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NYPD Tapes Confirmed
March 9, 2012 6:42 AM   Subscribe

The NYPD Tapes Confirmed The report police hid for nearly two years that corroborates a Voice investigation — and vindicates a whistle-blower the NYPD tried to destroy.

Covered in 2010 by This American Life as Is That a Tape Recorder in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Unhappy to See Me? For 17 months, New York police officer Adrian Schoolcraft recorded himself and his fellow officers on the job, including their supervisors ordering them to do all sorts of things that police aren't supposed to do.
posted by The Deej (84 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
God, just once I would like to hear a story of endemic honesty and fair-handedness from a US police department.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:57 AM on March 9, 2012 [30 favorites]


Very sad. There was a man on a bicycle drive-by-assaulting women in Astoria (114th Precinct) during the summer of 2011, and victims had a hard time getting anyone at the precinct to take their reports until Councilman Peter Vallone stepped in.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:04 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here you go.
posted by Gator at 7:04 AM on March 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


The part about index crimes is completely unsurprising to me. It's one of the standard failure modes for that sort of non-oversight "oversight, and non-monitoring "monitoring". It's the reason why "merit pay" for teachers will always be a bad idea and why No Child Left Behind was a crushing failure.

Once you tie a person's or agency's job review, pay, or anything else important to a simple, easy to track, metric that entity will have a strong incentive to game the metric.

Real oversight is difficult and involves spending money and resources, the sort of index crime BS the NYPD was looking at is cheap and quite possibly designed for easy gaming specifically so the NYPD can look more effective than it is.

I also wish I could say that the endemic corruption and revenge culture reported here was particularly surprising to me, but if you read the news then the fact that police departments in general tend to be corrupt and seek horrible vengeance on any cop who breaks the code of silence isn't surprising either.

I'm not sure if it's possible to actually reform the police as they exist, or if the only real solution will be to fire all current police from the lowliest beat cop up to the highest ranks and start from scratch with a completely new system filled with completely new people.
posted by sotonohito at 7:06 AM on March 9, 2012 [36 favorites]


And remember that this is the most heavily militarized police force in the United States.
posted by Trurl at 7:12 AM on March 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure if it's possible to actually reform the police as they exist, or if the only real solution will be to fire all current police from the lowliest beat cop up to the highest ranks and start from scratch with a completely new system filled with completely new people.

As long as Americans love 'tough on crime' politicians and as long as Americans only have the attention span to judge 'tough on crime' by a stupid statistic, it's not gonna be the police system/people, it's gonna be the citizenry.
posted by spicynuts at 7:15 AM on March 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'd never bought into Giuliani's ridiculous broken windows theory, but I'd believed his claim that making police chiefs report crime statistics reduced crime by improving the management of police. 

Instead, it appears that most police chiefs happily manipulate said statistics, even when that means turning the cops into criminal thugs who harass people on the street. 

Is there no one who will rid us of these clueless myopic MBAs?
posted by jeffburdges at 7:17 AM on March 9, 2012 [29 favorites]


It's worth mentioning that a lot of high-ups in New Jersey are openly pissed about the fact that the NYPD has been conducting extensive surveillance and operations outside of its home jurisdiction for some time now.
posted by schmod at 7:17 AM on March 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Thanks for posting this--that This American Life episode was riveting, and remains one of my favorites.

As guilty as Mauriello is, I do agree that he is being scapegoated to a certain extent. It's mentioned and sort of vaguely implied that Bloomberg has a great deal to do with this entire fiasco and cover-up (shades of The Wire), but the article focuses mostly on Mauriello and CompStat. Hopefully, they'll pull the curtain back in a follow-up.
posted by sundaydriver at 7:20 AM on March 9, 2012


even when that means turning the cops into criminal thugs who harass people on the street.

Every argument regarding stop and frisk is always contemptuously rebuffed by my NYPD Sergeant friend with "you're not the one that has to go visit his co-worker in the hospital when some piece of shit pulls a piece and shoots him in the head".
posted by spicynuts at 7:26 AM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


God, just once I would like to hear a story of endemic honesty and fair-handedness from a US police department.

Maybe if the TSA took over local policing? Or maybe government stooges are government stooges and citizens need to keep a close and skeptical eye on them because they are never, ever to be trusted?

