Monday, March 26, 2012

NYPD Gone Wild III

We have discussed at length the NYPD's outrageous spying on Muslims in Newark and its racist stop-and-frisk abuses in NYC. Last week, we learned of new NYPD abuses that stretch beyond racial or religious profiling to political profiling.

New Orleans Spying

The Daily News reported last week that left-of-center organizations meeting in New Orleans in 2008 were infiltrated by the NYPD. This is a shocking finding because it seems to undeniably unjustifiable. 

2004 Republican Convention

The previous defense of spying and infiltrating was a perceived need for the NYPD to have an over-the-top level of security and intelligence-gathering in the lead-up to the 2004 Republican National Convention in NYC. The NYPD spying activities related to the convention are the subject of an ongoing law suit, and the NYPD may ultimately be found to have violated the Constitutional rights of individuals who sought to oppose the Republican Party platform. If Constitutional violations are found, we would nonetheless have sympathy with any law enforcement organization taking responsibility for the entire leadership of one of our two major political parties for up to a week. Learning to provide security in such a situation and adhere to the Constitution will be a task for other cities in the years to come, and we should pray that the participants in future conventions are kept as safe as the Republicans were in NYC in 2004.

NYPD Gone Wild in Louisiana

With no Republican Convention as an excuse, the NYPD sent spies to the New Orleans convention that brought together left-of-center groups. Four years after the Republican Convention in NYC, the NYPD was spying on organizations that opposed federal government policies, even when those groups met far from NYC.
In April 2008, an undercover NYPD officer traveled to New Orleans to attend the People’s Summit, a gathering of liberal groups organized around their shared opposition to U.S. economic policy and the effect of trade agreements between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

When the undercover effort was summarized for supervisors, it identified groups opposed to U.S. immigration policy, labor laws and racial profiling. Two activists — Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, and Marisa Franco, a labor organizer for housekeepers and nannies — were mentioned by name in one of the police intelligence reports obtained by the AP.

“One workshop was led by Jordan Flaherty, former member of the International Solidarity Movement Chapter in New York City,” officers wrote in an April 25, 2008, memo to David Cohen, the NYPD’s top intelligence officer. “Mr. Flaherty is an editor and journalist of the Left Turn Magazine and was one of the main organizers of the conference. Mr. Flaherty held a discussion calling for the increase of the divestment campaign of Israel and mentioned two events related to Palestine.”

The document is available here.
We are now completely convinced that these abuses will continue until Mayor Bloomberg and Ray Kelly leave their current roles. Their departure cannot come too soon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stop and Frisk Apartheid Targets the Innocent While Criminals Thrive

Though stop and frisk activity is less effective than random checkpoint stops, New York City's police commissioner has embraced his role as chief apologist for Mayor Bloomberg's racist and despicable stop and frisk obsession while the Village Voice highlighted the NYPD's eagerness to ignore actual criminal activity as it terrorizes innocent men of color in our city with repeated stops.

Stop and Frisk

Though stop and frisk incidents were less than 100,000 per year in our city a recently as 2002, Mayor Bloomberg has set record after record, stopping nearly 700,000 of our neighbors in 2011. Nearly all of those stopped are young men of color, and more than 90% of those stopped are never issued a summons. Though our white neighbors are more than twice as likely to possess illegal weapons when they are stopped, the stop focus nearly exclusively on young men of color.

Ray Kelly, as head of the NYPD, has taken on the role of defending the apartheid regime he enforces in our city. He speaks as if we live in 1912 and references men of color as criminals by virtue of their race and ethnicity. We have called for the Mayor and the police commissioner to resign. In a sense, Ray Kelly's most recent statements suggest that he no longer fears admitting that he runs and apartheid system. Rather than claiming that he doesn't target young men of color for abuse, he has chosen to proclaim that terrorizing communities of color is the best approach to law enforcement in our city.

Tellingly, a federal judge in 2011 supported a law suit based on stop and frisk while attacking the NYPD approach.
As Judge Scheindlin notes in her opinion, a report by the legal scholar Jeffrey Fagan found that blacks and Latinos were more likely to be stopped at police discretion, not just in high-crime, high-minority areas, but in districts where crime is minimal and populations are mixed.
Police officials say that officers stop people when they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. An analysis last year by The Times of street stops in one mainly black Brooklyn neighborhood found that officers listed vague reasons in half the stops, including “furtive movement,” a category that can be used to mask harassment.
The Fagan report found that arrests are made in less than 6 percent of all street stops — a lower rate than if the police simply set up random checkpoints. Less than 1 percent of stops turned up weapons. This suggests that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly minorities, have been stopped for no legitimate reason — or worse, because of the color of their skin.
The Police Department says it has a training program that explains proper arrest procedure and warns officers against racial profiling. But Judge Scheindlin was sharply critical of those efforts, noting that numerous officers did not recall ever receiving such training.
We should repeat the findings cited by the federal judge: The Mayor's apartheid approach is less effective than random checkpoints in catching criminals. Random stops would be more effective than the apartheid approach. If there were nothing morally or legally wrong with Bloomberg's apartheid system, he should end the practice because it is ineffective relative to other options.

