The Next Mayor: An NYPD Still Outside the Law?

On June 13, 24 City Councilmembers—11 votes short of a veto-proof majority—voted for a bill that would create an inspector general to monitor this city’s police department. As of this writing, as I expected, the bill remains immobile.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s most ardent fan, Mayor Bloomberg, scoffed at such brazen ignorance: “This is the most regulated department in the entire city. You have five district attorneys. You have the Civilian Complaint Review Board. I think we’ve got enough supervision and oversight.”

What apparently slipped his mind was that he, Ray Kelly, and former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, remain defendants in a case on physical police abuses of our public school students, mainly blacks and Puerto Ricans, often for less than misdemeanors—by Kelly’s School Safety Agents.


After one of many columns documenting this disgrace to the city, let alone the kids (“The Strip Search Room,” January 7, 2009), a cop I didn’t know called me in a fury at what he called “the slipshod so-called training” Kelly authorizes for these plainclothes prowlers with the authority to arrest students who have scrawled on their desks or slipped a cell phone into school if their mother wants to contact them.

On June 17, a protester in Harlem against the Kelly-Bloomberg stop-and-frisk and racial-profiling expeditions told the Daily News that his son, Ramarley Graham, was shot to death in the teen’s Bronx home February 2 by police officer Richard Haste, who wrongly believed the 18-year-old had a gun.

“To me,” the father had said at Al Sharpton National Action Network, “my son was murdered. I lost my son to people we pay to protect us. . . . We will never let them forget what happened.”

Neither will a growing number of this city’s civil rights and civil liberties organizations, very insistently including the New York Civil Liberties Union, which the National ACLU should cite to its affiliates across the country as a model on how to educate students, their parents, the police, and the community at large that the Constitution cannot be barred at the schoolhouse door, the streets, and the homes of blacks and Latinos.

What about the future education of this city’s public school students and what it means to be an American, including in school? It is certainly time for candidates striving to replace, at long last, the self-glorifying incumbent, to let the voters know what they intend to do as our public students, very particularly blacks and Latinos, deeply feel they are being treated by the NYPD as potential suspects, or worse.

At this point, I have to insert that I am not making a general indictment of all NYPD members as bigots. There are many who are acutely aware of the powers they wield—sometimes of life or death—and their responsibilities to adhere to why many of them became cops. I’ve known a number of them well and how angry they are at those among them who have tarnished the force as a whole by acting as if some of them frisk by slamming students to the ground.

Think back to the Occupy protests and the NYPD culture. On July 25, Rebecca Lehrer reported—“NYPD Used Force on Occupy Protests Without Apparent Need or Justification 130 Times”—finding that a report by law school clinics found: “A complex mapping of protest suppression emerges. . . . They find 97 times police allegedly used bodily force like striking, punching, shoving, grabbing, kicking, or dragging, and 41 documented cases of alleged weapon use like batons, barricades, horses, and pepper spray.”

There were so many witnesses of this unnecessary police abuse, covered too in the Voice, that it became a national story by, among others, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

An inspector general could prevent these NYPD bruisers being linked to the force as a whole.

A further suggestion for voters in the coming mayoral election was buried in a small story on page A15 of the July 2 New York Times in the National Briefing Section datelined Northwest: “The city of Seattle reached a settlement agreement on Friday with the Justice Department on the use of police force and the training and supervision of officers that will create an independent monitor and a community police commission aimed at increasing citizen output.”

Now there’s a revolutionary idea that not even Thomas Jefferson or Samuel Adams thought of. Getting We the People involved in training the police. Some of us don’t have to be black or Latino to remember being targeted by a cop with total presumption of guilt for something we couldn’t possibly have done.

So the Seattle advance in participatory law enforcement continues: “Federal prosecutors began investigating the Seattle police department after the fatal shooting of a homeless Native American woodcarver in 2010 led to a public outcry and accusations that the department was out of control.

“Investigators said they had found that the Seattle police had engaged in excessive force that violated federal law and the Constitution. Under the agreement, officers will receive training in avoiding bias, in conducting stops, and in the use of force.

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