To image any agency of government as capable of being run in a fair and uncorrupt manner is to engage in the sort of Panglossian optimism that envisages government run health care as a good idea. It doesn't square with reality.

It's worth mentioning that a lot of high-ups in New Jersey are openly pissed about the fact that the NYPD

By pissed you mean embarrassed. Gov. Chris Christie has to fake outrage lest the voters in New Jersey begin asking him why the NYPD was doing his job for him - and why he has been doing nothing.
posted by three blind mice at 7:30 AM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Every argument regarding stop and frisk is always contemptuously rebuffed by my NYPD Sergeant friend with "you're not the one that has to go visit his co-worker in the hospital when some piece of shit pulls a piece and shoots him in the head".

We don't let victims or the family of victims sit on the juries of their attackers trial or sentencing. They can't be objective about it. You're friend's perspective on effective policing is compromised for the same reason. I don't want cops or anyone else to get shot but being in the line of fire compromises his objectivity.
posted by VTX at 7:38 AM on March 9, 2012 [21 favorites]


I don't want cops or anyone else to get shot

Meanwhile, cops don't want cops to get shot. And therein lies the problem.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:39 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


"you're not the one that has to go visit his co-worker in the hospital when some piece of shit pulls a piece and shoots him in the head".

And he's not the one that has to go visit a friend in the hospital when some piece of shit cop cracks their head open because they looked "threatening".
posted by Thorzdad at 7:40 AM on March 9, 2012 [55 favorites]


To image any agency of government as capable of being run in a fair and uncorrupt manner is to engage in the sort of Panglossian optimism that envisages government run health care as a good idea. It doesn't square with reality.

This is nearly totally inaccurate, infact, to paraphrase a great man: the great achievement of our government is that, compared to nearly every other government in history it operates in such a way that nearly every agency of government runs in a way that is nearly fair and nearly uncorrupt nearly all of the time.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 7:41 AM on March 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Guys... YOU'RE PREACHING TO THE CHOIR. And he's not here to argue with. So, yeah I get it.
posted by spicynuts at 7:45 AM on March 9, 2012


"you're not the one that has to go visit his co-worker in the hospital when some piece of shit pulls a piece and shoots him in the head"

"A policeman's job is only easy in a police state." - Orson Welles' screenplay for Touch of Evil
posted by Trurl at 7:48 AM on March 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


Once you tie a person's or agency's job review, pay, or anything else important to a simple, easy to track, metric that entity will have a strong incentive to game the metric.

Exactly. And, furthermore, the people who don't game the metric are therefore at a competitive disadvantage, and will sooner or later be replaced by people who do.
posted by steambadger at 7:51 AM on March 9, 2012 [17 favorites]


Huh, I wandered over to the ultra-conservative Jon Burge apologists over at Second City Cop expecting to see some excuse for the coverup, but instead they're railing at CompStat too. Though I wonder if that's more to do with Chicago politicking and the fact that Rahm hired the guy who oversaw CompStat. (Which, goddamnit Rahm.)
posted by kmz at 7:57 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure if it's possible to actually reform the police as they exist, or if the only real solution will be to fire all current police from the lowliest beat cop up to the highest ranks and start from scratch with a completely new system filled with completely new people.

Police aren't angels, but they respond to incentives. In this case, a policy that seems reasonable ("collect crime statistics to measure progress") has created perverse incentives to manipulate statistics. Fix the incentive structure and the problem with iron itself out. </optimism>

But this article makes it clear that the people who have the power to change this are responding to their own fucked up incentives to cover their asses and get re-elected by suppressing the problem. So will it ever get fixed in NY? Nope. </cynicism>
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:04 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Every cop, from desk sergeant to the chief, who was involved in the covering up of this report and the persecution of Schoolcraft should be fired and charged with obstruction of justice.
posted by rtha at 8:08 AM on March 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


I wonder what would happen if we made cops carry malpractice insurance and made that insurance pay out in lawsuits against cities.
posted by Talez at 8:11 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


This whole thing reminds me of the undercover video of people trying to get forms for complaining about police behavior. Getting less and less surprised at the corruption that is rampant.
posted by usagizero at 8:14 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Wire was basically a documentary.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:19 AM on March 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


