Just Following Orders
October 28, 2011 7:21 PM   Subscribe

A rather different type of protest takes place in New York City...

The comment section is interesting as well.
posted by Slinga (143 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know, "Just Following Orders" is not ... exactly ... a great slogan.

I think this may be the first ever thread to Godwin itself before the first comment.
posted by miyabo at 7:26 PM on October 28, 2011 [45 favorites]


"To serve the rich and protect our friends."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:26 PM on October 28, 2011 [25 favorites]


Release the hounds.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:27 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fuck 'em. Throw away the key.

Fuck the cops protesting it as well. You're demanding the right to be corrupt? Fuck you, have you no shame?
posted by Artw at 7:28 PM on October 28, 2011 [36 favorites]


it should be "just taking care of our own (and no one else)"
posted by ichimunki at 7:29 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's pretty upsetting to see police angry at the suggestion that they have to answer to the Law as well...
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:30 PM on October 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


NYPD is a criminal organization, by and large. Those of us who live here have known this all along.
posted by spitbull at 7:30 PM on October 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


Because of my job I work a lot with police union officials. Many of them are great people who are very sincere in their commitment to safe neighborhoods and justice. Then a white member of their union shoots an unarmed black man and I feel very strongly to defend police in general from the all-police-are-racist-assholes crowd.

But man. That looked like a lot of union members not just in solidarity with their fellow officers, but arguing that they are right in doing these illegal things.

Fuck 'em.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:37 PM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I liked the bit where they were jeering at people collecting their welfare benefits. Classy.
posted by Talanvor at 7:46 PM on October 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


N _ _ _
posted by Sys Rq at 7:48 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's always amusing to see batches of identical, professionally-printed signs.
posted by odinsdream at 7:49 PM on October 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Given how idiotic these identical, professionally-printed signs are, I wonder if they might be some sort of clever sabotage?
posted by miyabo at 7:51 PM on October 28, 2011


I was not too shocked when it came out recently that cops were planting drugs on people to meet quotas.

Guy I know recently got arrested for possession. He actually had quite a bit of drugs on him and he says the cops pocketed a bunch of it, enough to drop the charges from distribution to possession. He figured they would just use the drugs they took from him to plant on other people. He ended up with two years probation. This is a Puerto Rican guy. If I had gone to court for the same thing, as a white guy, I would have walked I bet.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:56 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I say fire the lot of them. People need the jobs if they don't want to do them.

Maybe next time they'll have the balls to tell the people giving them these orders "no."
posted by cjorgensen at 7:58 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not a lawyer, but it seems like a RICO investigation might be appropriate...

"Prosecutors said the bulk of the vanished tickets were arranged by officials of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union."

While the "I was following orders" defense does sound lame (and is), it does point to the larger need of aggressively prosecuting those that were higher up in the conspiracy (IE: giving the orders).

If only the grunts are prosecuted, I can fully understand frustration the army of order followers when they see those at the top of the corruption not going to jail.

posted by el io at 8:01 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The union says it isn't criminal it is merely "professional curtesy" to fix tickets for friends and family. Incredible. They don't even know the meaning of corruption. They may not be as sick as in the days of Serpico, but they are not alright.
posted by caddis at 8:02 PM on October 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


"The revolution has come..."
posted by symbioid at 8:02 PM on October 28, 2011


Also, I have to wonder, was there anyone involved the process of printing those "Just Following Orders" posters ever try to convince the designers against the wisdom of using this phrase?

Yeah, yeah, I know, the printer was only following orders.
posted by el io at 8:02 PM on October 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


el io: I'm not a lawyer, but it seems like a RICO investigation might be appropriate...

The article does mention that the prosecutors looked into trying to go after the Union itself but they didn't have enough evidence.
posted by Talanvor at 8:07 PM on October 28, 2011


Oooo those Just Following Orders signs sets the stage for some delicious irony.
posted by Theta States at 8:14 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, where are the good apples, again? That's a mighty putrid barrel.
posted by emjaybee at 8:14 PM on October 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


So! You want to know how a police state forms? The police are put into unassailable positions of power, and use that power to protect themselves from the responsibility of that power, at the detriment of their fellow citizens.

Now... when it comes to fair wages and benefits, and even handed treatment from their management, I'm all for unions.

I'm against police officers putting on a show of force to support corruption in the ranks. This isn't labor in action, this is the jackboots coming out to march on city hall's elected officials, to show that the cops run the town, not the people. We need to put that shit down cold.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:17 PM on October 28, 2011 [24 favorites]


I thought the comment about flashbangs was rather prescient, considering that police used them to disperse the Occupy Oakland protests. This is one thing that will never happen to a group of rowdy protesting police officers.
posted by miyabo at 8:27 PM on October 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


I wonder how Tony Bologna is doing these days.
posted by Artw at 8:31 PM on October 28, 2011


Slap*Happy: "We need to put that shit down cold."

When life give you a few bad apples, you juice 'em. Soylent blue.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:32 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder how Tony Bologna is doing these days.

They sent him to Staten Isand
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:34 PM on October 28, 2011


Sometimes unions do go bad, like any other organization/effort in which human beings play a part. And especially when they're so narrowly focused on looking out for their own shop's interests they don't see the harm to the other working stiffs (I'm guessing a lot of working folks haven't had the benefits of getting their tickets fixed). And--well, let's face it, with the various wars on drugs and every other vice we've launched over the last few decades, cops everywhere have gotten used to having more power. So all the police union busting and downsizing on the agenda in a lot of states is probably going to lead to some very ugly confrontations in the near future as state budgets continue to shrink. Not sure if those larger issues factor into this situation much though, honestly. This is just a shame. But I hope the OWS folks still keep their cool and don't let themselves get rope-a-doped into any unnecessary confrontations with police over this. Police corruption sucks, but it's not what got us in this fix.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:40 PM on October 28, 2011


Fail ist fail.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:40 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


emjaybee: So, where are the good apples, again? That's a mighty putrid barrel.

90% of NY cops give all the rest a bad name...
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:45 PM on October 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


The assembled police officers blocked cameras from filming their colleagues, in one instance grabbing lenses and shoving television camera operators backward.

The case, troubling to many New Yorkers because of its implication that the police officers believed they deserved special treatment...

Gee, what could have given them that impression?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:46 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


[Scene: An Atlanta police officer has put plastic flexi-cuffs on me in Troy Davis park and is walking me to the police transport bus.]