In Brooklyn, the precincts with the greatest levels of stop and frisk activity are seeing rising crime. It is obvious that the apartheid approach is failing to address crime while it is succeeding in communicating to communities of color that they are not full citizens and exist to be controlled and abused rather than supported and protected by our city government.

Many of us have suspected that the focus on stopping hundreds of thousands of innocent men of color is interfering with preventing crime. We have considered that innocent people of color are stopped repeatedly while criminals seem to be ignored.

Now we have proof.

Actual Crime Ignored

Village Voice recently highlighted the NYPD's lack of willingness to address criminal activities.

The story starts with a whistle blower in Brooklyn's 81st Precinct. The whistle blower accused the leadership of his precinct of under reporting crime and was abused by the NYPD in retaliation. As the NYPD abused the whistle blower, it hid a two-year old 95-page report on the allegations and corroborated them.
Investigators went beyond [the whistle blower's] specific claims and found many other instances in the 81st Precinct where crime reports were missing, had been misclassified, altered, rejected, or not even entered into the computer system that tracks crime reports.

These weren't minor incidents. The victims included a Chinese-food delivery man robbed and beaten bloody, a man robbed at gunpoint, a cab driver robbed at gunpoint, a woman assaulted and beaten black and blue, a woman beaten by her spouse, and a woman burgled by men who forced their way into her apartment.

"When viewed in their totality, a disturbing pattern is prevalent and gives credence to the allegation that crimes are being improperly reported in order to avoid index-crime classifications," investigators concluded. "This trend is indicative of a concerted effort to deliberately underreport crime in the 81st Precinct."
With the intensity of focus on innocent men of color, we are not surprised that the NYPD has chosen not to focus on actual criminals. Innocent men of color are more willing victims and safer targets for abuse than criminals would be. The victims of the Mayor's apartheid system are innocent people of color. The criminals are the beneficiaries. If the Mayor will not end his apartheid approach, he is unfit to be the Mayor of our city.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bloomberg's Dedication to All-White Fire Department Proves Costly

The racial discrimination in hiring at the FDNY that persisted under Mayor Bloomberg (despite efforts from his allies to convince him to abandon the practice and despite a law suit by the Bush Administration) is going to be costly for NYC taxpayers.

$128 Million Price Tag

The Federal Judge overseeing the Bush Administration's suit (continued under Obama) against New York City for racial discrimination has imposed a fine of $128 million. The amount is calculated as the amount of wages the would-be fire fighters would have earned if there had been no racial discrimination. The payment will be made to the applicants who became the victims of the discrimination, but it will be reduced by the wages that the victims earned in other jobs since the time that they were excluded by the racially discriminatory practices of the FDNY. Therefore, the final total will be less than $128 million.

Ironically, Bloomberg's determination to avoid racially integrating the FDNY is going to cost taxpayers millions of dollars and hasn't created any problems for Bloomberg himself. He has been able to discriminated based on race with impunity. His allies have not held him accountable, and the electorate has kept him in office for a decade.

As Errol Louis said, "Many credible institutions tried, with zero success, to convince Bloomberg and Scoppetta that the fire exam needed a reworking. The city's own Equal Employment Practices Commission, an independent watchdog, presented City Hall with a long account of nearly a decade's worth of complaints about the fire test and a plea to re-examine it. They were ignored. The federal Justice Department under the Bush administration sued the city after issuing strong warnings about the need to desegregate the FDNY. Bloomberg fought the feds in court. Why Bloomberg's high-profile black and Latino supporters don't call him on the carpet and demand an end to the spin and denial, I have no idea."

Bloomberg's Ongoing Fight for the All-White FDNY

 Of course, rather than pay what he owes and end the discrimination, Bloomberg has vowed to fight the latest ruling. Only 3% of the FDNY's brave professionals are Black, and preventing that number from rising is a key goal of the Bloomberg administration.

We should not be surprised.

Bloomberg has had a decade to end the discrimination and has instead embraced it. He was sued by the Bush Administration because his racial discrimination was too severe for even a Republican President to ignore. He has set records each year for police stops of innocent people of color. He moved gifted and talented schools out of communities of color. He has assembled the least inclusive and most white administration our city has seen in modern times.

In the end, reducing opportunities for Black and Latino New Yorkers and increasing the burdens on Black and Latino communities are Bloomberg's signature achievements. As his time as Mayor winds down, he seems to be treating any potential reduction in the level of racial discrimination in our city as a direct attack on his legacy. Skin color has become his primary focus.