This is worse than any video of somebody getting their head bashed in by a cop could possibly be. And they have the audacity to refer to this as an anomaly.
posted by phaedon at 8:21 AM on March 9, 2012


Serpico Lives.
posted by marienbad at 8:22 AM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Law Enforcement management are generally a bunch of idiots. Completely not surprised by any of this. Most of the issues people have with law enforcement are the results of management not paying front-line officers enough, not training them enough and not listening to what they have to say. Often the police making the most arrests and doing the best job by the book are targeted by management.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:31 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: "... the sort of Panglossian optimism that envisages government run health care as a good idea."
And yet, you live in Sweden.
posted by brokkr at 8:37 AM on March 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


Law Enforcement management are generally a bunch of idiots. Completely not surprised by any of this. Most of the issues people have with law enforcement are the results of management not paying front-line officers enough,

Ironmouth, you lost me right there. I don't care how little I'm paid, I won't resort to racial profiling, false arrests, torturing suspects, refusal to address crimes, refusal to defend the citizens from corrupt fellow officers, and other grievances that are, in fact, "most of the issues people have with law enforcement."

It has to do with moral fiber. I have it. Too many of the people attracted to law enforcement don't.

Surprise! - the license to carry weapons and play the good guy while acting largely above the law has an appeal to both insecure and vicious people (in addition to some geniunely decent, service-oriented individuals).
posted by IAmBroom at 8:41 AM on March 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


a policy that seems reasonable ("collect crime statistics to measure progress") has created perverse incentives to manipulate statistics.

Part of my role at my job is monitoring our various performance metrics. I've been in several interesting discussions about various aspects of them, in which I am always taking the position that the role of the metrics is simply to provide a means of monitoring and identifying trends in our services, and that using them to establish goals and performance targets and indicators of progress is something to be done with great caution, because a lot of things outside our control can influence them. You have to make sure you are selecting the right metric or metrics to watch, and always put them in the appropriate context. It's sometimes amazing to me that people can't see the problems with the indicators they select for monitoring.

Case in point - recently, a colleague of mine did a very thorough analysis of the number and nature of client complaints we had received over the past three years. Several interesting trends were noted, and we could see the effects of some policy and procedural changes from various times on those stats. Very interesting, and very worthwhile to continue to monitor. However, my colleague was all keen on establishing a goal with regards to them of "reducing the overall number of complaints" and seemed somewhat mystified when I pointed out that what we wanted to create incentives for was ensuring appropriate responses to complaints, not reducing the overall number of complaints...because all that would do was encourage people not to report and document them, leading to us being unaware of what might be changing in not just the quantity, but the nature of the complaints.

In short, I think for the vast majority of us, it becomes very easy to get captured by the ease of tracking a monitoring a certain set of statistics and metrics , without recognizing that those statistics represent a whole series of deeper stories and clues about what is really going on. They aren't the end; they are the beginning of an understanding. If not used properly, they create a whole series of illusions about situations, and I've seen many people (myself included) get caught by that.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:41 AM on March 9, 2012 [33 favorites]


One rule I've always lived by: There is a very fine line between the cops and the crooks.

Oh, I'm sure there are many honest police officers and I appreciate their service but I try to minimize contact as much as possible.
posted by incandissonance at 8:44 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


To image any agency of government as capable of being run in a fair and uncorrupt manner is to engage in the sort of Panglossian optimism that envisages government run health care as a good idea. It doesn't square with reality.

So are you proposing privatizing security forces? That we should hire Blackwater to manage domestic security? I don't see that ending well.


You have to make sure you are selecting the right metric or metrics to watch, and always put them in the appropriate context. It's sometimes amazing to me that people can't see the problems with the indicators they select for monitoring.

This is exactly right.
posted by ambrosia at 8:44 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]



So are you proposing privatizing security forces? That we should hire Blackwater to manage domestic security? I don't see that ending well.


Well, it JUST SO HAPPENS we have here for sale the NEWLY, NEWLY UPGRADED Enforcement Droid ED-409...
posted by mikelieman at 8:49 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


To image any agency of government as capable of being run in a fair and uncorrupt manner is to engage in the sort of Panglossian optimism that envisages government run health care as a good idea. It doesn't square with reality.

