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Wake-up call

Confining cops


C'mon, we're among friends here, so we can say what all know to be true: that the City Council's How Many Stops bill, some version of which will become law after the Council’s override of Mayor Eric Adams’s veto, which purports to be about transparency and accountability, is really about micromanagement and humiliation.  

Requiring police officers to memorialize many of their most trite and casual interactions with the public reflects mistrust of their professionalism and a sense that their weakness of character drives them to abuses of authority.

What next: the wearing of Holter monitors while on duty to record electrical activity that correlates with thoughts of misconduct? Truth serum injections at musters? A new Division of Stenographical Analysis to review daily logs? Will their narratives be saved on a digital "cloud"?  Our police agents don't need to be scribes and diarists.

Although the bill's supporters insist that situations such as tourists asking directions to Ripley's Believe It Or Not would be exempted, there are countless other potential low-level "encounters" that could qualify. What exactly constitutes an "encounter"?

When the Civilian Complaint Review Board was created in New York City, there was a hue and cry about how it would undermine and inhibit cops, but that concern has largely vanished. And most rank-and-file officers no longer consider Internal Affairs to be a nest of traitors, though they may eye them with suspicion.   

So perhaps the How Many Stops Act will at some point remain on the books but cease to be much noticed, like the sign about horses and carriages that can still be found on the Queensborough Bridge.  

The senior copocrats who are charged with reviewing the voluminous daily diaries will fall asleep from the monotony of the narratives. No doubt an enterprising former cop or lawyer will set up a side business of coaching officers how to write these logs in such a way as to minimize the chance of incriminating themselves.  

In any case, it will be onerous to wade through the tons of these memoirs, whether in writing or on a smartphone app. It will consume huge amounts of time and money, and it will still be impossible to verify and reconstruct every face-to-face engagement, unless it generates a formal complaint. 

The whole idea is fatuous and oppressive.  

It's clear from statements made by key City Council members that the bill, like so many other police-related initiatives in recent years, is a political football that is played on the gridiron of careers. Speaker Adrienne Adams and Public Safety Committee Chair Yusef Salaam claim that "The Mayor's veto betrays his stated goal of public safety and harms the Black and Latino communities that bear the brunt of their stops.”

It's accurate that there are more police stops of Blacks and Latinos, but these same groups are disproportionately the victims of violent crime committed within and against them. If the goal is to apprehend the assailants, it doesn't suggest racism to follow descriptions provided by the victims. There are already numerous civil rights laws that provide recourse and protection without the need for redundancy. They should be unstintingly applied.

The Council members culpable for promulgating this bill claim that its critics grossly exaggerate its perceived "overreach.” But the Patrol Guide does in fact state that "general requests for information from an officer" is considered a Level 1 "encounter" subject to being notated.

Council Member Crystal Hudson messages the How Many Stops Act by calling it  "a common sense, good government package" that will assure that "our city is committed to ending the culture of impunity and abuse that pervades the department.”  

Council Member Alexa Aviles believes that the "data will shed light on … a pattern of racial profiling,” adding that “The relationship between the NYPD and the communities has consistently been filled with tension."

So has the relationship between the community and the drive-by shooters, gangbangers, violent random street assailants, dope hustlers. Asked to do a risk/benefit analysis, it's fair to say that the community would overwhelmingly rather take their chances with the prudently regulated police. The Council members represent their constituents but don't always speak for them.

The supermajority of City Council members is selling their constituents a bill of goods. No decent person could argue against their stated and sincere objectives of furthering social justice and civil rights. It has a compelling foundation that is rooted in legitimate struggle. But they are allowing themselves to be tripped up in a fetish of police loathing that is detracting from their message and costing them dearly in terms of support and credibility.

The mayor said that officers would be mandated to cite race, gender and other demographic information for every recorded stop. That will particularly hurt communities of color, because rather than letting the chips fall where they may, police officers will be pressured and cautious, regardless of the facts on the ground, to produce results that adhere to parameters of statistical "equity,” since that is the objective of the legislation. 

Civilian stewardship of the police department is essential. The Brennan Center for Justice points out, for instance, that "the NYPD is exploiting loopholes in the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act to shield its new spying tools from oversight.” And the Council's resolution calling on the state legislature to pass the "Protect Youth During Custodial Police Interrogation" bill is also debatable.   

But in recent years,  legislation and policy changes affecting law enforcement have often been designed, despite disclaimers, less to curb police abuses than to strip officers of tools to deter crime. Ending police officers' qualified immunity from civil lawsuits and the failure to meaningfully prosecute criminals who assault them, are among the unmistakable signs.

Police should be neither reflexively extolled nor condemned. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo said that federal officers are "thugs.”  

Together with the How Many Stops Act, the City Council has voted to ban solitary confinement in city jails. This too is ill-considered. As was the decision to close Rikers Island, where there have been  6,500 assaults on guards within three years, according to the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association.

There's no point in punishment if it accomplishes nothing or even promotes recidivism. But exempting violators from the consequences of their actions, in the same of "restorative justice" is a solicitation of anarchy. Solitary confinement is a practical necessity. Restrictions on its use must be balanced by the legitimate authority of officers.  

Prisons are a world onto themselves. Within reason, liberties must countenanced that effectively deal with its explosive culture while at the same time comporting with the standards of "civilized" society. It's not about sadism and oppression. It's about safety.  

Or should be.

The Many Stops Act and the City Council's Intro. 549-A, banning solitary confinement, will further erode the morale and productivity of law enforcement officers and alienate not only the peacekeepers from their jobs, but New Yorkers from their city.

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