New York City: Prototype of the American Police State?
by John W. Whitehead
by John W. Whitehead: The
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have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army
in the world. I have my own State Department, much to Foggy Bottoms
annoyance. We have the United Nations in New York, and so we have
an entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have.
~ Michael Bloomberg,
Mayor of New York
are no safeguards to ensure that the NYPD doesnt break the
law. So far as I know, there are no mechanisms in place to ensure
that the NYPD does not become a rogue organization.
~ Leonard Levitt,
author of NYPD
Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Nations Greatest
New York City
has long been celebrated as the cultural capital of the world, renowned
for its art, music and film. Presently, however, the city
that never sleeps is serving as the staging ground for a futuristic
police state operated, in large part, by Mayor Bloomberg and the
New York Police Department (NYPD). Although the NYPD was recognized
for its countless acts of bravery during the 9/11 terrorist attacks,
the department has gained notoriety in recent years for its overt
racial profiling, a spying program which targets Muslim communities
and political activists, and a stop-and-frisk program that has targeted
more than 4 million New Yorkers the majority of whom were black
or Latino and had done nothing wrong over the course of the
past seven years.
$4.5 billion budget, a counterterrorism unit that includes 35,000
uniformed police officers and 15,000 civilians, and a $3 billion
joint operations center with representatives from the FBI, FEMA,
and the military, the NYPD operates much like an autonomous Department
of Homeland Security only without the constraints of the Constitution.
of the department are astounding. The NYPD has radiation detectors
on their boats, helicopters, and officers belts that are so
sensitive they alert officers to citizens who have had radiation
treatment for medical reasons. Moreover, the NYPD has a $150 million
surveillance system, a network of 2000+ cameras, which is monitored
by an advanced computer system. This computer system can detect
suspicious packages and perform tasks such as pulling up all recorded
images of someone wearing a red shirt, thus streamlining the process
of tracking New Yorkers. The NYPDs latest toy is Terahertz
Imaging Detection, which allows police officers to peek under peoples
clothing as they walk the streets. The NYPD cooperated with the
US Department of Defense in creating this portable scanning technology.
The NYPD even has the capability to take down an aircraft should
the need arise.
The NYPD not
only employs the latest technologies but also utilizes crackdowns
and scare tactics that keep New Yorkers in a state of compliance.
A 60 Minutes report describes the police state atmosphere:
At random, 100 police cars will swarm part of town just to
make a scene. It happens with complete unpredictability. Cops signal
subway trains to stop to be searched. And sometimes they hold the
trains until they've eyeballed every passenger.
invasive NYPD tactic is the practice of stopping and frisking everyday
people on the street without any evidence of wrongdoing. These activities
are a clear violation of the Fourth Amendments protection
against unreasonable searches and seizures. In 2011 alone, 684,330
people were stopped and frisked by the police, a 14% increase since
2010. 88% were totally innocent. 59% were black. 26% were Latino.
9% were white. 41% of the stops were men of color between the ages
of 14 and 24, but they only account for 7.2% of the citys
population. Less than one percent of the stops led to an arrest
for firearm possession. The fact that the vast majority of people
stopped are racial minorities indicates that the NYPD is executing
a punitive policy against regular New Yorkers based upon racial
increase in stop-and-frisks has occurred entirely under Mayor Michael
Bloombergs watch. In his first year in office, fewer than
100,000 people were stopped. That number has now ballooned to over
600,000 per year. Yet the NYPDs stop-and-frisk policy is not
its only controversial program. The Associated Press recently released
a report documenting the NYPDs expansive and illegal spying
program which has targeted Muslim communities in and around New
York in the years following 9/11.
fact that the city explicitly forbids profiling based upon religion,
police officers in New York initiated a spying program which includes
amassing data on New York Muslims, such as where they buy groceries
and which cafes they visit. The NYPD relies on so-called mosque
crawlers that document the activities at mosques and rakers
that spy on Muslims in cafes and bookstores within the Muslim community.