Aren't you the guy who regularly crows about having decamped to Sweden? Did you not describe the (largely government-funded) Swedish heath care system as "the envy of the free-market French"?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:53 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]




Surprise! - the license to carry weapons and play the good guy while acting largely above the law has an appeal to both insecure and vicious people (in addition to some geniunely decent, service-oriented individuals).

Would the police be better if they were a more representative sample of the population, i.e. they were drafted?
posted by modernserf at 8:54 AM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is heading into derail territory, but I think we just have to look at the iniquities of Blackwater/Xe/Academi to see that a private security force is, if anything, less accountable than a government one.
posted by Drexen at 8:58 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


To image any agency of government as capable of being run in a fair and uncorrupt manner is to engage in the sort of Panglossian optimism that envisages government run health care as a good idea. It doesn't square with reality.

To image [sic] any human enterprise as immune to corrupting influences (especially private sector ones) is to engage in... yada yada yada. The problem, often, is private interests corrupting government. What's really needed is a refutation of the failed notions that the private sector and public sector should always be on friendly terms and working as partners. We need some parts of the public sector to act aggressively as checks on public interest.

If you think it's possible to make police corruption go away by "shrinking" government, you're more delusional than Pangloss. Even the purely private-interest controlled forms of government that have existed over the ages had police forces. The only difference being those police forces operated without even the slightest expectation of answerability to the public they served--because they didn't serve the public. Only their wealthy employers.

This is just the usual variety of lazy, shallow anti-government rhetoric. Every damn thing that happens shouldn't be viewed an opportunity to score a cheap political point. Sheesh.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:59 AM on March 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


"... the sort of Panglossian optimism that envisages government run health care as a good idea."

Other than medical professionals basically treating punctuality as something that applies to other people, such that a routine (but not emergency) appointment with a doctor is a good time to bring a nice novel, my lifetime experience with socialized medicine have produced a few "wtf?!" incidents that seemed more like normal human incompetence, but our cops in Montreal are actively nasty and unpleasant to deal with. Indeed the only medical horror story in my family is my grandmother who went through those McGill brainwashing experiments on account of post-natal depression and that seems to have the intruding finger of the CIA stuck into it.
posted by Phalene at 9:00 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


"...to act aggressively as checks on private interest." duh.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:00 AM on March 9, 2012




The medical care my mother received in Germany from its "government-run healthcare" when she was dying of liver cancer was exemplary--vastly superior to any care I've seen given in the US. And it was all free. But this is an incredibly stupid derail.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:01 AM on March 9, 2012


To image any agency of government as capable of being run in a fair and uncorrupt manner is to engage in the sort of Panglossian optimism that envisages government run health care as a good idea. It doesn't square with reality.

With the notable exception of every first-world industrialized democracy that has tried it.

Now that you have successfully derailed the discussion and made it entirely about yourself, pray tell: who would you rather have running local police forces? Should we take it out of the hands of the government and outside the purview of democracy, thus adding another entry to the list of agencies that the GOP has destroyed by privatizing?
posted by Mayor West at 9:04 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


One good apple improves the whole barrel.

I've wanted to say that in a police thread for a while, glad I finally got the chance.

Also:

I don't care how little I'm paid, I won't resort to racial profiling, false arrests, torturing suspects, refusal to address crimes, refusal to defend the citizens from corrupt fellow officers, and other grievances that are, in fact, "most of the issues people have with law enforcement."

It has to do with moral fiber. I have it. Too many of the people attracted to law enforcement don't.


That actually supports the point, I think; if you don't pay very well, you only attract employees that get a disproportionate amount of value from other aspects of the job. Pay a little, and you'll get candidates that are attracted to the power and the firearms and so on; pay a lot, and those same people show up as candidates, but they're competing with other folks who are in it for the money, not for the power trip.
posted by davejay at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm attracted more and more to the idea of mandatory self-surveillance for police officers. Audio/video/GPS monitoring that must be activated by the officer while interacting with anyone who is not police, so they can have privacy the rest of the time but everything is recorded when it counts. Obviously with the exception of undercover operations that would be compromised by those monitoring devices, but unmonitored operations could be authorized by a judge.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:11 AM on March 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Pay a little, and you'll get candidates that are attracted to the power and the firearms and so on; pay a lot, and those same people show up as candidates, but they're competing with other folks who are in it for the money, not for the power trip.

