Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Way Police Operate

A favorite talking point of police-can-do-no-wrong apologists is that 99.99% of cops are really fine and dandy by-the-book officers; there are only a few bad apples and the liberal media loves to focus on them. Statistics on the NYPD from this Village Voice article tell a different story:

The members of the press corps in this city could themselves be of greater use in monitoring our sometimes out-of-control protectors by following up on an acutely relevant story by the Daily News. On June 14, in a five-column story, "Cops flexing their muscle," staff writers Benjamin Lesser and Greg Smith revealed that in 102,000 of the more than 500,000 police stops during 2006, "cops did things such as restrained people, threw them to the ground or against a wall or pointed a gun at them."

Now dig this: "In nine out of 10 police stops involving use of force in 2006, the suspects were not arrested" (emphasis added). And in the 2,700 police stops in which a cop pulled his weapon, only 553—one out of five—"ended with an arrest."

I'm not saying that all cops are bad, but with numbers like that coming out of a supposed bastion of progressivism, something is amiss.

Police departments don't seem to want people trying to figure out what's wrong either. The NYPD's reluctance to release statistics is telling all by itself:

This is the only time that these raw use-of-force documents have been made public. The NYPD gave the internal data (which they usually never let we, the people, see) to University of Michigan researchers who—to the everlasting gratitude of civil libertarians everywhere—put much of that information on the Internet.

I haven't heard a peep about all this from Mayor Bloomberg, who has encouraged Ray Kelly to step into his shoes in 2009. But there has been a reaction from Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has continually done much of the work that the press should have been doing instead to pierce the CIA-like secrecy of Commissioner Kelly's force.

On June 13, Donna Lieberman said to the Daily News: "The data confirms our worst fears. The NYPD is stopping, interrogating and searching hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers every year, and even pointing guns at completely innocent people. New Yorkers deserve a police force that will protect their rights, not violate them."

The Voice article also makes a point that can't be made often enough. Tasers are not being used in the place of deadly force:

A future column will look into Commissioner Kelly's pledge that he would carefully expand the use of non-lethal tasers that stop a person with a 50,000-volt shock. A comprehensive Amnesty International investigation on the use of tasers notes that "80 percent of the time they are used on unarmed suspects. In 30 percent of the cases, they are used for verbal noncompliance, but only 3 percent of the time for cases involving 'deadly assault.' " Without killing you, tasers can do a hell of a lot of damage. And the evidence is mounting that they can also kill you.

That's something for NYC residents to keep in mind as they get ready to elect Kelly as yet another affluent Republican NYC mayor.

Also, it's great to read the Village Voice writing something of consequence. More like this please.