Me: "Are you enjoying your evening?"
Him: "I could be home with my family."
Me: "You're right, you could be home with your family. You chose to come here."
Him: "No I didn't. I was ordered to be here."
Me: "That's called the Nuremberg defense. It's what the Nazis said after World War II."
posted by andoatnp at 8:47 PM on October 28, 2011 [24 favorites]


anodoatnp, is that a direct quote?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:52 PM on October 28, 2011


andoatnp: curious - how did that interaction work out for you? did you get him to re-evaluate his role, or question who he was serving, or why?

I admit, I'm not sure I would have uttered words of enlightenment as I was being flexi-cuff'd, and I'd be open to suggestions at the best things to say under such circumstances, but I would put forth that your interaction only served your smugness.

(granted, I might have had some smug stuff to utter in similar conditions, but it really would only serve my smugness, and not 'justice').
posted by el io at 8:53 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sometimes unions do go bad, like any other organization/effort in which human beings play a part.

Police unions (and, I understand in the US, Prison Guard unions) have long, long been the exception to the rule. If police unions had ever showed solidarity with other unions for working people, the world would be a very different place.
posted by Jimbob at 8:55 PM on October 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Fuck the police.
posted by 445supermag at 8:56 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obviously we need watchmen to watch the ...

Oh. Wait a minute.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:57 PM on October 28, 2011


anodoatnp, is that a direct quote?
It might not be an exact quote, considering my hands were hand-cuffed behind my back at the time so I couldn't take notes, but it's almost exactly what was said, if not 100%.

andoatnp: curious - how did that interaction work out for you? did you get him to re-evaluate his role, or question who he was serving, or why?

That guy didn't say anything else to me as part of that conversation, but he didn't seem upset with me. I really doubt I've convinced him to stay home from any potential future arrests that might be happening at Occupy Atlanta. His buddy heard our conversation and said something to me that I didn't fully hear or understand.
posted by andoatnp at 9:01 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


New Yorkers need to pool their resources and create a humane alternative to the NYPD. At the very least, they need an advocacy organization that actively and boldly investigates police misconduct since the police and the local government is so shitty doing this.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:02 PM on October 28, 2011


Collars for dollars | collars for dollars | collars for dollars | collars for dollars.

Tarnished Justice: Cops Meet Their Quotas, Even When Crime is Down
posted by nickyskye at 9:04 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're a New Yorker, you could email the prosecuting D.A.'s office, thank him, and maybe ask to be notified when he's next campaigning so you can obtain and put out signs. Can anyone comment on the history and politics of people involved in making this happen?
posted by jeffburdges at 9:07 PM on October 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Me: "You're right, you could be home with your family. You chose to come here."
Him: "No I didn't. I was ordered to be here."


This is what happens when you don't have a strong social safety net. If he refused to carry out orders he'd likely be fired, and then where would his family be?

Fear and need have always been the most powerful tools of rulers. Military force is strong, but if you don't have something over your men you can't ensure that they'll do whatever distasteful thing you want them to do.
posted by JHarris at 9:08 PM on October 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I am more afraid of the NYPD than I am of the criminals here.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:16 PM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is what happens when you don't have a strong social safety net.

Noticed how the number of strikes has decreased over the last 50 years or so?

It has nothing to do with workers rejecting the ideology of the unions.

It has to do with people not being able to spare the money for union dues. It has to do with the fact that, nowdays, striking for a week and losing your wage might mean losing house.
posted by Jimbob at 9:24 PM on October 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm probably as big a defender of the NYPD and its members as anybody, and continue to think that a vocal and visible minority make the rest of them look bad (you could call the number of cops protesting here was, a bit perversely, "the 1%"), but this was a pretty disgusting display.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:26 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


For a quite anti-Metafilter take on this, and if you want to have your opinion of New York's Finest inch a little bit lower still, here's a thread on the protests at the NYPD Rant. The forum is worth a read for anyone who wants to get a peek at what goes on inside the minds of some of those "bad apples" on the police force.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:32 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


But what about that nice (and omg hot) Kate Becket and wise old Lennie Briscoe?
posted by maxwelton at 9:32 PM on October 28, 2011


This was a disgusting display by the collared criminals (and I will say that I'm amazed that anyone u is being prosecuted for this stuff, cops don't get busted in NYC). The display by the crowd, cheering them for being criminals is infinitely worse. Its the same problem that we have with police violence here. The officers who stand by and allow it to happen, the ones who protect their "brothers" from prosecution out of some misplaced blue wall bullshit solidarity, are as bad as the criminals, worse even. There are no good cops, as long as just one is turning a blind eye to what the others are doing.

People in positions of power need to be held to a higher standard than the rest of the population. Not given allowances, or let slide, but kept to rigid standards of ethics and behavior. The ones who keep the rules can't be allowed to flaunt them like that, it's disgusting, and a sign that society is broken.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 9:39 PM on October 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Back when I was younger, with more energy but less wisdom, I saw a police car nearly run down someone in a motorized wheelchair who was in a crosswalk during a yellow light. I was pretty pissed, and actually phoned the police station to complain. They said they would get back to me. I then considered escalating it by filing an official complaint, but a friend of mine, who is a lawyer, advised me against it. "They will know who you are," he said. "If you get stopped for speeding or something, you will be in a mess of trouble."
posted by KokuRyu at 9:44 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, yeah, I know, the printer was only following orders.

If I ran a printing company I would be more than happy to take their money and let them make asses of themselves.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 9:47 PM on October 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


For a quite anti-Metafilter take on this, and if you want to have your opinion of New York's Finest inch a little bit lower still, here's a thread on the protests at the NYPD Rant. The forum is worth a read for anyone who wants to get a peek at what goes on inside the minds of some of those "bad apples" on the police force.

I saw this:

This is the same dyck reporter, JAMES FORD who last year was soooo proud of himself when he found an Officer in Transit sleeping in a booth....

I thought that James Ford, the NYT author of the news piece linked to by the OP has an awful lot of guts to print this story.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:49 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I finally got around to watching The Wire this month. It's kind of depressing how closely the show matches reality, apparently.
posted by empath at 10:00 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - we don't do that "kill em all" stuff here. I hear metatalk is quite lively if you'd like to head there.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:02 PM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


As the investigation unfurled, the union played down its significance and consistently referred to ticket-fixing as “professional courtesy” inscribed in the police culture. Patrick J. Lynch, the union president, said in a news conference that the officers had been arrested on something “accepted at all ranks for decades.”


I don't even have words. They do a better job explaining why i'm so furious all by themselves.
posted by Lord_Pall at 10:12 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


NYPD officers fell along with other first responders during the WTC attacks on 9/11/01; since then the department has been consistently included with its firefighting and lifesaving counterparts as objects of unassailable honor and patriotic support. This was a terrible thing for the people of New York.

