NYPD Dodges Another Legislative Attempt To Inject Accountability And Transparency Into Its Daily Work

from the the-teflon-army dept

Law enforcement officers are pretty used to being able to stop nearly anyone and demand to know who they are and what they're doing. Sure, there are plenty of laws that say they can't actually do that, but the public is generally underinformed about their rights, and this works in cops' favor. As a recent Appeals Court decision pointed out, citizens are "free to refuse to cooperate with police before a seizure."

Obviously, this perfectly legal act of noncompliance just won't do, and it certainly won't be cops pointing out to citizens the rights they have available to them. New York City legislators thought they could force this transparency on the NYPD.

The bills, known as the Right to Know Act, require officers to identify and explain themselves when they stop people, and to make sure people know when they can refuse to be searched. These are timely, sensible ideas, echoing recommendations made by President Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing. Though the Right to Know Act has been bottled up in the Council for two years, it has broad support among Council members and community organizations, and sponsors say it would pass easily if it ever came to a vote.

It may have "broad support," but it didn't have support where it counts. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton expressed his displeasure with the idea of his officers having to respect the rights of citizens.

Mr. Bratton has denounced the Right to Know Act as an “unprecedented” intrusion into his domain.

As Scott Greenfield points out, Bratton could have dialed back his righteous indignation and applied these changes on his own.

Of course, there is nothing to prevent New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton from telling his cops to do this anyway. But he didn’t. He won’t. It’s not as if he serves at the pleasure of New York’s most progressive mayor ever. But the big issue for Bratton isn’t that the ideas incorporated in the law are so dangerous and counterproductive, but cops just don’t like being told what they have to do.

"Broad support." "Would pass easily." None of this matters. The person in charge of routing pending legislation made this decision for the rest of the legislators who support the bill in its unaltered form.

But there has been no vote. The Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, essentially derailed it this month. She told members that she had quietly struck a compromise with the Police Department to adopt some, but not all, of the act’s reforms administratively. Under the deal, officers who want to search people but have no legal basis to stop them must ask permission and wait to hear “yes” or “no.” They have to explain that a person can refuse to be searched, and give a business card to people who are searched or stopped at a checkpoint or to anyone who asks.

Waiting for the NYPD to "adopt" reforms is like waiting to adopt a child. Days become weeks become months become years. Three years after Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the NYPD to alter its unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program, officers still weren't fully informed of the new guidelines. The NYPD's "quiet adoption" of the agreement is more in line with dumping it into a foster home run by negligent caretakers.

The government has long depended on the ignorance of the citizens to maintain control. The killing of this legislation -- and Bratton's agreement to make it watered-down internal policy rather than actual law -- is more of the same. The less the public knows about what the police can or cannot demand from them, the more often this ignorance will be exploited by people with power.

Filed Under: bill bratton, nyc, nypd, right to know, transparency


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2016 @ 3:37pm

    there's a simple fix

    Make policemen be financially accountable when they break the law. Have all NYPD settlements and judgements come out of the retirement fund.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 29 Jul 2016 @ 3:54pm

      Re: there's a simple fix

      Personal responsibility?! For police?! Perish the thought, holding police personally accountable for their actions would be insane, and a completely uncalled for and unfair imposition! /poe

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2016 @ 6:23pm

      Re: there's a simple fix

      Geez, next you'll be stating that cops should earn their respect.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 30 Jul 2016 @ 1:30am

      Re: there's a simple fix

      You can't make policemen "financially accountable when they break the law" when they aren't even legally accountable. The "good faith exception" allowing officers to break the law as long as they plausibly deny being either generally or specifically educated enough to know better would certainly shield them from financial consequences.

      As long as the "good faith exception" is in place, police squads will be structured in a manner to keep information about citizen rights from affecting the wielded power and action. Once you make away with that exception, it becomes important to have enough competence in a squad to make informed and legally tenable decisions.

      The current setup, however, makes it seminal to not let knowledge and information ruin the legal shields that the departments can employ in order to break the law without consequence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Tejat, 30 Jul 2016 @ 4:41am

        Re: Re: there's a simple fix

        The "good faith exception" allowing officers to break the law as long as they plausibly deny ...

        It doesn't even have to be plausible.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Groaker (profile), 30 Jul 2016 @ 8:05am

      Re: there's a simple fix

      A real fix is to recognize such behavior for what it is -- at least a battery under the color of authority. The cop needs to be held both civilly and criminally liable for his/her actions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 29 Jul 2016 @ 8:38pm

    The more they decide to impose tyranny on the citizens of new york the bigger the targets they are painting on themselves when people start to lose it and decide they have nothing else to lose by killing what they perceive as dirty cops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 29 Jul 2016 @ 10:08pm

    Part of the problem with a "right to know" type law is that it basically makes the police into the position of giving legal advice beyond what is required by federal law. If that legal advice is wrong or in any way misleading, then the police will (once again) eat a big pile of legal shit for it.

