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"Suicide by Cop" Not a Crime?
June 17, 2002 9:08 AM   Subscribe

"Suicide by Cop" Not a Crime?
"A gunman unleashed a furious swirl of violence on an East Village street early yesterday, shooting three people and holding patrons of a crowded wine bar hostage" - New York Times

"I wouldn't characterize this as a crime" - Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

No? OK, Chief, what is it then?
posted by nobody_knose (21 comments total)

 
I thought the question was specifically related to whether or not the incident was a "bias crime". It seems better classified as an act of lunacy. What's really weird is that I live right by there, and heard nothing about the incident until now.
posted by xammerboy at 9:12 AM on June 17, 2002


I can kinda understand where the commish is coming from on this. I wouldn't necessarily agree with his wording but as xammer said it seems more of an act of lunacy than a crime for profit etc.

Again bad quote but I say stupid things all the time too. I just don't get quoted in the press when I say them.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:30 AM on June 17, 2002


xammrboy: you're probably correct, but it's odd that the article separates the “not a crime” quote from the bias crime mention with a discussion of other crimes in the area, the decline of crime overall and three paragraphs.

While I'm not a fan of hate laws (a crime is a crime is a crime), it seems illogical to say the charge shouldn't apply when the perpetrator is quoted as saying that he wanted to see "white people die" and "It's time for all of you crackers to pay - you know what this is about”.
posted by nobody_knose at 9:38 AM on June 17, 2002


The line preceeding the quote in the original post is "And he said yesterday's shootings should not be considered typical street crime."

When Kelly says that he doesn't consider it "a crime," I interpret it to mean that he doesn't consider it a "typical street crime." I think the reporter should have clarified the quote a bit. It definitely muddles the meaning of Kelly's statement, and makes for lousy journalism. I sincerely doubt that Kelly's inferring that it's not a bias crime.
posted by cowboy_sally at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2002


Shit, that's one of my favorite bars — I'm in there all the time. Remarkable bravery from the women who jumped him! I'm amazed even a ESU cop could find a shot during a fight in that little bar... and I hope no-one was exposed to this dirtbag's infected blood.

nobody_knose and xammerboy, you're misreading the article. Kelly says plainly "It will be categorized as a bias crime," and then when asked if this is part of an increase in street crime answers quite reasonably that it isn't a crime in that sense.

Remember, NYPD tracks street crime statistics closely, and these days three shootings in the 9th Precinct would be a lot. He's reassuring the commander of the 9th that he understands that there's nothing he could have done to prevent some nut from Brooklyn coming downtown to kill white people.

Similarly, after 9/11 the 1st Precinct opened a whole lot of homicide folders — but its commander isn't answerable for them at Compstat meetings.
posted by nicwolff at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2002


it's a hate crime....plain and simple
posted by mkelley at 10:13 AM on June 17, 2002


Regardless of the semantics of the commissioner's words, it is a terrible mistake to dismiss crimes committed by the mentally ill as isolated, random events. Good public policy and a social service network may have prevented this, and for a city to wipe its hands clean is a disgrace.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:39 AM on June 17, 2002


it's a hate crime....plain and simple
Only if you believe in the validity of hate crimes. It was a crime for sure in my opinion, the rest is just frosting.
posted by thirteen at 10:43 AM on June 17, 2002


PrinceValium, are the police responsible for general public policy and the network of social services? Whether this crime could have been prevented and whether it could have been prevented by the police are two different questions. Do you hold the police responsible for writing the city budget as well? Planting flowers in the parks?

See nicwolf's comment above to gain a little clarity.
posted by lackutrol at 11:09 AM on June 17, 2002


PrinceValium, are the police responsible for general public policy and the network of social services? Whether this crime could have been prevented and whether it could have been prevented by the police are two different questions. Do you hold the police responsible for writing the city budget as well? Planting flowers in the parks?

See nicwolf's comment above to gain a little clarity.
posted by lackutrol at 11:10 AM on June 17, 2002


Lackutrol - By no means do I suggest that the police should be responsible for rewriting public policy. But these contextual differences of what is and isn't a street or bias crime are not police classifications. They are political. As agents of the city, the police should have not made these generalizations, or, the city should have found another city representative (mayor's office, DA, etc) to make these statements.
posted by PrinceValium at 11:25 AM on June 17, 2002


lackutrol: Agreed - the police should not be held accountable for social welfare work. I think where the police CAN make a contribution, however, is ensuring that law-abiding citizens can go about their lives unmolested.

Recent history in NYC and other cities once written of as "un-policeable" demonstrates very clearly that when you focus on maintaining order and stopping petty crime, the big crimes are much less likely to happen. And contrary to what some folks will tell you, the folks who benefit most from the focus on quality of life crimes are the poor and minorities.
posted by nobody_knose at 11:30 AM on June 17, 2002


nobody_knows: I'm not at all sure what your point is, but the Commissioner's point is that the overall success of "broken windows" policing notwithstanding, the local police cannot ensure "that law-abiding citizens can go about their lives unmolested" since they can't prevent some drug-, disease-, and grief-addled nitwit jumping on the L train and coming into the Village on safari.

In fact, since the principle behind broken-windows policing is that criminals are less likely to commit crimes in areas where the law is clearly being enforced, and this guy wanted a confrontation with the cops, this crime was actually made more likely by the NYPD's visible presence in the East Village. If that wasn't such a nice neighborhood now, this dickhead would have stayed in Williamsburg.