Or, folks who are into for both the power and money.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:16 AM on March 9, 2012


I'm attracted more and more to the idea of mandatory self-surveillance for police officers.

I think this could be really hard to implement, and not without enormous opposition. What about people who want to turn in drug dealers or otherwise anonymously tip-off law enforcement?

I'd rather see some sort of randomly generated user survey, where if you walk through the door of a police station, someone will follow up later, as a customer satisfaction thing. Because that is what the general public is, after all. Customers.
posted by ambrosia at 9:19 AM on March 9, 2012


I think this could be really hard to implement, and not without enormous opposition.

I dunno, the link I posted upthread seems to indicate that some localities are able and willing to do it.
posted by Gator at 9:21 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


What about people who want to turn in drug dealers or otherwise anonymously tip-off law enforcement?

I suppose people could explicitly waive the right to have that particular interaction monitored. Many jurisdictions already have an anonymous phone (or email or even sms!) tip system, and I'd imagine the majority of anonymous tips are collected that way rather than face to face, but I agree that there needs to be some system in place for tip offs made in person.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:34 AM on March 9, 2012



I'm attracted more and more to the idea of mandatory self-surveillance for police officers. Audio/video/GPS monitoring that must be activated by the officer while interacting with anyone who is not police, so they can have privacy the rest of the time but everything is recorded when it counts. Obviously with the exception of undercover operations that would be compromised by those monitoring devices, but unmonitored operations could be authorized by a judge.


Okay, so presumably a member of the police who wanted to get away with something would then turn the recorder off. It'd be up to any witnesses to film them.

How is that any different from the way things are right now, other than the taxpayers haven't shelled out the millions of dollars for the monitoring system?
posted by dubold at 9:39 AM on March 9, 2012


Police could (snicker) be disciplined or (guffaw) prosecuted if it came to light that they were conducting official business with the recording equipment switched off?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:51 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know? Just spitballing, ideas don't spring forth fully formed and perfect. Police self-surveillance isn't worth wholly dismissing because some dude on the internet hasn't got it all figured out. It would never be a magic bullet to end corruption, but I think it's an interesting tool to look at adding to the box, and at the very least would help establish an atmosphere of taking police corruption seriously.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:02 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


My problem with it is that some departments, right now, do have mandatory self-surveillance through equipment in police cars, if not on the officers themselves, and it's amazing how often the footage gets lost or the equipment was malfunctioning when there's a controversial action that has to be reviewed.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:05 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Folks, as per usual, you are welcome to take issues about moderation or "MeFi doesn't do X well" discussions to MetaTalk which is the proper place for them. Please treat each other like adults and tone down the rage and aggression please. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:13 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


three blind mice: "By pissed you mean embarrassed. Gov. Chris Christie has to fake outrage lest the voters in New Jersey begin asking him why the NYPD was doing his job for him - and why he has been doing nothing."

I'm assuming that you don't know how separation of powers and police jurisdiction works in the US.

What the NYPD did is a very, very big no-no. Not only is it illegal for the NYPD to operate outside of NYC (or NY State for that matter), but the investigations that they were conducting were also illegal (and likely damaging or counterproductive) themselves.

NJ has the right and sovereignty to decide that deliberately spying on and intimidating its own Muslim citizens constitutes a major invasion of privacy and a terrible counterterrorism strategy. They could be overruled by the feds, but the NYPD has absolutely no power to determine how anything in New Jersey runs. Even if they were acting as private citizens, what they did would have been extremely illegal. (Coincidentally, there's another very-high-profile illegal surveillance and bias intimidation trial going on in New Jersey right now.)

If there's even a hint of truth to the allegations, anybody who knew about and approved these operations should lose their job and go to prison.

Federal authorities exist to deal with issues that cross state lines, and it's even more damning that they used "National Security" as the rationale to conduct these operations, but failed to inform the FBI.
posted by schmod at 10:15 AM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure if it's possible to actually reform the police as they exist, or if the only real solution will be to fire all current police from the lowliest beat cop up to the highest ranks and start from scratch with a completely new system filled with completely new people.

I realize this will make me unpopular on Metafilter, but:

There are cops who really are honest and really do work to protect people without abusing their power.
There are teachers who really do try hard at their jobs, really do teach and nurture kids, and who don't sleep with them.
There are soldiers (even American soldiers) who don't torture people or murder innocents.

