You could say the NYPD is having a PR problem. In the wake of tales of ticket fixing, planting drugs on innocent people, gun-smuggling, “rape cops,” accusations of police brutality, and pepper spraying incidents, there’s a pretty damning story in the New York Times today about 21-year-old Samantha Zucker, a Carnegie Mellon senior in town with a group of students looking for jobs. Zucker happened to be in Riverside Park a couple hours after it closed at 1 a.m. on October 22 (she wanted to see the Hudson). There, she and a classmate, Alex Fischer, were stopped by the police and given tickets for trespassing. Fischer showed ID and was allowed to leave; Zucker had left her wallet at her hotel, and, when she couldn’t show a driver’s license, was handcuffed, arrested, and held for 36 hours. She also, she says, was mocked by the arresting officer, identified in court papers as Police Officer Durrell of the 26th Precinct.
“He was telling me that I needed to get a new boyfriend, that I should get a guy who takes me out to dinner,” Ms. Zucker said. “He mocked me for being from Westchester.”
After she was moved from a cell at the 26th Precinct to West 126th Street to central booking in downtown Manhattan and then back to Harlem, she was brought back downtown, had another night in custody, and then, finally before a judge, had her ticket dismissed “in less than a minute.” The cops refused to let her get someone else to bring her identification from the hotel, apparently. Also worrisome: “The female officers were gossiping that the officer who arrested me had an incredibly short fuse,” Zucker told the Times.
The Times points out that “such arrests are a drain on the human economy” and “About 40,000 people a year — the vast majority of them young black and Latino men — are fed like widgets onto a conveyor belt of arrest, booking and court, after being told to empty their pockets and thus commit the misdemeanor of ‘open display’ of marijuana.”
Zucker, of course, is a woman, college-educated, and white, a fact lost on no one, surely not the short-fused cop who arrested her and made fun of her boyfriend (who was actually just a friend). This reminds us a bit of the woman who was allegedly pulled over and threatened with a ticket by an NYPD office last summer for biking in a skirt. A pointless arrest, yeah — unless it draws attention to a real (not just PR) problem, and helps spur change for people for whom it’s actually not just a pointless arrest.
We’ve reached out to the NYPD for comment.