DA Thompson's order really doesn't eliminate that many possession arrests. His memo stated that those smoking in public (especially around children), 16-17-year-old offenders (who will be placed into a diversion program) and people with existing criminal records will still be prosecuted. This just leaves mainly the truly harmless: recreational users.
But the War on Drugs is every bit as essential to the NYPD as the War on Terror, and the NYPD (with new chief Bill Bratton's blessing) will continue to make meaningless arrests -- arrests made even more meaningless by DA Thompson's announcement.
If nothing else, this ensures the sort of job security that's usually only touted in sarcastic tones by the deeply cynical. According to the New York Times, arresting recreational users is full-time work for Brooklyn cops.
Christopher E Smith is the white father of a black, biracial son, and it is through his son's experience of being black in America that he has learned just how pervasive and humiliating and violent officialdom is to black Americans, a fact embodied perfectly through New York City's notorious, racist stop-and-frisk program. Smith describes how his son, interning on Wall Street, has been repeatedly stopped by police, once made to lie face down on the filthy sidewalk in his best suit while police went through his pockets (former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg was a staunch supporter of this program). He describes the experience of his black in-laws, who are stopped by police-cars en route to family gatherings, who have guns aimed at their heads, and who are then released with a shrug and a nonsensical excuse. He describes how driving over the US/Canadian border with his son is totally different from driving on his own, and how the customs guards routinely stop the two of them, and make them wait out of sight of their car while it is searched.
As an aside, I've experienced this myself. I've driven across the US/Canadian border literally dozens of times and the only time I was stopped was when I gave Nalo Hopkinson and David Findlay -- who happen to be black -- a ride to a Clarion reunion at Michigan State University. At both border crossings, the car was searched from top to bottom, with officers taking out books and shaking the pages to look for contraband. It's never happened since. The only difference between that drive and all the others was that there were some brown-skinned people in evidence.
Smith proposes a thought experiment in which stop-and-frisk searches were mandatorily applied in keeping with overall demographics, so for every three black people that the NYPD pull over and humiliate without warrant or suspicion or probable cause, they would have to do the same to ten white people -- and suggests that this would end the program of stop-and-frisk in a heartbeat.
David Graeber, author of Debt: the First 5000 Years, was evicted from the home that his family had lived in for 52 years yesterday. He says that the NYPD intelligence department played a role in establishing a "technicality" on which his family could be evicted, despite not having missed a single payment in 52 years. He blames the eviction on retaliation against high-profile Occupy Wall Street activists, whom he says have been targeted in a wide-ranging series of administrative attacks: "evictions, visa problems, tax audits..."
The NYPD runs an intelligence agency that is even more secretive, and practically as corrupt as the NSA. They even fly their own intelligence officers to the scene of terrorist attacks overseas (and interfere with real investigations). What's more, the NYPD has invented its own, extra-legal system of "classified" documents that it has unilaterally decided it doesn't have to provide to the public in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Shawn Musgrave used Muckrock sent the NYPD a FOIA request for its FOIA manual -- the guidelines by which it decides whether or not it will obey the law requiring it to share its internal workings with the public who pay for them -- only to have the NYPD refuse to provide it, because it is "privileged attorney-client work-product."
As Musgrave says, "Handbooks and training materials hardly qualify as 'confidential communications,' particularly when the subject matter is transparency itself."
A short film by Paul Sullivan that chillingly breaks down the creepy tactics New York City police used to intimidate and harass protesters, and arrest them for expressing their first amendment rights in public space. In these examples, it seems they used "the momentum of arrests" to deter the spirit of the crowd--not because the individuals shown here actually posed a threat to the public, or had harmed anyone or done anything bad.
NYC has a law prohibiting "loitering for the purposes of engaging in a prostitution offense" which lets cops arrest whomever they feel like, on the strength of their conviction that the person is probably a sex-worker, on the basis of flimsy circumstantial evidence like carrying a condom, talking to men, or wearing tight clothes. Like stop-and-frisk, it's part of a pattern of laws that assume that the police have infallible intuition about who the "bad guys" are and lets them use their discretion to harass and bust whomever they feel like. And like stop-and-frisk laws, the "condom" law shows that the much-vaunted cop intuition is really just bias, a dowsing rod that leads officers to poor women, genderqueer people, and trans people.
Like most laughably cruel tricks of the justice system, you probably wouldn't know that you could be arrested for carrying condoms until it happened to you. Monica Gonzalez is a nurse and a grandmother. In 2008, Officer Sean Spencer arrested her for prostitution while she was on the way to the ER with an asthma attack. The condom he found on her turned out to be imaginary. Gonzalez sued the city after the charges were dropped. But if the condom were real, why should she have even been arrested at all?