You don't read about them, because they're boring.

Yes, this stuff in this article is horrible, and we need better oversight. But the blanket "everybody's corrupt" bullshit is no less ridiculous than claiming everything is fine.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:19 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also: Adrian Schoolcraft is a big damn hero.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:26 AM on March 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


You don't read about them, because they're boring.

I recall reading about a guy named Adrian Schoolcraft.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 10:26 AM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Two things:

I have had some excellent experiences with police in the past year, cops who took the time to go above and beyond what their jobs entailed in order to try to reach a kid that was struggling. One of these was a Chicago cop.

For a few days I read the Second City Cop blog and came away in absolute horror. I'd like to believe that the racism and misanthropy that is spewed by the anonymous posters are at least partially cop wanna-be's, not actual members of any police force. It is truly a compendium of vileness.
posted by readery at 10:30 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Per the Voice: "Officers were told to arrest people who were doing little more than standing on the street, but they were also encouraged to disregard actual victims of serious crimes who wanted to file reports."

Any officer who got orders like that and whom we are not hearing about as a whistleblower is not honest and is not working to protect people.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:32 AM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


We have the technology for videotaping every activity of all police officers when on-duty but not under cover, all live streamed into archives controlled by officials in other states to prevent tampering. There are already cameras in U.K. beat cops helmets, American cop cars, etc., but these evil fuckers make damn sure their riot gear has no recording equipment.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:41 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had my tv and computer stolen from my house, the NYPD thugs that showed up just wrote them off as half the price I told them it cost, then told me it wouldn't be investigated because the items stolen didn't add up in value to what was considered a felony.
posted by DbanksDog27 at 10:46 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are cops who really are honest and really do work to protect people without abusing their power.

But because of the thin blue line, these same good cops aren't doing anything to stop their peers. And this goes beyond someone being a bad teacher who's almost impossible to fire. These are people who's job it is to uphold the law, but allow their fellow police officers to break the law on a daily basis. It goes beyond turning a blind eye. Ignoring and covering up for bad cops goes against everything the police should stand for.

Personally, I've only had positive interactions with police officers. My house was burgled and they were there promptly and acted in a professional manner. Then G20 happened here in Toronto and I lost all respect for them; not only for what happened (mass arrests, kettling, inhumane detention centres) but for the cover-ups both pre-meditated (many officers removed their nametags that day) and during the ensuring investigations (officers claiming to not recognize their partners in photo evidence of police brutality, etc.)
posted by thecjm at 11:01 AM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Any officer who got orders like that and whom we are not hearing about as a whistleblower is not honest and is not working to protect people.

Yeah, I guess. But the fact is that, if you hire thousands of cops, a few of them are going to be terminally corrupt psychopaths, a few of them are going to be incorruptible, and most of them are going to fall somewhere in between. If you state the problem that way -- there aren't enough heroic cops who are willing to risk their jobs to defy the system -- then the problem is insoluble.

A system that needs hundreds of Serpicos is broken, and is almost certainly driving out the heroes and pushing the middling officers toward the Dark Side. It's the system that needs to be fixed.

Or we could nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
posted by steambadger at 11:01 AM on March 9, 2012


It's worth mentioning that a lot of high-ups in New Jersey are openly pissed about the fact that the NYPD
By pissed you mean embarrassed. Gov. Chris Christie has to fake outrage lest the voters in New Jersey begin asking him why the NYPD was doing his job for him - and why he has been doing nothing.
I'm sorry, are you saying that it's the job of the governor of New Jersey to spy on Muslims because they're Muslim?
posted by Flunkie at 11:07 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


To image any agency of government as capable of being run in a fair and uncorrupt manner is to engage in the sort of Panglossian optimism that envisages government run health care as a good idea. It doesn't square with reality.

I work for a government agency that is indeed run in a fair and uncorrupt manner. I know my boss, his boss, and his boss's boss (who runs the agency) and they take the spirit of the responsibilities of the agency (as opposed to merely how they might look) very seriously. It's not deluded optimism; it's reality.
posted by Jpfed at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


A system that needs hundreds of Serpicos is broken, and is almost certainly driving out the heroes and pushing the middling officers toward the Dark Side. It's the system that needs to be fixed.