It's nice to see reality re-emerge and poke that fantasy, reminding us how dirty the NYPD (and let's face it, the police department of most any big city) is. Maybe this sort of action will help us rediscover the frequent abuses of power committed by a rank and file of ignorant bullies who wouldn't know courtesy, professionalism, or respect if it were emblazoned on their car door.

When police officers succour and abet criminals, they aren't the good guys anymore. From what they say in their own defense, they probably never were.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:48 PM on October 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


There was a story in the local newspaper, here in little old Hobart, Tasmania, a couple of months ago, when the paper suddenly discovered that OMFG the public can LISTEN INTO the police on SCANNERS! And some of these scanners are online and people can listen to them on an IPHONE APP! Ironic, since that's how newspapers get most of their stories...

They put a poll on their website - "Should listening to police radio be banned?" I was extremely proud to see that "No" got about 75% of the vote...
posted by Jimbob at 10:54 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is sick. I have a feeling that this sort of mentality is not limited to NYPD. I wonder who, in my city, is in charge of assigning the chief of police here. I get the feeling that a chief of police who is not home-grown from within the ranks might be willing to drive out this sort of corruption.
posted by brenton at 11:13 PM on October 28, 2011


For a quite anti-Metafilter take on this, and if you want to have your opinion of New York's Finest inch a little bit lower still, here's a thread on the protests at the NYPD Rant.

Good lord... it's all in comic sans... truly these are terrible terrible people.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 11:45 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I get the feeling that a chief of police who is not home-grown from within the ranks might be willing to drive out this sort of corruption.
But where could that guy even hope to work next?
posted by spacewrench at 11:47 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those are off-duty police officers? Seriously...

Off the donuts, and go for a run you fat bastards. It is part of your job to be able to keep up the physical exercise.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:22 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have that scanner app, well worth it SOMETIMES there is a lot of dead air though, because our local police have little lap-tops they can use to avoid discussing things, shall we say 'en claire'. I use it to know if I need to worry about sirens I hear nearby.
I usually know if a neighbor has been carted off to the hospital....
I followed an interesting chase, was able to watch out a window and listen.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:14 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I grew up in NYC and its a (was a?) tough town, so I would really really love to not believe the worst about the NYPD.

But man my teenage-years were defined by my white self being harassed by the cops and my brown friends being randomly abused, beaten up, arrested, you name it. I may not have looked it but I was a smart little kid, I knew that the cops weren't even bothering with formalities when preying on my friends: unprovoked searches, violent handcuffings even though it wasn't an actual arrest, and on and on. Why? It was written all over their faces - boredom, racism, sadism.

Fuck them.
posted by tempythethird at 4:06 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


'there are no good cops'

What about Adrian Schoolcraft?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:20 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I get the feeling that a chief of police who is not home-grown from within the ranks might be willing to drive out this sort of corruption.

I thought that the chief of police has said that this kind of ticket-fixing is bullshit, though, and that these officers are "Kidding themselves"? ...I know someone has gone on record as saying that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:44 AM on October 29, 2011


continue to think that a vocal and visible minority make the rest of them look bad (you could call the number of cops protesting here was, a bit perversely, "the 1%"),

1% my ass. "Minority," maybe, but the number of corrupt, abusive, and sociopathic cops has to be a lot higher than 1%. I've lived in NYC for 15 years, and grew up near NYC and spent a lot of my youth here. I can count the NYPD cops I've encountered who have even been *civil* in non-confrontational situations on one hand. I can count appalling episodes I have witnessed directly, but I'd need a calculator to keep track. Over and over. Targeting minorities on a whim. Abusing people just because they can. Acting above the law because they generally know that they are.
posted by spitbull at 6:17 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The cops in New York aren't all that well paid, especially compared to the outrageous salaries on Long Island.* And a lot of these guys don't seem to have taken money for this; they're just (I say this somewhat sarcastically) taking care of their friends. Which is ridiculous.

That said, I hate the way off-duty cops act like thugs. When one of their own is involved in a court case, they line the courthouse hallways and try to intimidate people. It's disgusting.It happens in the city and it happens here on Long Island.

Suffolk County: Q. WHAT IS THE STARTING SALARY?
A. Starting salary is $42,000.00* annually
After five (5) years of service, base salary is $108,608.00*
*As per the 2010 labor agreement
posted by etaoin at 6:20 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Members of the news media were prevented by court officers from walking down the hallway where more than 100 off-duty police officers had gathered outside the courtroom. The assembled police officers blocked cameras from filming their colleagues, in one instance grabbing lenses and shoving television camera operators backward.

Because, of course they have nothing to hide. Where's Tony Balogna when you need him? I bet he would have gassed the media.
posted by Gungho at 6:21 AM on October 29, 2011


I'm not from New York, but I've now lived here for a few years. I found it completely expected that police officers would have some sort of scam concerning parking tickets - expected but not acceptable. Ticket-fixing is against the rules. There are always rules that you expect to be bent. An obvious one: driving within 10mph of the speed limit. You don't expect to be pulled over going 70mph in a 65mph zone, but if it happened, you'd know that you were exceeding the speed limit and that the ticket was for that. And you'd bitch about it for a week or so, but you wouldn't expect your fellow drivers to get out protest signs and support you.

Police Stations, Fire Departments and Schools are strange in that their employees think that their job should grant them free and accessible parking at all times. They park on the sidewalks, in front of fire hydrants, across crosswalks, and just about anywhere they like. Every once in a while I'm tempted to take pictures of the cars and their license plates and post them. But I fear reprisal.

Something else I've found interesting as a non-native New Yorker is that few NYPD officers live within New York City. While there are residence requirements that NYPD employees live within NYC and adjacent counties (Suffolk, Westchester, Orange, Rockland, Nassau, Putnam, 5 Boroughs), a majority live outside of NYC. I was only able to find numbers for the Giuliani era when 40% lived outside the city.

As someone who grew up in a fairly small place, this always seemed odd to me. But I suspect that it is the rule rather than the exception for large cities.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:37 AM on October 29, 2011


I love the irony of them "taunt[ing] prosecutors and investigators, chanting “Down with the D.A.”"
posted by Midnight Rambler at 6:52 AM on October 29, 2011


5 Bitcoins to the first person that proves those are actual cops: I suspect it's a clever protest against the cops rather than an actual protest *by* cops.
posted by Teppy at 7:26 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


isnt impersonating cops illegal teppy
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:29 AM on October 29, 2011


So fake cops dressed up as union officials and gave a fake press conference supporting the actual cops who have been charged with crimes, but none of the actual non-corrupt police or union officials caught on?