Aw shit: what's going to happen to this punk's 10-year-old kid?
posted by nicwolff at 1:52 PM on June 17, 2002


nic: keeping the streets free of drunks, drug addicts and crazies fits in very well with the broken windows theory of police enforcement.

and the idea that this clown was motivated to do this because of grief is the worst kind of patronizing enabling.
posted by nobody_knose at 2:14 PM on June 17, 2002


I think we're all sort of dancing around the fact that we mostly agree (I said mostly, not entirely)--as far as possible, criminals should be kept off the streets, though some kinds of criminals, namely the insane, may be more difficult to predict than others and perhaps should not be tracked in the same way.

Also, that, however wrong or right someone's motivation for a crime, public policy should of course consider how best to deal with the mentally ill.

Right?
posted by lackutrol at 2:38 PM on June 17, 2002


Right.

Look, nobody_knose, I don't think Street Crime should ever have been disbanded! And I wish to hell the 6th would start doing aggressive enforcement in Washington Square again (remember when they used to have RMPs circling the paths after curfew?) because the dealers over by the chess tables and on 4th Street are getting pretty annoying, and they're between my house and the KFC on which I subsist...

But we're supposedly discussing Commissioner Kelly's comments here, and he's right, this wasn't the kind of crime for which NYPD holds precinct commanders responsible. Compstat, more certainly than "broken windows" policing, is the reason for New York's lowered street crime rates, and it depends on making each precinct commander account for any failure to reduce street crime on any block in his precinct.

And this crime was exceptional, and it wouldn't be useful to categorize it as a street crime.

and the idea that this clown was motivated to do this because of grief is the worst kind of patronizing enabling.

Patronizing? I wish ESU had gotten a better head shot and saved us the cost of hospitalizing, trying, and incarcerating this cretin. That doesn't mean I can't accept that the drugs (I'm just assuming that he's an IV drug user) and the disease alone might not have led him to this extreme. And, again, it's irrelevant in this thread.
posted by nicwolff at 3:43 PM on June 17, 2002


lakutrol: Right. Thank you for pointing this out.

nic: Looking back, I see that I'm guilty of straying off topic and sloppy posting. Sorry.

Although I didn't make it clear, I brought up the "broken windows" issue in response to PrinceValium's suggestion that "public policy and a social service network may have prevented this." my point was that strong policing was much more effective "public policy" than any social welfare program the city could design.
posted by nobody_knose at 6:25 PM on June 17, 2002


But isn't this guy pretty good evidence to the contrary? His last arrest in NY was in '95, for illegal possession of a firearm — of course, he wasn't sent to jail, but even if he had been he'd be out. He's never had a felony rap. He was out in Brooklyn, stewing in his own juices, and then on Saturday night he came downtown and started shooting.

What kind of "strong policing" would have stopped this? Short of a Department of Precrime, the only way to even maybe forestall this would have been to give this guy some fucking help dealing with his child and, what the hell, with his (assumed) habit and his disease. At least someone might in the process have noticed that he was a dangerous looney and called the cops, or Dangerous Looney Services, or someone.

All of which may have happened! I'm just saying that so far as this thread goes, the police couldn't even get at the guy until two tough East Village chicks jumped him, so let's not be so quick to promote the police as a complete solution.
posted by nicwolff at 7:32 PM on June 17, 2002


I don't think most people go from zero to nutcase that easily.

Just as you suspect some intervention might have helped, I strongly suspect that he likely has been involved in one or two things that would have locked him up had there been strong and consistent policing across all 5 boros. That's the whole principle behind broken windows.

I think your belief that someone in NYC government would have “noticed” his insanity is very naïve.
- Assuming someone did notice and care, what kind of treatment do you propose should have occurred?

- How would he be compelled to participate? As it stands now, there's a court order blocking the police from forcing drug-addled homeless off the streets, so I don’t see what could have been done about this guy.

- And what about those guys in Times Square who preach week after week about the coming black revolution and calling for the enslavement, rape and killing of “white devils” – stuff that’s really not that far off from what Johnson is reported to have said. They are there, week after week, in one of the most heavily trafficked locations in the world. Are they suitable cases for treatment too? Should someone in the system “notice” them? And when they do, what should be done? Talk about Dept of Precrime.
posted by nobody_knose at 8:44 PM on June 17, 2002


Well, we're into hypotheticals and speculation now, and off-topic besides. And we're arguing minutiae, since we agree that see street-crime enforcement should be stepped up. Yay, strong policing.

I don't think most people go from zero to nutcase that easily.

OK, but no-one's at zero. Figure that (on a good day) a few thousand people in this city are just shy of nutcase — all I'm saying is that I consider it pragmatic to spend some of our tax money on social services if that'll help keep a couple of them from flipping out.

If you believe all social spending is wasted — that it has no positive effect — or if you believe that there's no ill effect of increased street-crime enforcement no matter how aggressive it gets, then the economic analysis is reduced to the degenerate case and, sure, let's just get as many miscreants into jail as possible. But that's not a sophisticated or realistic argument.

Anyway, it'd bedtime... I'll see you in the next NY class warfare thread!
posted by nicwolff at 10:16 PM on June 17, 2002


nic: Mostly agreed...and not to have the last word or anything, but it looks like my speculation has been at least partially confirmed.
posted by nobody_knose at 8:35 AM on June 18, 2002


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