Oh, I'm not arguing with that, either. But if the system pushes out the heroes and corrupts the ones who weren't already bad, it leaves you with very few good people and a whole lot who either started out bad or were corrupted - none of whom are people who should be deciding who lives and who dies.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


This guy was watching the watchmen.

We already knew we couldn't trust them, hell, probably couldn't trust most of them. But now more people will know that. Maybe in a couple of years, someone will actually come up with some kind of workable solution the people can force into effect.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:40 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm attracted more and more to the idea of mandatory self-surveillance for police officers. Audio/video/GPS monitoring that must be activated by the officer while interacting with anyone who is not police, so they can have privacy the rest of the time but everything is recorded when it counts. Obviously with the exception of undercover operations that would be compromised by those monitoring devices, but unmonitored operations could be authorized by a judge.

A thousand times YES.
posted by eviltwin at 12:01 PM on March 9, 2012


scaryblackdeath:
I realize this will make me unpopular on Metafilter, but:

Please don't do this.

steambadger: Yeah, I guess. But the fact is that, if you hire thousands of cops, a few of them are going to be terminally corrupt psychopaths[...]

Replace "cops" with "priests" and "terminally corrupt psychopaths" with "pedophiles" to reveal how little this excuses. This is not a random sampling of the population we're talking about here but one we select. We should be selecting better people than this, and unselecting those assholes who sneak through.
posted by JHarris at 12:59 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Audio/video/GPS monitoring that must be activated by the officer while interacting with anyone who is not police, so they can have privacy the rest of the time but everything is recorded when it counts.

I'll do that one better. We amend the law so that they don't have Police Powers UNLESS they're under surveillance. Turn the camera off, and you're now personally liable for any claims against you.
posted by mikelieman at 1:05 PM on March 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


mikelieman, that's an elegant solution to the problem of accountability vs. respecting the officer's privacy in the times between official police actions, I like it. It becomes something like the reading of Miranda rights - best make it an ingrained part of your routine if you want those charges to stick.

Also, the monitoring should be activated by touching the badge, like Starfleet comms. Obviously.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:18 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


How is that any different from the way things are right now, other than the taxpayers haven't shelled out the millions of dollars for the monitoring system?

Well, for one thing, in a lot of places you can actually get arrested for filming or recording the police. And the touch about requiring a warrant not to be under surveillance unless you want to be personally liable for your actions (basically, you're off duty if nobody's watching) makes the idea a lot more powerful. If we can afford billions on rapiscanners to protect the public, I'm sure we could afford some portable surveillance devices (since they're a lot cheaper) for the same purpose.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:46 PM on March 9, 2012


The central monitoring station pinging the device at regular intervals, receiving a brief diagnostic code as a response, could mitigate the problem of falsely claiming technical difficulties as an excuse for why a situation wasn't monitored.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:09 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or, folks who are into for both the power and money.

Well, yeah; the point is to widen the potential pool of applicants beyond "people who don't mind the low pay because they want the power trip." It's hard to find "people who don't mind the low pay and don't mind how difficult and dangerous the job is and don't mind hanging out with people who enjoy power trips because they care about people", because those people typically become firemen or paramedics or teachers or volunteer at homeless shelters and whatnot.
posted by davejay at 2:16 PM on March 9, 2012


I've lived in New York City for a quarter century and I have to say that it really changed my feeling about cops, and not for the better.

I know for a fact that they are on the take; I have literally seen money (or conceivably, drugs, but a clandestine package) be transfered from people to cops; I have seen the cops consequently tell whopping lies right to my face.

When we were in Germany last year, our first encounter with the police went as follows. We saw a little boy who was obviously upset. He went right up to two police officers for help, and the older one bent down and put his hand on his shoulder to talk to him - you could feel the fatherly vibrations from across the street, the kid instantly calmed down. It was so sweet, we nearly cried.

I assure you, few kids in New York City would act that way - there might be some sheltered communities I don't know about, but for most kids, if a cop ever put his hand on their shoulder they'd cry out in fear.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:32 PM on March 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Alright, I'm genuinely curious now about how people do this. So how complicated of a task would it be for a man in good shape, with a college degree, and some graduate training to become a police officer? Obviously gaining acceptance to and navigating the police academy, but what happens after that.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:37 PM on March 9, 2012


Replace "cops" with "priests" and "terminally corrupt psychopaths" with "pedophiles" to reveal how little this excuses.