Really?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:13 AM on October 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Sorry, don't take bitcoin.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:27 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most of us could be conditioned to do far more atrocious things than the accused have been in this instance. Directing outrage toward these police officers sounds exactly to me like Tea Partiers vilifying illegal immigrants. So long as a system strongly incentivizes abuse of power and has a large pool of humans to select from, human nature dictates that such behavior will be commonplace within that system.

A rigid view of morality is a deterrent to true comprehension. It digs trenches and builds walls.

Metafilter: Milk or lemon?
posted by perspicio at 9:50 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's why we're more upset with the protests in support of petty corruption than with the petty corruption itself.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:05 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


The more cops in jail the better.
posted by cmoj at 10:23 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The event is pretty monolithically seen as a protest in support of petty corruption by those who have a strong enough view to state express it here.

A rigid view of morality is a deterrent to true comprehension.
posted by perspicio at 10:36 AM on October 29, 2011


Maybe we just fucking hate corrupt cops and abusers of power?

Because what's not to hate, really?
posted by Artw at 10:38 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies." - St. Augustine
posted by perspicio at 10:57 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


A rigid view of morality is a deterrent to true comprehension.

This true comprehension you speak of, it concludes that abusive systems should be sustained? People with strong views about legality (not morality, legality) are abusing the power they have by commenting on a website? I'm honestly confused by what you're saying.

Systems rife with abuse should be fixed, right?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:58 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


You all remember Escape From New York? It was actually written so that New York was populated solely by police - but the producers figured the rest of the U.S. market wouldn't understand, so they made it a "prison island" instead. The good thing for them, they didn't have to re-write any of the script or re-shoot anything.
posted by Xoebe at 11:06 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The event is pretty monolithically seen as a protest in support of petty corruption by those who have a strong enough view to state express it here.

Is there another interpretation? Honest question. Given that the protesting police are explicitly in favor of "fixing" parking tickets and the like for other police and/or their friends and family, what are they supporting if not petty corruption?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:07 AM on October 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


It seems to me the height of naïveté to see this scandal as anything other than political theater intended to crack the whip and remind beat cops who's in charge. The troops don't like it, and some of them are pointing out that ticket-fixing is more-or-less officially sanctioned.
posted by jcrcarter at 11:41 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Potomac River beat me to mentioning Adrian Schoolcraft, whose story is instructive and relevant here. I had never heard of Schoolcraft until I happened to hear an old This American Life podcast, Right to Remain Silent, about him just the other day.

Schoolcraft was a "good apple" cop in Brooklyn who secretly taped conversations with his superiors and subordinates for over a year, and the TAL segment played some of the highlights. Crazy (but not surprising) shit that's definitely worth a listen.
posted by Rykey at 11:42 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there another interpretation?

Many of the officers don't see ticket fixing as petty corruption, so yes, there must be at least one other interpretation.

For a third, maybe it's seen as fundamentally unfair to target a small number of their fellows for something that eveybody does, a view that renders the protest as a statement of "two wrongs don't make a right."

Abuse of power is not objectively identifiable. It's always subject to interpretation. And no matter how convinced one is of one's own point of view, the truth value of certainty remains null.

My overarching point is that broad patterns of behavior can be more accurately understood to result from the environments that produce them than from the individuals in those environments. It makes no more sense to blame police officers for taking advantage of the perks that are culturally understood to be part of their profession (or protesting assaults on those perks) than it does to blame millions of south and central Americans from seeking a better life in the US. If it's important to get a different result, change the environment. Don't waste your energy hating those who are willing to make the best of what's within their reach.
posted by perspicio at 11:44 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are you saying by analogy sexual harassment in the workplace should be resolved by 'changing the environment' in ways that don't involve firing the harasser, perspicio? I'm pretty sure firing all the cops who've fixed tickets would 'change this environment' pretty quickly.

You cannot use heavy handed tactics like jail with real epidemiological matters like recreational drug use, but on-the-job behavior usually responds pretty quickly to "stop screwing shit up or else".
posted by jeffburdges at 11:50 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


So if we can't get angry at the officers who were actually indicted, and we can't get angry at the department's general support for their petty corruption*, where should we be looking? What is the culture that produced this sense of entitlement if not the NYPD as a whole?

*This isn't a matter of opinion; words have definitions. Corruption, in the legal sense, is the use of one's official position to give someone (whether it's the corrupt official him/herself or an associate) an advantage that they do not lawfully deserve. Officers who "fix" tickets are using their official position to allow certain people to break the law without being penalized. If they don't see it as corruption, they're wrong.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:04 PM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Many of the officers don't see ticket fixing as petty corruption

That is not a different interpretation, that is a description of how bad the problem with these guys is.
posted by Artw at 12:04 PM on October 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Are you saying by analogy sexual harassment in the workplace should be resolved by 'changing the environment' in ways that don't involve firing the harasser, perspicio?

You seem to be implying some sort of equivalency between the legal action being brought against some police officers by the NY State Supreme Court and the contempt of some commenters on this site toward those officers, their affiliates protesting on their behalf, and police officers in general.

It's possible to support the legal action without hating the police. And less corrosive.
posted by perspicio at 12:07 PM on October 29, 2011


So if we can't get angry at the officers who were actually indicted, and we can't get angry at the department's general support for their petty corruption*, where should we be looking?
posted by perspicio at 12:12 PM on October 29, 2011


Many of the officers don't see ticket fixing as petty corruption, so yes, there must be at least one other interpretation.

The officers aren't protesting against their colleagues being prosecuted for ticket fixing. They're protesting against them being prosecuted at all. The protestors are fully invested in the idea that Internal Affairs investigators are the ones doing wrong.

The article informs us that, though most of the counts were ticket-fixing misdemeanors, some were drug-related, some were grand larceny, some were for other kinds of corruption. One officer "was accused of two dozen crimes, including attempted robbery, attempted grand larceny, transporting what he thought was heroin for drug dealers and revealing the identity of a confidential informant."

I don't see these felonies as petty corruption, either.

On preview, I think you're confusing anger with hate, perspicio. Most of the comments here are angry and frustrated by the system that benefits these officers at the expense of every law-abiding citizen in the city (and whatever law-abiding officers remain on the force); the action that can be taken to fix the corrupt system is being protested (in ways that get civilian protesters arrested) by corrupt cops who don't want to give up graft and criminality.

And on second preview, you think we should be blaming TV? Fixing what we see on TV will end the corrupt practices of NYPD officers? Your Gandhian stuff was reasonable, if a little misguided. The latest squirm makes me wonder if I've been a big sucker all along. I hope we haven't just been wasting my time here.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:22 PM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


My overarching point is that broad patterns of behavior can be more accurately understood to result from the environments that produce them than from the individuals in those environments.

