This is going to be complicated. Our story about the New York Police Department starts in Washington, where a reporter filed a freedom of information request to see the department’s policy book about the way it handles Freedom of Information requests and the request was denied because the book was written by a department lawyer and therefore is covered by attorney-client privilege.
Are you following? Okay. Let’s take a break here and give you the chain of evidence just so you know where all this comes from.
It was on the journalism watchdog site jimromenesko.com. It is based on an item on the DC website Freebeacon.com. It was written by one C.J. Ciraramella about the guy who filed the request, Shawn Musgrave who writes for something called Muckrock.
Still here? Good.
The befuddled new commissioner, William Bratton, is looking into this. Transparency is important, he says.
Do not hold your breath until you see that FOI request fulfilled. And if it ever is, it will probably be smartphone photos of pages too curved and blurry to read and with many sentences and paragraphs blacked out.
Transparency is not the hallmark of any police department. It’s just not in their DNA.
As in politics and private equity funding, many “orders” are issued using the wink-and-nod system. No paper trail.
Sometime back, we predicted a rise in the crime rate, which for New York City is hovering at historical lows at the moment.
The befuddled new mayor, Bill de Blasio is flailing around and misstepping at historically high levels. Snow removal snafus, St. Pat’s Day Breakfast snafus, St. Pat’s Day Parade snafus. The guy’s head is in the clouds, and not only because he is tall enough for the NBA.
In confusion, there is crime. And this mayor is sewing more confusion than anyone since accountant Abe Beame failed to uncook the books he was hired to uncook.
The previous administration believed it lowered the crime rate because of “stop and frisk,” which was mostly a way of rousting innocent black and Hispanic males between the ages of, say, 14 and 28 or so.
Everyone “knows” people like that are all criminals or criminals in waiting. But the courts struck stop/frisk down because of the racial and ethnic implications. So now, the police will stop everyone. And they will miss most actual criminals just as they have all along.
We all know the best way to smuggle contraband over the border into the city is to use white women or elderly white men driving Infinitis and Lexuses. No drug lord or cigarette bootlegger will want to send up a Mexican guy driving a 20-year old El Camino.
Bratton’s “broken window” anti-crime policy worked during his previous NYC commissionership. What that means is arrest all the low-level criminals like window breakers and turnstile jumpers before they graduate into purse snatchings, muggings, beatings and murder.
Scratch a guy who hurled a brick through a storefront and you find a drug lord-in-waiting?
The tactic worked at the time because the crack epidemic was ending. So they could have done next to nothing to lower the crime rate which went down all over the country without the need for removing evil squeegee men from the streets.
Cops work in secret. They work with unspoken or code-spoken orders as often as not. And those orders? They find favor not rebellion from an awful lot of police officers.
So what you’re going to see slowly developing is a police department that acts as befuddled as its leaders.
This is not to advocate stop and frisk at least as they’ve been doing it. It can be carried out in a race and ethnic neutral way.
But it won’t be.
And you won’t know that unless you’re a victim of a crime, because the cops will continue to stonewall Freedom of Information requests, despite any potential orders not to at 1 Police Plaza.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
© WJR 2014