Yeah, I don't think I made myself clear, here. I don't think the terminally corrupt psychopaths are the problem; there aren't that many of them and, in a system that isn't corrupt, they can be weeded out. The problem is the system itself; it rewards the corrupt, eliminates the honest, and drives the great mass in the middle toward corruption. We can't solve the problem just by hiring better people; there aren't thirty-thousand morally pristine paladins out there just waiting to become New York City police officers. We need a system that rewards the good people, roots out the bad, and reinforces the best instincts of the rest.

Or we need to reevaluate the whole way we do things like this. But that's a different conversation altogether.
posted by steambadger at 2:40 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Lying and slacking do not protecting make.
posted by onesidys at 9:16 PM on March 9, 2012


Adrian Schoolcraft is a hero, but I hate it that he's pretty much fucked over and ruined his entire life by outing these assholes. I wish some kind of damn reparations or something would happen for him.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:51 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The issue of monitoring of police is interesting. In our town, the uniformed police officers wear body mics and there are cameras on the cruisers. I expect that their location is monitored in real-time because there are GPS antennae on the vehicles. One evening, while hanging out at the firehouse and shooting the breeze with one of the officers we know, he remarked how often he and his peers "forget" to charge the recorders to which the microphones are connected, and they know quite precisely where the fields-of-view of their cameras are. I haven't heard about any alleged instances of abusive police practices by these guys, but it's harder than it may sound to design a scheme for monitoring police-citizen interactions that's completely effective.
posted by wintermind at 4:57 AM on March 10, 2012


It's worth mentioning that a lot of high-ups in New Jersey are openly pissed about the fact that the NYPD has been conducting extensive surveillance and operations outside of its home jurisdiction for some time now.

Holder tells Congress he’s disturbed by reports of NYPD spying on Muslims in New Jersey

New files show more Muslim NYPD targets: Those watched had been here for generations
posted by homunculus at 9:35 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This goes to show that not all cops are crooked
posted by jseon at 10:07 PM on March 10, 2012


Alright, I'm genuinely curious now about how people do this. So how complicated of a task would it be for a man in good shape, with a college degree, and some graduate training to become a police officer? Obviously gaining acceptance to and navigating the police academy, but what happens after that.

I know someone in exactly this situation (in fact, he left a graduate degree half-way through) although it was for LAPD not NYPD. Frankly, in terms of scandals, corruption, and militarization, LAPD and NYPD are very much at par.

In any case, so Guy who did this ended up passing the police academy fairly easily and then he got his first assignment (jail--Guy was not a fan) and worked nights, weekends, and holidays for about six months.

He then rotated to a new assignment (low crime area) with same nights and weekends and holidays. The assignments are in blocks (work so many hours a day--12 or 14 or some high number--and so many days a week--between 3 and 4--and have the rest of the week off barring emergencies like the Lakers winning the Finals). After six months, rotation to a new assignment (this one's a little rougher) and so on.

Any time there's an arrest made, it's entirely possible that Guy will be filling out paperwork until his next shift starts. On the other hand, he gets paid extremely well. I think the salary started at $65,000 (details escape me right now, but well above the American median).

A bit more of this and then I understand Guy will earn a permanent assigned location and start looking toward a promotion to get him off the street patrols. He's already been involved in serious shootouts, the ones that are shown on TV news, and is certainly fairly experienced at this point.

I know Guy well (have known him for over a decade) and have definitely seen changes in his morals and character as a result of his time in LAPD.

I don't really have constructive things to say about NYPD and CompStat (why I was even surprised that they were gaming the numbers, I do not know); I will note that I have not always had the best relationship with cops (they tend to frequently threaten to arrest me for issues they do not typically threaten to arrest others) but even I admit that there are some cops who are not bad apples.

The US has an aggressively paramilitary approach to its police force right now and I think it would serve everyone, including cops, better if the US looked to Europe (minus the UK, obvs) on this. Then again I think the US should do that on just about everything, most definitely including healthcare.
posted by librarylis at 11:04 PM on March 10, 2012


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