OK... so until "environments" can be investigated, tried, and punished for their role in illegal behavior, I guess we'll have to settle for going after individuals.
posted by Rykey at 12:26 PM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


So...what, the idea that there's anything here that needs solving is silly and provincial, so we should just accept that police are above the law because they say so?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:27 PM on October 29, 2011


perspicio, we're supposed to be looking at Calvin and Hobbes comic strips?

If you're implying television, it would be best to make a case for what the media's role is instead of leaving it to the wit of Bill Watterson
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:29 PM on October 29, 2011


I was not too shocked when it came out recently that cops were planting drugs on people to meet quotas.

A Detective on Trial – and a Department Too?
posted by homunculus at 12:31 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Umm, there was a whole protect saying "let us keep illegally harming citizens, that makes hyperbole like "the more cops in jail the better" not too much of an exaggeration. I'm happy rephrase this sans the hyperbole though :

All cops involved in criminal activity should be fired, prosecuted, and stripped of their pension.

As I said, there are issues like drugs that must be handled with kids gloved, but rampant police criminality can simply be handled by locking the bastards up.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:32 PM on October 29, 2011


drugs that must be handled with kids gloved

I generally don't let kids handle drugs even if they are wearing appropriate clothing.
posted by spitbull at 12:50 PM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


All cops involved in criminal activity should be fired, prosecuted, and stripped of their pension.

Banned from working as security guards or in other cop-like proffesions as well. I'm on the fence about "beaten out of town with sticks" though, because I am lenient.

Tony Bologna should have his eyes doused in pepper spray every day for the rest of his natural life though.
posted by Artw at 12:54 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


*This isn't a matter of opinion; words have definitions. Corruption, in the legal sense, is the use of one's official position to give someone (whether it's the corrupt official him/herself or an associate) an advantage that they do not lawfully deserve. Officers who "fix" tickets are using their official position to allow certain people to break the law without being penalized. If they don't see it as corruption, they're wrong.

By your own admission, legality is not the be-all and end-all of our understanding of the term. While I would agree that the ticket fixing fits the textbook definition of legal corruption, it's equally true that sometimes legality is the instrument of corruption. For example, Prohibition outlawed millenia of cultural heritage. In its day, viewing Prohibition as a corrupt legal enterprise was a valid point of view for an individual to have, even if he was a police officer. And within that view circumventing the law was morally permissible.

I'm not defending ticket fixing. I'm saying one man's crime may well be another man's culture. So, yes, whether or not it constitutes corruption is a matter of opinion.

---

The officers aren't protesting against their colleagues being prosecuted for ticket fixing. They're protesting against them being prosecuted at all. The protestors are fully invested in the idea that Internal Affairs investigators are the ones doing wrong.

The article informs us that, though most of the counts were ticket-fixing misdemeanors, some were drug-related, some were grand larceny, some were for other kinds of corruption. One officer "was accused of two dozen crimes, including attempted robbery, attempted grand larceny, transporting what he thought was heroin for drug dealers and revealing the identity of a confidential informant."


I think it's a giant stretch to assume that all (or even most) of the protesting officers were protesting all of the charges.

On preview, I think you're confusing anger with hate

No, I'm just failing to see how a fixation on either has led to a constructive conversation.

And on second preview, you think we should be blaming TV?

*Sigh*

Examine the parallel lines of questioning. Note the absurdity of Calvin's, and how it predicates upon a narrow assumption. Reflect.
posted by perspicio at 1:27 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


By your own admission, legality is not the be-all and end-all of our understanding of the term.

Show me where I said that. Because I'm pretty sure "legality is not the be-all and end-all " is the exact opposite of my opinion on how we should decide whether to prosecute somebody.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:30 PM on October 29, 2011


At this point I'm just going to have to admit that I am never going to understand why someone would willingly wish a corrupt police force upon themselves, I am never going to follow perspicios vague fuzz of arguments and I'm just going to ignore them from here on out.
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on October 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Corruption, in the legal sense" directly and unavoidably implies that there are other ways of understanding the term.

If you originally made the distinction for the purpose of providing your opinion on whether it should be the basis for prosecuting somebody, that was lost on me. It seemed like you were more interested in being outraged.
posted by perspicio at 1:52 PM on October 29, 2011


There are other ways to understand the term - as a catch-all for malfeasance, as a judgment on someone's moral character or even, if one online dictionary is credible, as a synonym for "pus". When you're arguing whether or not somebody's broken a law against corruption, you use the legal definition.

And now I'll stop feeding the troll.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:56 PM on October 29, 2011


I just flagged my own comment because it was just an angry reaction to your condescension, perspicio. After some reflection:

For someone so insistent on "constructive conversation," this:

*Sigh*

Examine the parallel lines of questioning. Note the absurdity of Calvin's, and how it predicates upon a narrow assumption. Reflect.


...is entirely counterproductive.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:58 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I retract my sigh.

I still find it more useful to understand the precepts and parameters that gave rise to the situation than to be mad at it.
posted by perspicio at 2:06 PM on October 29, 2011


Anger now gets people campaigning for the D.A. who prosecuted them during his next reelection campaign, emboldens internal affairs agents to help clean up the force, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:12 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still find it more useful to understand the precepts and parameters that gave rise to the situation than to be mad at it.

Many of us, living here in New York, long familiar with the precepts and parameters that gave rise to the current situation, upon seeing yet another closing of ranks around criminal NYPD officers, are more interested in cleaning up the force than we are in reexamining the history of abuse of authority and its roots in human nature. If nobody does anything, no matter what we may come to understand, nothing will get done.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 2:19 PM on October 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


My hope would be that the investigations and legal actions would ignite some fires that would burn out the entirety of the disease. My guess, though, is that it will fall far short of that, since the disease is no doubt entrenched within the justice department as well. Investigations, prosecutions, etc. may clear some ground, but they don't generally get the job done in a conclusive way.

To be honest, I can't even imagine a police force in a multiculturally territorial and densely populated city that applies the law to all citizens in an even-handed manner, including its own members. In truth, I'm not really sure such a goal is compatible with human nature. But yes, without people demanding a better system, it certainly gets worse, so I'm all for that. I just keep looking for better ways of making cultural changes in our institutions than burning the asses of the low level operatives for exhibiting the characteristics that are exactly what the system is selecting for. But maybe that's as good as it gets.
posted by perspicio at 3:05 PM on October 29, 2011


On another site where this was being discussed (and it is remarkable to me that comments threads, even in the Post(!) are running solidly against the cops) someone protested that ticket fixing was minor league corruption, the sort that has historically been overlooked.

