complete with a Global Intelligence Room and a security area protected by ballistic Sheetrock.

You read that right. The NYPD has six submarine drones. What the hell? And mayor Bloomberg (Remember him? He spent an enormous amount of money in a vanity project to become the Democratic presidential nominee that went down in flames) boasts that he has the seventh largest army in the world at his disposal? The article goes on to show that the NYPD routinely uses its vast resources to violate the civil rights of the city’s people.

The full range of NYPD abuses listed in the article is horrific.

Clearly the police budget is highly bloated. There have been major protests in NYC to cut funding for the NYPD. The city has to approve a balanced budget by tomorrow, June 30 and there has been a push to cut $1 billion from its budget to fund other things.

Let’s hope the move is successful.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    The article goes on to show that the NYPD routinely uses its vast resources to violate the civil rights of the city’s people.

    “The city’s people” is rather understating it, don’t you think? I mean, the people of NYC have (arguably) got it coming, since they choose to live there. (This is an upsetting argument, not least because a lot of residents of most cities don’t have much choice about living there since they lack the skills or resources to leave even if they wanted to. Leave that aside for a moment though: I choose not to live in NYC, for this among many, many other reasons… but apparently that doesn’t help.

    The average English, French, German or Canadian person might well think “New York, USA -- well, that’s a shithole patrolled and ruled by armed thugs, glad I don’t live there and don’t ever have to go there.” And they’d be right -- they don’t have to go there -- the thugs are already in their backyard. And in Israel, Afghanistan, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, and who knows where else. “Overreach” doesn’t even begin to describe this.

    I expect the intelligence services of foreign powers to be sneaking around my home country. After all, our intelligence services are certainly sneaking around theirs. In general, however, I’d regard it as overreach if the officers of the police force one county over started regularly patrolling on my local force’s patch. That the police of a foreign city could have established an office in this country is… baffling, and a little depressing, because what it demonstrates is that this country, France, Germany and Canada are simply not in a position to say “er… no, fuck off” to the USA. Which is absolutely what they should be saying in this instance.

    The NYPD has six submarine drones. What the hell?

    Here we’re on firmer ground, and I’m going to leap to their defence. They patrol an area with a large waterfront and big rivers. I imagine (I haven’t bothered to check because I don’t need to) that pretty often people go into that water and don’t come out alive. I imagine (again, no research) that quite a lot of contraband gets thrown into those waters. In the olden days (i.e. about ten years ago?), any comparable police force would have on their books what I was always as a child were delighted to hear were called “frogmen” -- i.e. divers specialising in dragging up bodies and loot. Diving is a difficult, expensive and above all dangerous activity. It makes absolute sense that a police force like the NYPD would protect its workers by obtaining machines that could take on dangerous parts of their job. The problem here is the word “drones”, which, quite naturally for an American mind, conjours up pictures of some missile-equipped death-machine. I’m not saying the NYPD doesn’t have a missile-equipped death-machine, just that it’s more likely that for the low, low price of around a hundred grand, you’re probably only going to get something with some lights and cameras and maybe a manipulator arm or two.

    The idea, on the other hand, that they have the capability to bring down a plane strikes me as either
    (a) absolutely terrifying, because what are their rules of engagement for encounters with aircraft? OR
    (b) absolute bullshit, because while the Army might well trust cops with their cast-off rifles and Humvees, there’s no way in hell they’d let some boy in blue get his hand on a MANPAD. Ray Kelly is fantasising, is my best guess. Which is scary in itself.

  2. ionopachys says

    Cutting the budget won’t be enough. The NYPD seems to be so totally corrupt that it needs to be abolished and replaced. From the leadership to the rank and file to the unions, the NYPD has made it clear that it rejects the authority of the civil government and the People. This culture appears to be so deeply ingrained into the organization that I just don’t see how it can be rooted out except by replacing the entirety of the membership. Not just “most,” for all the talk of “bad apples” almost always leaves out the important part: just one “spoils the bunch.” What do you do when the whole barrel is full of rotting fruit? You don’t pick out a few of the worst and keep throwing good apples into the mess.

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