His predecessor developed a reputation for racial animosity. Giuliani helped lead a rally in which Mayor Dinkins was called "a washroom attendant", and in which racial slurs were tolerated. Giuliani refused to meet with Black elected officials. But, while Giuliani seemed to embrace racial confrontation to win the votes of those who hate people of color, Bloomberg seems to focus on actually harming the prospects of people of color. Bloomberg's obsession with racial discrimination seems aimed less at gaining votes from racists but rather aimed at fulfilling some psychic need in the Mayor himself to hold back the progress of Black and Latino individuals while undermining any sense of empowerment or progress that may be emerging in Black and Latino communities.

We are amazed that in 2012, the Mayor of New York City would be in court defending efforts to exclude people of color from the FDNY. Even if he feels personally wedded to an all-white fire department, the Mayor must realize that our city and our country are beyond those days. Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947 (the US military was integrated in 1948). Sixty five years after Jackie Robinson "broke the color line" and sixty four years after the US military ended its racial separatism practices, we are running NYC based on skin color. One skin color is allocated jobs in the administration and in the FDNY. Other skin colors are abused with non-stop interrogations by law enforcement and are excluded from administration jobs and FDNY opportunities. Certain skin colors have been declared synonymous with criminality. Bloomberg's own skin color has not suffered that fate.

We live in NYC in 2012 and endure a race-based approach to governing NYC that seems more appropriate for 1912.

As Bloomberg's fighting to keep the FDNY all white and to keep his stop-and-frisk attacks targeted again only non-white New Yorkers, we hope New Yorkers will ask him to move his views into the modern era and move beyond his obsession with racial discrimination.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Opposition to Stop and Frisk Organizes for 2013

Mayor Bloomberg's Apartheid approach to policing in NYC has generated increasingly organized opposition.

Scott Stringer Continues to Lead

We have highlighted in the past how impressed we have been with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's vocal opposition to the Mayor's race-based approach to policing in our city. Last week, we saw Stringer taking the lead in the organized opposition to Bloomberg's approach.
Stringer has been visiting black churches for weeks now. Everywhere he goes, he hears the same plea for change. As he spoke at Bethany about the abuses of stop-and-frisk, the building resounded with shouts of “Amen.”
The New York Daily News addressed the concerns that are causing Stringer to get the reactions he's received and highlighted the leadership role he is playing on the issue of racial discrimination in our city's approach to law enforcement.

As stated in the NY Daily News:
Last year, the NYPD recorded an astounding 684,000 stop-and-frisk encounters with the public. Even under the hard-fisted Giuliani administration, that number was less than 100,000.
But stop-and-frisk incidents have skyrocketed more than sixfold under Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly — and 87% of those stopped are black or Hispanic.
The Police Department defends stop-and-frisk as a valuable tool, one that helps confiscate illegal guns and save lives.
The statistics, on the other hand, show it to be at best a crude tool, one that is mangling relations between the police and the communities they serve.
Only one in every 650 stops has resulted in the confiscation of a gun, according to several years of NYPD records released to the New York Civil Liberties Union. That’s less than two-tenths of 1%.
In 88% of the cases, the people stopped were innocent. Only 6% of stops result in any kind of arrest, and many of those are for misdemeanor marijuana possession.
Even middle- and upper-class New Yorkers have started to question such an unproductive policy.
All 12 community boards in Manhattan — from Battery Park and Greenwich Village to Washington Heights — have approved a resolution in recent weeks calling for reform.
The vote at Community Board 6 on the East Side was unanimous.
“Our residents are supportive of the NYPD, but we’ve concluded it (stop-and-frisk) is really not good. This needs to be resolved so people who are innocent are not being stopped.”
The racial disparities are especially glaring. Young black men, for instance, are only 7% of the city’s population, but they represented 41% of all the stops by the police in 2010.
That year, there were 27,000 stops in the 75th Precinct in East New York, Brooklyn — an average of more than 500 a week. Meanwhile, in the largely white 66th Precinct in Borough Park, Brooklyn, with a bigger population than East New York’s, there were just 53 stops a week.
“This policy has become a foot on the neck of our children,” said Shiela Rule, a former New York Times reporter who heads Think Outside the Cell Foundation, a prison reform group.
An interracial coalition of city leaders has now concluded that if Bloomberg and Kelly won’t budge, new laws will have to be passed. Led by Scott Stringer [and a Brooklyn City Council Member], they will introduce legislation Wednesday to reform stop-and-frisk.

Opposition Grows Amongst Advocacy Groups

A large coalition of advocacy groups are supporting the non-racist approach to law enforcement that Stringer is promoting.

More than 20 groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Legal Aid Society, are working together to pressure potential candidates for Mayor in 2013 to oppose the Bloomberg approach.

“We will make it impossible to run for citywide office in New York City without taking a position on stop-and-frisk,” Udi Ofer, the advocacy director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, adding that the coalitionwould also inform voters about “which candidates stand which way on this issue.”