Someone else responded with stunning brilliance:

"So it's like a broken window, then?"
posted by spitbull at 3:22 PM on October 29, 2011 [13 favorites]



One can argue that the law itself is incompatible with human nature. That's sort of the point.
posted by spitbull at 3:25 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You don't expect to be pulled over going 70mph in a 65mph zone, but if it happened, you'd know that you were exceeding the speed limit and that the ticket was for that.

It depends. In many jurisdictions there is no speeding violation unless you're going at least 6 miles over the limit.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:16 PM on October 29, 2011


Directing outrage toward these police officers sounds exactly to me like Tea Partiers vilifying illegal immigrants.

The problem with this analogy is that police officers are entrusted by the public with a degree of power in order that they enforce the law. Due to this trust they are in a particularly vulnerable position in regards to corruption and must be held to a high standard in order that the public trust not be violated- they have power but are not supposed to be above the law nor abuse their power or the public they serve. Immigrants who come to the US to work without documentation are not in a position of power by any defition and are at the proverbial bottom of the rung.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:27 PM on October 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Damn right. If illegal immigrants could legally detain, shoot, or fine legal citizens at will, then the analogy would make sense.
posted by spitbull at 4:31 PM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Many of the officers don't see ticket fixing as petty corruption, so yes, there must be at least one other interpretation.

Systemic corruption. It does require that the law be enforced, including prosecuting those who violate it, cleaning house, going as far up in the ranks as need be.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:31 PM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


not in a position of power by any defition and are at the proverbial bottom of the rung.

Whoops ... should be "not in a position of power by any definition and are at the proverbial bottom rung."

OCD ...
posted by krinklyfig at 4:33 PM on October 29, 2011


I still find it more useful to understand the precepts and parameters that gave rise to the situation than to be mad at it

Anger is a natural reaction to a violation of the public trust. Anger is the fuel which ignites the public's interest in change. From this initial catalyst of anger the public may become motivated to put pressure on officials who are entrusted to investigate the "precepts and parameters that gave rise to the situation" - in other words the criminal justice system as a whole and the political structure responsible for it.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:41 PM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, how about those cops back off on the anger, then? The corruption makes me sad (and frightened, as a citizen of NYC). Seeing those thugs trying to intimidate fellow law enforcement officers (which is what the prosecutors are) makes me angry.
posted by spitbull at 4:52 PM on October 29, 2011


(In other words, defending the bad cops here is attacking the good ones in Internal Affairs and the prosecutor's office; don't they deserve more consideration than the ones who manifestly broke the law?)
posted by spitbull at 4:54 PM on October 29, 2011


If illegal immigrants could legally detain, shoot, or fine legal citizens at will, then the analogy would make sense.

Actually, that's completely beside the point. Of course the analogy only extends so far, but the point was simply that, all else being equal, the more common a behavioral pattern is, the more consistent it is with human nature, so the less sense it makes to believe it can be changed by targeting individuals who have done it. (They will just be replaced. Zero sum.) It makes better sense to change the incentives that select for the behavior in the first place.

How egregious the behavior is to those who are not inclined to engage in it is completely irrelevant.

That is not to say that "I couldn't help it, it's my nature!" is an excuse. And certainly, a credible threat of undesirable consequences for an action can be a powerful disincentive, up to a point. But the disincentive has to be weighed against the potential gains, and calibrated appropriately. Otherwise, you might just end up selecting for a higher degree of criminality. (It's a lot harder to keep drug runners from crossing the border illegally than, say, would-be migrant farmers, because the incentives are stronger for them to take the risk. Similar logic applies to more criminally-minded individuals seeking jobs with law enforcement.)
posted by perspicio at 4:57 PM on October 29, 2011


police officers are entrusted by the public with a degree of power in order that they enforce the law. Due to this trust they are in a particularly vulnerable position in regards to corruption and must be held to a high standard in order that the public trust not be violated- they have power but are not supposed to be above the law nor abuse their power or the public they serve.

I agree, of course. The problem is, how do you enforce the "must be held to a high standard" and "are not supposed to be above the law nor abuse their power or the public they serve" parts? With law enforcement officers that have greater authority? And so on up the chain? Then what do you do when the highest office in the land becomes corrupt?
posted by perspicio at 5:02 PM on October 29, 2011


And so on up the chain? Then what do you do when the highest office in the land becomes corrupt?

I see your point but there is a direct chain of command when it comes to metro police officers. It doesn't extend all the way to the POTUS, nor is it as complicated as you make it sound. There is not the political will to do something like clean out systemic corruption in the ranks to the chief at this moment. However, given enough evidence and resultant public anger that could change.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:06 PM on October 29, 2011


Hmm, I didn't mean to make it sound complicated...I actually thought I oversimplified it.

To a very large degree, corruption is endemic and practically ineradicable in the system under discussion and others like it because deals are made to allow shadow markets to operate, and this is true because of the prohibitive costs, both economic and social, that would result from trying to shut them down. Law enforcement institutions are, in effect, forced to break the law to preserve the peace. And from that breach, a whole cascading series of littler compromises issues forth.
posted by perspicio at 5:26 PM on October 29, 2011


You are being disingenuous, perspicio. We're dealing with on-the-job sexual harassment fairly well because that crime exists in the professional realm. A priori, anything sexual sounds vastly more innate than the crimes committed by cops discussed here, which more parallel extortion I suppose.

There is a really simply solution here : investigate every credible accusation of illegal behavior by police seriously. In he said she said cases, you fire the cop, but let the matter drop otherwise. Anytime you find a prosecutable offense, you prosecute the cop to the fullest extend of the law, and terminate his pension. That's exactly what "held to a higher standard" means.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:31 PM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


To a very large degree, corruption is endemic and practically ineradicable in the system under discussion and others like it because deals are made to allow shadow markets to operate

I see where you're going with this, but there is a distinct difference between a lack of resources or prosecutorial zeal to enforce certain laws and the criminal justice system being a part of the criminal black market. There is indeed a problem of laws related to the Drug War engendering corruption within law enforcement similar to problems with enforcement of alcohol prohibition, but here we're talking about ticket fixing being defended by the union, which is viewed by them not as corruption but part of their everyday job duties.

This is almost certainly a very old problem which predates the Drug War but still not one which should be tolerated. It makes sense in a way that the union would see such activities as normal and the sweep as something of a witch hunt, because this is likely how things have worked with a wink and nod for a long time. The investigation of this problem revealed a much broader and systemic corruption, however. In such sweeps there may be reason to accept plea bargains in exchange for evidence leading to prosecutions up the rank, although so far there is not enough evidence to bring RICO into it. Even so, given the right kind of public pressure due to the evidence revealed from low level sweeps within the ranks may lead to much broader reforms. But IMO it has to start where the rubber meets the road in order to swell into enough pressure to bring about change - in other words where the public interest is most visibly affected on the street level - and it begins with prosecuting those who are breaking the law in the name of enforcing it, and going up the chain.

