NY Times on police powers

Excellent editorial in the New York Times: Police Powers in New York

Attorney General Eric Holder is rightly reviewing the constitutionally suspect surveillance practices that the New York City Police Department has employed against law-abiding Muslims. The Justice Department should also review other practices — chief among them, stop-and-frisk — that have virtually eliminated the presumption of innocence and that treat citizens, and even entire communities, as suspect even after they are proved innocent.

What the New York Times editors get is that it isn’t just one practice that got some press that’s the problem, but rather a whole series of practices by the police.

The Police Department’s tendency toward blanket surveillance is on vivid display in its stop-and-frisk program, which results in the stopping of more than 600,000 mainly minority citizens on the streets every year. The department credits the program with reducing crime, but there is no proof that it does. […] In addition to criminalizing the victims of these stops, the program has undermined respect for law enforcement in the very communities where it is most needed. […]

Like stop-and-frisk, the city’s marijuana arrest initiative has also raised profound civil rights concerns. […] The department tacitly admitted wrongdoing last year, in a memo telling officers to arrest people only if the drug was in plain public view. But it could take years before the rank and file embrace the change. […]

The dangers associated with the program were underscored last month in the Bronx when an overzealous drug detail pursued an unarmed teenager into his home and shot him to death. A packet of marijuana was found at the scene.

Since 9/11, courts have broadened the Police Department’s investigative authority in the vital interest of protecting the city from terrorist attack. The department should not interpret that as a license to run roughshod over the Constitution.

This is important. 9/11 greatly hampered our ability as reformers to make the case that enforcement as a means of drug policy is damaging both to individual rights and to society as a whole. People were so consumed by the fear (whipped up by those who sought to exploit it) that they blindly acceded to any enforcement outrage as if that would give them safety.

It’s good to see a major media outlet calling for proper, restrained, and yes, even… Constitutional policing.

[Thanks, Tom]
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30 Responses to NY Times on police powers

  1. steve says:

    Hi all. Long time reader.. first time commentor. I have enjoyed the tantalizing of pete, dark cycle, Duncan and others on numerous stories. I think racism and descrimination are alive and well in our drug laws, going back to their creation. The have served their purpose well and allowed pigs to enforce a new kind of Jim crow. Try telling that to a prohibitionist, even with the stats the apathy is sad to see.

  2. divadab says:

    Right! Who’s keeping the bulls in line? Biggest question in America today.

  3. claygooding says:

    I have never really felt endangered because I use marijuana and advocate for it’s legalization,,advocating for police reform scares the shit out of me.

    • Peter says:

      arnt they the same thing? the wosd is the core of police power, fundind and man- hours. without it they would go bAck to being a peacetime civilian force of half the numbers and theyd still clear more real crime

      • claygooding says:

        That is why it scares me,,the mindset required to get up in the morning just so I can spend the day trying to find someone to put in prison makes me want to calm my nerves with a joint.

    • Windy says:

      I do it nearly daily, and have been at it for so long I cannot remember when I began this mission, sometime during the 70s, I think. I actually started criticizing the police before I got started on drug law reform. The police state has only gotten worse over the intervening years, no one wants to hear it, they want to think of the police as heroes and saviors, they do NOT want to hear about the misconduct, or the downright criminal acts in which all too many police engage, and the abusive tactics the police use on “suspects” and during interrogation. It is a subject I have had to stop discussing with my husband because he will always defend the cops and we end up in a yelling match over it, so I just do not mention the topic in front of him and refrain from making comments (even under my breath) when the cops are in the news for some reason or another.

      BTW, Coast to Coast on the radio is currently discussing the drug war as I write this.

  4. ezrydn says:

    Sitting at coffee on 9/11 with a friend in Dago, I commented, “If the FAA can perform ‘Traffic: Zero,’ things will never be the same.” Then, I looked up into an empty sky. Our job became “distracted.” And, rightly so. However, the force took the time to reorganize, re-outfit and we were ready to continue our own battle. 9/11 only delayed us. It, nor anthing else will stop us. We’ve been so close, it hurt. Let’s agree to top it out this time!

    Welcome aboard, Steve.

  5. Benjamin says:

    Let’s not pretend that the NYT is actually going to report seriously on NYPD evils. This is only an editorial, only part of the local NYC edition, and it was buried on page 10 of the local insert.

  6. darkcycle says:

    Yeah, welcome to the couch. This place grows on you (like a skin fungus). This is where I get my marching orders these days.

  7. Dante says:

    From the article:
    “The Police Department’s tendency toward blanket surveillance is on vivid display in its stop-and-frisk program, which results in the stopping of more than 600,000 mainly minority citizens on the streets every year. The department credits the program with reducing crime, but there is no proof that it does.”

    Those last 5 words (“no proof that it does”) carry even more weight when you consider that the NYPD has been caught fudging/falsifying their crime statistics by ignoring serious, violent crimes while arresting hundreds of thousands of non-violent pot users in order to pad their statistics and make themselves look better. And of course, spying on anyone who is muslim. Just to get promoted so they get a raise. One way or another, it’s always about the money when the police do anything. Not about assuring your safety. Not about upholding the law. Not about saving the children. Always about getting the money. Always.