    What NYC really needs to do is to work to EDUCATE the population. Get them the information before they need it, and take responsibility for it. Forcing the cops to do it shifts the liability away from the law makers and onto individual officers, which is truly wussing out. Public education, addressing the issues, and perhaps also coming out and explaining why aggressively resisting arrest and yelling about "mah rites" and fighting with officers is NOT a good idea.

    Perhaps a better idea would be to put a public defender lawyer in every police car. When the police approach someone, the lawyer gets automatically assigned and can advocate for them.

    Oh side note: I am posting this at about 1 AM saturday morning, and Techdirt in their infinite wisdom will likely actually add it to the discussion on Monday. You guys should be incredibly upset that a site that claims to love free speech feels the need to censor comments because they don't agree with them.

    Mike Masnick, would you care to address the issues at hand?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 1 Aug 2016 @ 12:21pm

      Re:

      In your rosy world...

      Also, you forgot your meds, you are starting to foam and repeat your incomprehensible "Y U NO DEBATE MEEE?" mantra ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Aug 2016 @ 1:30pm

      Re:

      What NYC really needs to do is to work to EDUCATE the population. Get them the information before they need it, and take responsibility for it.

      Seems like when the public IS more educated than the police, the POLICE are the ones who take exception to it, by either escalating the situation, or arresting the person for "contempt of cop."

      Then what happens? The old "you'll beat the charge, but not the ride" kicks in. "Officer" is at worst, placed on administrative leave pending an "investigation," which inevitably clears the officer and leaves the public footing the bill.

      Forcing the cops to do it shifts the liability away from the law makers and onto individual officers, which is truly wussing out.

      You mean having to take responsibility for their own actions?
      Yeah, what bullshit...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 1 Aug 2016 @ 8:08pm

      Re:

      If that legal advice is wrong or in any way misleading, then the police will (once again) eat a big pile of legal shit for it.


      If they don't get in serious trouble for killing unarmed people, there will be no punishment at all for giving not quite accurate legal advice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whatever, 30 Jul 2016 @ 1:02am

    YES.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Aug 2016 @ 6:15pm

      Re:

      The funniest thing? The parody troll is more honest than the actual Whatever is. (Granted, that's not a particularly high standard to exceed, but still.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 30 Jul 2016 @ 5:59am

    Oh, i don't know why the police would even complain about it. They can just do what they always do. "You have the right to x, but if you invoke that right, things are going to go way worse for you."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 30 Jul 2016 @ 8:08am

    A recording of "You have the right to x, but if you invoke that right, things are going to go way worse for you." should be grounds for charges of extortion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 30 Jul 2016 @ 9:36am

    Missing the most important part

    The most perfect law in the world would be completely and utterly useless, nothing but a waste of paper and ink if there's no penalty in place for non-compliance.

    Sure you can write a law that makes it a legal requirement for the police to inform members of the public that they are absolutely within their rights to refuse a search, but that's meaningless if when they don't there's no punishment.

    You can write a law that makes it a legal requirement for police to respect the rights of the public, and bars them from abuse of power in any form, but you're just wasting your time if there's no penalty when they ignore the law and do so anyway.

    A law requiring that police inform the citizenry that they have rights and it's legal for them to exercise them is a nice thought, but it's skipping the biggest problem, where police are never held accountable for their actions and therefore have no reason to care about the laws(and in fact with 'good faith exception' they are motivated to know as little about the law as possible).

    Make them care about following the laws and then you can move on to writing up laws to curb abuse of power, before that you're just wasting time for nothing more than empty PR.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 30 Jul 2016 @ 10:10am

      Re: Missing the most important part

      Mandatory punishment guidelines can be part of the law and the charter under which police operate. External oversight could be, as well. Reduction of the internal power of police unions can be. They have massive privileges beyond any normal union powers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2016 @ 3:28am

    " - officers who want to search people but have no legal basis to stop them must ask permission and wait to hear “yes” or “no.” - "

    Hmmmm, lets test this:

    Cop: "Do you mind if I search you"

    A. Yes - Ah, that's a yes, permission given

    A. No - Ah, that's not minding, permission given

    Now you want to argue about it? Too late - now its for the court and your thousands in legal fees to sort it out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 31 Jul 2016 @ 6:38am

      Re:

      Or, you could stick with the recommended way of doing it. "I do not consent to any search."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 31 Jul 2016 @ 1:23pm

        Re: Re:

        Not sure how well that would help you given how often police seem to develop hearing/vision 'problems' anytime the word 'No' comes up.

        You say "I do not consent to any search."