From what I understand the tacit acceptance of low level corruption in an organization tends to cause entrenchment and leads to systemic issues, rather than the laws themselves being where the problem starts. However, laws related to prosecuting societal health problems such as those related to the Drug War can't help.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:06 PM on October 29, 2011


In he said she said cases, you fire the cop, but let the matter drop otherwise.

And getting a cop fired becomes a kind of sport, or perhaps the benchmark for landing an entry-level position with a local criminal enterprise.

Beware of simple solutions.
posted by perspicio at 6:12 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


When enforcing the law is a sport, why shouldn't impugning the enforcers be likewise?

If cops don't respect the law, why do they deserve any respect?

And once more, your defense of police corruption impugns honest law enforcement personnel, in this case IAB and prosecutors.

Perspicio you are trying to have it both ways. What are you, a cop?
posted by spitbull at 6:23 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beware of simple solutions.

Yeah, I don't think that would work either. Although I do believe strongly in civilian oversight with teeth, something which is lacking in many jurisdictions and is almost always resisted by police unions. And there should be a culture of high standards within the unions rather than a standard of self-preservation and antagonism towards the public, the so-called Thin Blue Line. When it comes to labor issues the union has to represent their members, but so often the lines get blurred when it comes to issues in the interest of the public they serve, such as sweeping investigations of systemic corruption within the ranks- in reaction they circle the wagons and view the public opinion and DA/prosecutors with contempt and derision. The correct response (particularly from a PR perspective but also from a purely ethical standpoint) is to apologize to the public for the behavior, and sincere and transparent efforts to help solve the problem from within and prevent it from occurring in the future, as well as cooperating fully with all relevant investigations.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:44 PM on October 29, 2011


krinklyfig, I think we're on the same page for the most part, and I hope you're right that the investigations can lead to some meaningful reforms. I just think the problem is rooted deeper than the investigations are going to cut, because in this country (as in most others) urban law enforcement culture is deeply invested in studiously ignoring the schism that it straddles. And that makes for a nice, cozy incubator in which corruption may flourish.

But, hey, if the investigations succeed in draining the pus and making things better on the surface for a while, that's better than nothing I suppose.
posted by perspicio at 7:18 PM on October 29, 2011


There aren't too many false sexual harassment charges, perspicio, but any wrongfully pursued ones are chocked up to acceptable losses. Ain't no shortage of employers who'll fire your ass over credible sexual harassment charges.

We'll could eliminate police corruption far faster and more effectively than workplace sexual harassment because the underlying crimes aren't nearly so biologically linked. We're probably talking about a less than one percent cull of even the worst police forces, including as many officers as you can nail of course.

I've maybe decoded perspicio's 'vague fuzz' into real terms, Artw, specifically : You cannot change behavior without consistent corrections. I'll grant all the 'cop haters' glossed over that point. Fair enough, you must keep sending criminal cops to jail, indefinitely. Great!

There is no reason that all cops should not wear tamper resistant video and audio recording devices at all times when on duty, with the exception of undercover work. All the recordings should be managed by civil servants outside the force. Any failure to submit recording being punishable by immediate dismissal. Any time charges are filed the defendant's attorney should immediately gains access to all relevant footage.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:22 AM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


As I said above, it's more than 1 percent.

This is easy enough to verify, since according to these knucklehead protesters, "everyone does it."
posted by spitbull at 4:45 AM on October 30, 2011


I never claimed the problem was small, spitbull, only that you'd correct the problem after some small noticeable fragment had been adequately punished.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:05 AM on October 30, 2011


We obviously want to punish all cops who've broken the law, but you'll never find the evidence for most historical offenses.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:14 AM on October 30, 2011


Oh, sorry jeffburdges. I agree with that. If you make the penalty for getting caught severe enough, then that should discourage larger numbers of potentially corrupt cops from taking the risk. Pretty much exactly the way the criminal justice system is supposed to operate, and very much the mindset of NYPD since the days of "broken window theory" bullshit.

The problem is not just corruption, it is the expectation of impunity that underlies corruption.
posted by spitbull at 7:17 AM on October 30, 2011


studiously ignoring the schism that it straddles.

Working-class tough guys hired to defend ruling class interests, you mean?
posted by spitbull at 7:18 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exactly. When the cops feel that they are above the law because of their position, can violate at least the lesser crimes aspect with impunity, and carry that benefit to their family and friends, how can corruption be fought? Corruption is so insidious and so destructive that only a very rigorous adherence to high ethical standards will suffice. Judges, for instance, must avoid even the appearance of impropriety. The same standard should apply to the police but I have no idea of how we get there.
posted by caddis at 8:15 AM on October 30, 2011


To elaborate (with a real keyboard), with enhanced authority comes enhanced ethical responsibility. Judges, as the ultimate arbiters, have tremendous authority, and without trust and confidence in their impartiality the system falls apart. The same applies to juries. The rules and methodologies applied to judges and juries to achieve impartiality are imperfect yet they work well enough and are among the best, if not the best, in any area of government. In the criminal system both prosecutors and police are also vested with incredible authority. The stakes are a little lower than for judges, as the judges are always there to correct the injustices of the cops and prosecutors. Nevertheless, partiality practiced by cops and prosecutors frays the system. Even if ticket fixing did not lead to broader corruption it frays at the credibility of the system. However, it does lead to deeper corruption; it is merely an early step down the slippery slope to broader corruption. If fixing a ticket is OK, how about a DUI for a friend, a small pot bust for a nephew or friend's kid? Do you look the other way in the face of say cigarette smuggling or even gun smuggling when someone helps your brother get his small business established etc. The lack of a cash quid pro quo does not excuse this. Confidence in the police is low, far below acceptable, especially among minorities. A cop's job is hard, very hard, and they need to have each other's backs, and they need the department to have their backs, but this cannot become an excuse to lower ethical standards. To do their jobs properly cops require discretion in stopping, arresting etc. Almost all situations are somewhat ambiguous. With that discretion comes great ethical responsibility and currently, those ethics are severely lacking.
posted by caddis at 8:44 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, here's what I think is the most charitable reading of the police protestors, and I think it's also at least partially accurate.