    Protect & Serve (Themselves!)

  8. Peter says:

    dont forget the overtime. a stop and search bust is safe and leads to several hours of overtime payments for processing paperwork and court attendance. all this time the officers are off the street amd away from real crime with no danger of getting hurt by real criminals. then they get to keep as much of your prperty as they can get away with. no wonder police love the wosd, leap officers excepted

  9. Servetus says:

    Everyone talks about the NYPD and its corruption, but no one appears willing to do anything about it. When it comes to a municipal police force that is transparent, accountable and has viable protections against corruption in place, the NYPD deserves a resounding ‘F’ grade.

    New York City is making the same mistakes Los Angeles made under Police Commissar Darryl Gates just before the Rodney King riots. Gates’ strategy was to arrest people before they did anything by making preventive arrests based on profiling, much like the NYPD does now with marijuana arrests. Given the current lack of accountability and increasing public tensions, all it takes is a single, malevolent police act that catches the public’s imagination the way the Rodney King beating did, and it will trigger a spontaneous reaction resulting in a New York style riot.

    BTW, a single, huge window-pane of the type found in banks and the front lobbies of large business buildings can cost $20,000 or more to replace, $10,000 if it’s imported from China. Wall Street lives in a glass house. It should avoid ‘throwing rocks’ at innocent citizens who otherwise choose to mind their own business, even if that personal business includes harmless drug use.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      The big money vendors will have insurance to cover the loss. Smaller Mom & Pop stores may not, but even if they do they haven’t got enough properties to spread the risk and would likely face drastically increased premiums or even cancellation of their policy.

  10. Duncan20903 says:


    Why Marijuana Should Be Illegal
    Posted: 03/19/2012 12:00 pm

    Bob Enyart
    Pastor, Denver Bible Church

    Blah blah Ginger blah

    • LlenaDeCrapo says:

      I’ve posted 2 comments, the first one at least 3 hours ago. There are also 15 others pending; damn coward prohibitionists!

      • Duncan20903 says:


        Some of the HuffPo censors are known to give priority to downloading porn andor spanking the monkey on company time. Don’t feel alone please. One of those pending comments is mine from 3/4 an hour ago. I managed to work in a really cool bible verse.

        If anyone is interested in watching an episode of a prime time television program in which someone drops acid with no subsequent tragedy tonight’s episode of House is a repeat of the one from a few weeks ago in which Dr. Park ends up “tripping balls” and subsequently gets back to work as if nothing had happened.

    • darkcycle says:

      I have the flu, and a three year old with the flu, and I am so damn full of antihistamines and snot that I simply am unable to respond coherently.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      BTW HuffPo gave equal time to Rob Corry. There’s a poll attached and the religionist is getting spanked.

      • Francis says:

        I don’t know. The poll asks you to vote before and after reading the two essays. Here’s how they’re reporting the “debate” results:

        “Marijuana Should Be Legalized For Recreational Use”

        Agree: 97%
        Disagree: 1%
        Undecided: 2%

        Agree: 97%
        Disagree: 1%
        Undecided: 1%

        “0% more disagree. Bob Enyart has changed the most minds.”

        The drug warrior is winning! 😉

        • GummedOnTheBus says:

          it’s not quite making mathematical sense at the moment;

          Before 96%+1%+2%=99% After: 97%+2%+1%=100%

  11. SpankedBeaten&Stoned says:

    Bob Enyart, pastor of Denver Bible Church, reads AIDs victims obituaries on his television show while calling the deceased “sodomites”.

    Enyart believes that “children’s hearts are lifted by spanking”.
    He was convicted and jailed for 60 days for child abuse in 1994 after beating his girlfriend’s child with a belt so hard that the beating broke the skin and inflicted severe bruising.


    He also frequently calls for the establishment of a criminal code under Mosaic Law, which would include the death penalty for homosexuality and adultery.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Mosaic law? Does mean that by law all pictures or decorations must be made of small, usually colored pieces of inlaid stone, glass, etc.? Or is it something resembling such a picture or decoration in composition, especially in being made up of diverse elements: a mosaic of borrowed ideas?


      • NotThatOne says:

        I believe the type of Mosaic Law that Pastor Enyart wishes to impose on us is the one where, if they catch you beating your meat behind a bush, burning or otherwise, they hack you into tiny little pieces – or is that the same thing? ;>)

        • Windy says:

          Pastor Enyart wants to create an ancient Jewish form of theocracy, and Santorum wants to create a Catholic form of theocracy. Let us hope neither of them ever gets any real power in this country.

  12. cptncaveman says:

    Came across this article today, made for some interesting reading. Of course everyone has known for years that marijuana has a bounty of medical uses but it never hurts to have even more evidence.


  13. Mr. Ikashini says:

    http://gothamist.com/2012/02/07/hundreds_protest_killing_of_unarmed.php Just for doing something that the mayor himself said he enjoyed.

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