        They hear "I do consent to any search."

        Barring a recording it's your word against theirs, and everyone knows how that tends to work out in court.

        Still a good idea to say it of course, just don't be surprised if it doesn't stop them and they lie about it later.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 1 Aug 2016 @ 9:37pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, yes, short of wearing a body cam yourself, there's no way to prove anything.

          But, as you say, it's worth withholding consent anyway. Also, everyone should be aware that if they give consent, they can also revoke that consent (by affirmatively declaring so) at any moment, and the cops have to immediately stop their search (with the exceptions of airport screenings, prison visitation searches, or once an x-ray screening has begun).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JB Smith, 3 Aug 2016 @ 5:19am

    Virginia law enforcement

    The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and the brain initiative are the worst scams ever perpetrated on the American people. Former U. S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin Warns: Biochips Hazardous to Your Health: Warning, biochips may cause behavioral changes and high suicide rates. State Attorney Generals are to revoke the licenses of doctors and dentists that implant chips in patients. Chip used illegally for GPS, tracking, organized crime, communication and torture. Virginia state police have been implanting citizens without their knowledge and consent for years and they are dying! Check out William and Mary’s site to see the torture enabled by the biochip and the Active Denial System. See Terrorism and Mental Health by Amin Gadit or A Note on Uberveillance by MG & Katina Michael or Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer or Mind Control, Microchip Implants and Cybernetics. Check out the audio spotlight by Holosonics. The truth is the biochip works like a sim card. It received pulsed modulated laser beams and millimeter wave which it converts into electromagnetic waves that your brain interprets into digital images and sound. It then takes what your brain sees and hears and converts electromagnetic waves into digital and acoustic waves that a computer translates into audio and video. In other words, it allows law enforcement to see what you see, hear what you hear and communicate directly with your brain.

    “Former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) director and now Google Executive, Regina E. Dugan, has unveiled a super small, ingestible microchip that we can all be expected to swallow by 2017. “A means of authentication,” she calls it, also called an electronic tattoo, which takes NSA spying to whole new levels. She talks of the ‘mechanical mismatch problem between machines and humans,’ and specifically targets 10 – 20 year olds in her rant about the wonderful qualities of this new technology that can stretch in the human body and still be functional. Hailed as a ‘critical shift for research and medicine,’ these biochips would not only allow full access to insurance companies and government agencies to our pharmaceutical med-taking compliancy (or lack thereof), but also a host of other aspects of our lives which are truly none of their business, and certainly an extension of the removal of our freedoms and rights.” Google News

    The ARRA authorizes payments to the states in an effort to encourage Medicaid Providers to adopt and use “certified EHR technology” aka biochips. ARRA will match Medicaid $5 for every $1 a state provides. Hospitals are paid $2 million to create “crisis stabilization wards” (Gitmo’s) where state police torture people – even unto death. They stopped my heart 90 times in 6 hours. Virginia Beach EMT’s were called to the scene. Mary E. Schloendorff, v. The Society of New York Hospital 105 N. E. 92, 93 (N. Y. 1914) Justice Cardozo states, “every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body; and a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient’s consent, commits an assault, for which he is liable in damages. (Pratt v Davis, 224 Ill. 300; Mohr v Williams, 95 Minn. 261.) This case precedent requires police to falsely arrest you or kidnap you and call you a mental health patient in order to force the implant on you. You can also be forced to have a biochip if you have an infectious disease – like Eboli or Aids.

    Coalition of Justice vs the City of Hampton, VA settled a case out of court for $500,000 and removal of the biochip. Torture is punishable by $1,000 per day up to $2 million; Medical battery is worth $2.05 million. They told my family it was the brain initiative. I checked with the oversight board, and it is not! Mark Warner told me it was research with the Active Denial System by the College of William and Mary, the USAF, and state and local law enforcement. It is called IBEX and it is excruciating. I have had 3 surgeries at the site of the implant and need another. It causes cancer! I've been tortured for 8 years by Virginia law enforcement. Thousands of innocent Virginians are being tortured and murdered by criminal cops. Please help us get the word out to end these heinous atrocities. The pain is 24/7. The VA DCJS sent me a letter stating cops can get keys to anyone's home and steal anything they please. The governor knows and takes his cut. Senator Kaine said the FBI is not involved so he can't help. Check out Virginia's Casual Disregard for the Constitution at forbes dot com. Check out Richard Cain's case. They are torturing infants and children. The active denial system comes in rifle form and can murder without leaving a mark. Now the Richmond Medical examiner Dr. Whaley blows the whistle on the cover-up of murders by law enforcement and selling brains for $6,260 each to the NIH. I have had two heart attacks and am blessed to be alive. We need to make the nation aware to stop these thugs. Please help us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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