I think that cops in the NYPD are tired of being treated like cogs in a system that doesn't understand or care what their professional lives are like. I think they're tired of Compstat, bullshit ticket and arrest and stop and frisk quotas, departmental politics, seeing people get promoted who don't know the first thing about how to supervise them. They feel unappreciated, disposable, and completely at the mercy of a behemoth, abstracted institutional culture that has squeezed a distinctly human job, full of exhausting emotional encounters, into an algorithm that supposedly dictates how to be a good cop. So when the system cracks down on them for what are, generally, relatively minor advantages they try to take, it leads to an outpouring of frustration. It's not about defending corruption, it's more of a "NOW what?" feeling of betrayal. The walls are closing in that much more.

They protests are a terrible PR move and they're not doing themselves any favors with how they're portraying themselves here, but the fact is that we have an exceedingly disgruntled police force, for some pretty legitimate reasons. That is not in anybody's interest, and though these particular prosecutions do look meritorious, low departmental morale is a problem that starts with the organizational decisions made at the top, and it needs to be remedied there.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:54 AM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think that cops in the NYPD are tired of being treated like cogs in a system that doesn't understand or care what their professional lives are like. I think they're tired of Compstat, bullshit ticket and arrest and stop and frisk quotas, departmental politics, seeing people get promoted who don't know the first thing about how to supervise them. They feel unappreciated, disposable, and completely at the mercy of a behemoth, abstracted institutional culture that has squeezed a distinctly human job, full of exhausting emotional encounters, into an algorithm that supposedly dictates how to be a good cop.

All quite true.

If you are to crack down on ethics you had also better crack down on the BS that is ethically suspect itself. It can't be all take. To succeed you have to give as much, if not more, as you take.
posted by caddis at 12:59 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exceptthat their defense includes the argument that this "minor" corruption has been going on forever ("since the Egyptians" as Bloombrg is being quotedon their signs) and there has never been a time when NYPD was not rife with corruption, really.

So when did this terrible decline in morale take effect?
posted by spitbull at 3:05 PM on October 30, 2011


Also, they are paid better now than ever before.
posted by spitbull at 3:06 PM on October 30, 2011


Btw, I think you meant the first thread to Godwin itself before the first original source, miyabo, many articles Godwin themselves, but beating all the journalist takes effort. Yeah, you'll never see the police union getting the Scott Olsen treatment.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:57 AM on November 1, 2011


How about a recall campaign of PBA President Patrick Lynch?
posted by jeffburdges at 1:28 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks jeffburdges, that is such a well crafted piece I wouldn't want anyone to miss it:
PBA Boss Patrick Lynch's Defense of Ticket-Fixing 'Culture' Hurts the NYPD -- So How About a Grassroots Recall Effort?

November 03, 2011

By Heather Mac Donald

The police union is damaging critical bonds of trust between New Yorkers and the cops who risk their lives to serve them

Of all the blows dealt to the reputation of the NYPD over recent weeks, the worst is self-inflicted. Last Friday, as the Bronx district attorney indicted 11 police officers for fixing tickets on behalf of other officers’ friends and family, hundreds of police union delegates and trustees noisily rallied at the Bronx courthouse in support of the defendants, in a stunning display of contempt for the law. Some of the protesters jeered the district attorney; a few others tried to interfere with cameramen; many held up signs declaring — incredibly — that fixing tickets was part of “NYPD culture.”

There are several possible explanations for such behavior. Each is more disturbing than the last.

Perhaps Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association officials actually believe that they will gain public support for the police by justifying lawbreaking. If so, their disconnect from reality is shocking. An officer’s ability to perform his job, which can entail the use of lethal force, depends on the public’s confidence that he is acting impartially. Throw such impartiality into question and an officer’s moral authority crumbles.

Or perhaps NYPD cops are so hunkered down that they don’t care what the public thinks about them. Cop culture contains a strong bunker mentality, much of it understandable. The media and the political elites have made cops the scapegoats for America’s continuing racial problems, blaming the police, not criminals, for racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Unlike those elites, cops regularly confront the dysfunctions of underclass culture, yet are expected not to be affected by or speak about that sometimes sickening reality. They interact as often with individuals who despise them as with the many law-abiding members of poor communities who support them.

Solidarity under such circumstances is essential to keeping sane on the job. But this solidarity quickly shades into an “us against them” attitude — the “them” encompassing nearly all police supervisors as well as the public — that verges on outright paranoia. Here, it seems to have morphed into a dangerous sense of entitlement to manipulate the law — and to boast about it.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has argued that the other recent alleged incidents of corruption — such as the eight current and former officers who smuggled contraband into the city and allegations that an officer planted drugs on innocent suspects — represent isolated instances of misdoing. However deplorable, a handful of such misdeeds are almost unavoidable in an organization as large as the NYPD. The dozen or so cases of additional corruption not revolving around ticket-fixing represent a mere 0.03% of the force.

This would be a good argument but for the fact that the PBA is proudly justifying ticket-fixing. If its officials are so ethically challenged as to not see a problem here, why should anyone have confidence that this allegedly ingrained “cultural” favoritism toward friends and family doesn’t also extend to friends and family arrested for drug dealing or assault? (Indeed, one of the five officers indicted last Friday for crimes other than ticket-fixing had intervened on behalf of a friend who had committed assault.)

The PBA thinks that the fact that the ticket-fixers did not exact bribes mitigates their wrongdoing. To the contrary, petty greed is less troubling than a nonpecuniary sense of being above the law.

The best-case scenario is that the PBA’s rally on behalf of fellow lawbreakers represents a union mentality alone, one not shared by the rank and file. Unfortunately, comments about the ticket-fixing indictments on the unofficial website for NYPD cops, Thee Rant (formerly known as NYPD Rant), do not support that hypothesis. Commenters extended “kudos” to the PBA protesters and urged them to “fight for what’s right.”

To be sure, website discourse is a highly unscientific gauge of group opinion. The Web’s ticket-fixing defenders may themselves be union reps. It must also be said that the web ranters are unsparing in their condemnation of the more serious instances of corruption, calling, for example, for indicted Officer Jose Ramos, who allegedly protected a drug dealer and extorted another one, to “die in jail.”

Kelly has implemented an electronic system for processing traffic summons that will make it much more difficult to fix tickets. But the real damage to the city from this scandal is not a loss in revenue. The real damage is to public confidence in the NYPD. How about a grassroots recall campaign of PBA President Patrick Lynch — who called for the Bronx protest — to reassure the public that not all cops believe that the police are above the law?

posted by caddis at 3:48 AM on November 18, 2011


I found that link buried in the Zuccotti Park eviction thread by furiousxgeorge, thought it fit better here. There is a related salon article that discusses the various police abuse over the last few days, but ignores the pro-ticket-fixing police union protest.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:51 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older Just in time for Friday Flash Fun: VanAssteroids. ...  |  Metalachi: The World's First A... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments