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To the editor:
The police stop of City Council Member Yusef Salaam, and the publicity he has generated (intentionally, I believe), reminds me of some good advice I received from a veteran police officer when I was a rookie on the job.
The officer told me that when you stop someone, either on foot or in a vehicle, always issue a legitimate summons or make an arrest if one is warranted. He said this applies especially if the person you stop might be considered an “important" person like an elected official or a powerful celebrity. This also includes police supervisors if their conduct deserves a summons or even an arrest.
This officer told me issuing the summons or making the arrest when warranted is the only way you can protect yourself from allegations of corruption, bias or incompetence. If the officer had issued Salaam a summons for the violation of darkly tinted windows, Salaam would not have had as much newsworthy power to embarrass the officer and embarrass the NYPD.
He should have been issued a summons for the tinted windows as well as for the Georgia license plate since he has not lived in Georgia for some time. That is often considered insurance fraud since the rates for auto insurance in most states are lower than those in New York.
Incidentally, the officer enforcing the law might have to pay the price, like former NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell paid when she insisted on enforcing a complaint against Chief Jeffrey Maddrey for abuse of authority. Better to pay the price for refusing to support favoritism and/or corruption than kowtowing to powerful bullies who are willing to violate their oath of office.
Michael J. Gorman
The writer is a retired NYPD lieutenant and an attorney.
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