Documents discussing rakers have often been shredded by the police
so as to avoid public knowledge of the program. And the NYPD has
attempted to forcibly recruit informants by fabricating reasons
to pull people over in Pakistani neighborhoods and threatening them
with arrest unless they comply with police demands to become informants.
Ethnic officers as well have been instructed to surreptitiously
blend in with local communities.
The NYPD has
also spied on an academy for African-American Muslim children in
1st through 4th grades. Incredibly, the program was modeled in part
on how Israeli intelligence operates in the West Bank. Based upon
information from the program, the NYPD prepared an analytical report
on all the mosques within a 100-mile radius of NYC. Yale, Columbia,
and Rutgers, among other universities, have opposed the program,
which also involves having police infiltrate Muslim student groups.
During the spy program, FBI agents were actually directed not to
accept intelligence gathered by NYPD officers, because if the FBI
pursued such a program, it would be a violation of federal law.
however, a degree of collusion between the federal government and
the NYPD in executing the spy program. Federal money intended for
the War on Drugs helped fund the program, though the White House
claims that since the money was simply a grant, it has no responsibility
for what happened to it once it left federal coffers. Also, despite
the fact that the CIA is not allowed to spy on Americans, CIA operatives
helped set up the program.
spying on innocent people, the NYPD is also infamous for its crackdowns
on protesters. During the 2004 Republican National Convention, 1,806
protestors were arrested, but most of the arrests were thrown out
of court and the subsequent litigation cost the city $8 million.
More recently, when Occupy Wall Street protestors were cleared out
of Zucotti Park on November 15, 2011, the NYPD prevented the media
from accessing the park. Police asked to see press credentials (which
are not necessary for public areas such as Zucotti) and those who
showed their press credentials were herded off into a penned in
area. Later on, a photographer tried to take a picture of a bloodied
protestor being dragged away by police, only to have officers slam
a barricade into his body while telling him that he wasnt
allowed to take photos.
As with any
other police force, NYPD suffers from a fair amount of corruption.
One officer, Michael Dargjati, was arrested for a racially motivated
stop-and-frisk and false arrest of a black man on Staten Island.
He had allegedly been caught bragging to a female friend that he
had fried another nigger
no big deal. Officer
Stephen Anderson as well admitted in court to routinely planting
drugs on people so as to meet department quotas, a practice that
he claimed was common amongst police officers. And in 2011, 12 people,
including five NYC police officers, were arrested for smuggling
$1 million worth of cigarettes, guns, and slot machines into the
In short, the
civil liberties of all those, including tourists, who walk the New
York streets, particularly if they belong to ethnic and religious
minorities, are being trampled upon in order to maintain an illusion
of safety. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, like many other government
officials, uses the specter of terrorism to haunt the citizens of
New York, in order to justify his departments disregard for
civil liberties. Kelly says, What were trying to do
is save lives, and the tactics and strategies that weve used
on the streets of this city have indeed saved lives. As of
May 2011, 89% of New Yorkers approve of these heavy-handed tactics.
But some New
Yorkers can see the dangerous leviathan that is wrapping its tentacles
around the Bill of Rights. Representative Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn
notes, Were quickly moving to an apartheid situation
here in the city of New York where we dont recognize the civil
liberties and the civil rights of all New Yorkers. Without
a massive response to the NYPD abuse, Americans will most likely
see the rise of rogue police organizations all across the country
as civil liberties are thrown aside in favor of brute government
One thing is
for sure: whats happening in New York illustrates how easily
people are led into the illusion that security should trump freedom.
However, as past regimes illustrate, such security measures eventually
become tools of terror against the citizens themselves.
attorney and author John W. Whitehead [send
him mail] is founder and president of The
Rutherford Institute. He is the author of The
Change Manifesto (Sourcebooks).
© 2012 The Rutherford Institute
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