Arrest is always violent. The NYPD may or may not break your ribs, but the process of arrest in America is still a man tying your hands behind your back at gunpoint and locking you in a cage. Holding cells are shit-encrusted boxes, often too crowded to sit down. Police can leave you there for three days; long enough to lose your job. If this seems obvious, I say it because the polite middle classes trivialize arrest. They talk about "keeping people off the streets." They don't realize that the constant threat of arrest is traumatic, unless it happens to them or their kids.
Prostitution is only a misdemeanor in New York, but a conviction will knock you off food stamps and out of subsidized housing. While society feigns wanting sex workers to change their profession, it does everything it can to keep them where they are. Most prostitution defendants plea bargain. Too broke and scared to fight, men and women agree to charges that will follow them for life.
There are two types of prostitution arrests. For "prostitution," the officer has to witness you making an offer, but "loitering for the purposes of engaging in a prostitution offense" requires only circumstantial evidence. On the supporting depositions, officers answer a checklist. Were you standing in an area known for prostitution? According to Karina Claudio, a lead organizer at the community group Make the Road, these areas can be anywhere. Were you dressed provocatively? Did you speak to a guy? Were you standing next to someone who has been arrested for prostitution? Were you carrying condoms?
Gilberto Valle, an NYPD officer, has been arrested after details of a plot to kidnap and eat women came to light. Officer Valle is alleged to have used NYPD databases to locate 100 potential victims, and left detailed notes on his plans to murder and eat them. He also offered to kidnap women for money, corresponding with online acquaintances. From an AP article by Colleen Long and Tom Hays:
One document found on his computer was titled "Abducting and Cooking (Victim 1): A Blueprint," according to the complaint. The file also had the woman's birth date and other personal information and a list of "materials needed" — a car, chloroform and rope.
"I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus ... cook her over low heat, keep her alive as long as possible," Valle allegedly wrote in one exchange in July, the complaint says.
In other online conversations, investigators said, Valle talked about the mechanics of fitting the woman's body into an oven (her legs would have to be bent), said he could make chloroform at home to knock a woman out and discussed how "tasty" one woman looked.
"Her days are numbered," he wrote, according to the complaint.
In this cellphone video, NYPD sergeant Lesly Charles threatens a group of men with his gun and threatens to rape them, while simultaneously condoning their criminal behavior of "hustling." The New York Postfirst published this video, recorded and shared by one of the young men and shared under anonymity.
“I have the long d--k. You don’t,” the cop bragged.
“Your pretty face — I like it very much. My d--k will go in your mouth and come out your ear. Don’t f--k with me. All right?”
After the target of his tirade insisted, “I didn’t do anything,” Charles retorted, “Listen to me. When you see me, you look the other way. Tell your boys, I don’t f--k around. All right?”
“I’ll take my gun and put it up your a-- and then I’ll call your mother afterwards. You understand that?”
For good measure, the sergeant added: “And I’ll put your s--t in your own mouth.”
Charles added, “I’m here every f--king day. I don’t go home. I have no life. No kids. I do what I do.’’
The Post spoke to the sergeant at his home via phone, and asked him about the video. “I’m just doing God’s work," he replied to a reporter. "You know I can’t comment... Have a blessed day.”
"[W]hat's been pretty seriously under-covered is this past weekend's amazing outburst of out-of-control NYPD tactics on Occupy Wall Street," writes Choire Sicha at the Awl, along with a roundup of links and videos illustrating just how out-of-control those NYPD tactics are.
The AP has published more documents today which offer further evidence that the The New York Police Department "kept secret files on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans specifically because they were Muslims." The NYPD monitored these people based solely on their religion.
Gothamist digs into whether NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's statements and actions regarding the production of an Islamophobic propaganda film "screened on a continuous loop for over 1,200 NYPD officers" may have been a violation of NYPD conduct codes. If you're new to the story, first read this NYT item, then this followup.
The pull quote: "A strong military appearance, with sharp and precise movements, is a force multiplier and a psychological advantage to us."
Actually, many of the criticisms of the NYPD's tactics against OWS protesters in recent weeks involve complaints that they have not followed some of the more reasonable guidelines set forth on this flyer.
Here are some videos of police violence and beatings that occurred around 5:15 at Baruch College, CUNY, in response to an Occupy CUNY OWS protest about tuition hikes, unfair labor practices targeted toward adjunct and other faculty, and the privatization of the public CUNY system. Protesters had planned to attend a public trustees meeting, but we were not permitted to voice our grievances, in contravention of CUNY's policies and the rights belonging to a free people.
The first(below) is CUNY security and the order to disperse (protesters are occupying the building's lobby.
The second(further below) is CUNY security staff pushing and hitting protesters with nightsticks.