All Articles Tagged "NYPD"

NYC Mayor de Blasio Under Fire After NYPD’s Highest Ranking Black Official Suddenly Resigns

November 5th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Mayor de Blasio

Many in New York City were shocked when the NYPD’s highest-ranking Black official abruptly quit late last week. Now, the department is trying to make amends with minority communities and mayor Bill de Blasio has come under fire.

“Chief Philip Banks III was to have been named first deputy commissioner, second in command at the nation’s largest police force,” reports TheGrio. It seemed like a sure thing as Commissioner William Bratton had already made the announcement. But instead, Banks will retire. While the public stance is that Banks, 51, changed his mind, some say he was forced out. And all Bratton will say is that it was for “personal and professional factors.”“That is the most significant position in the New York Police Department outside of commissioner,” Bratton said. “I think the world of Chief Banks. He’s been a very able and capable partner.”

Having been with the NYPD since 1986, Banks became chief of department in March 2013 under former Commissioner Raymond Kelly. He has worked as the commanding officer of a Manhattan patrol borough, and in several precincts. He was even mentioned as a possible successor to Kelly before Bratton was selected.

Banks’ step down is affecting NYC Mayor de Blasio’s strained relationship with the department. De Blasio took sides with the Rev. Al Sharpton in the chokehold death of an unarmed Eric Garner. The mayor also refused to fire a top aide living with a convicted killer who has often called officers “pigs.”

“He has served New York City admirably during his nearly 30 years on the force, and we were enthusiastic about the leadership and energy he would have brought to the position of First Deputy Commissioner,” De Blasio said in a statement.

But minority leaders still aren’t happy with de Blasio’s handling of the Banks situation. Some think de Blasio can do more.

“The mayor leads the city, not the commissioner,” Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn) said during a City Hall news conference. “So we’re going to ask the mayor, along with the commissioner, to be held accountable, because ultimately, we know that those decisions they make here at City Hall and at 1 Police Plaza have a disparate impact on my community and those communities we represent throughout the five boroughs.”

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson (D-Bronx) charges that de Blasio hadn’t delivered on his promises to crack down on alleged abuses by cops and improve police relations with the city’s minorities.

“In month Number 11, we have not seen the changes that we believe should be happening in this time,” she said.

Several speakers  at the conference blamed de Blasio for “letting Bratton force out both Banks and former First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro, who resigned under fire from Bratton in September, reports The New York Post.

“When the top black and brown people resign from the NYPD, we’re worried that the atmosphere there is not yet right for the change we were hoping to see,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn).

In The Last Five Years, The NYPD Has Paid $428 Million In Settlements

October 15th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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shutterstock_210586318(1) $428 million. That’s how much money New York City has paid out in police-related settlements in the last five years.

The figure came to light after a response to a Freedom of Information Law request filed by MuckRock. Because of this, New York City released a document listing every civil rights lawsuit brought against the NYPD since 2009. It also documents how much money it costs to settle each case. The spreadsheet was titled “NYPD Closed Actions Commenced in 2009-2014 to Date.”

Not all of these settlements, however, are the result of basic misconduct by cops.

“For example, the largest payout, $11.5 million, went to Google engineer Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, who was nearly killed in 2009 when a tree branch fell on him in Central Park. Another big one — $2.75 million — went to the family of Ronald Spear, who died after being beaten by Rikers Island guards, who work for the Department of Correction, not the NYPD,” reports New York magazine.

But there are still more than 12,000 cases (with an average settlement of $33,875) listed on the document provided to MuckRock. The settlements range from $1 to $11,500,000.

“Those numbers are in line with the findings of a 2010 AP investigation, which discovered nearly $1 billion in NYPD payouts over the previous decade,” reports Gawker. And in 2012, Bloomberg News reported  the city planned to spend $735 million on settling lawsuits, police and otherwise. This was nearly six times what Los Angeles pays per capita.

For 2015, NYC has set aside $674 million for settlements and costs, reports TheGrio.

Minorities In NYC Ticketed More Under NYPD’s ‘Broken Windows’ Enforcement

September 11th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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 pio3 /

pio3 /

New York City minorities are under extra pressure these days. And this can range from unfortunate and sometimes tragic incidents such as police profiling to basic living issues such as wage gaps. Minorities in the city also face disproportionate “Broken Windows” enforcement, especially if they reside in a predominantly White neighborhoods.

According to a New York  Daily News study, Blacks and Hispanics are way more likely to be ticketed in low-crime, mainly White neighborhoods, with 32 of the city’s 75 police precincts showing a disparity of 20 percentage points or higher, reports the newspaper.

Activists say this NYPD disparity has created two New Yorks where petty crimes done by Whites such as drinking on a front stoop or smoking marijuana are hardly ever punished, and another, primarily populated by Blacks and Hispanics, where walking down the street could be cause for a stop and frisk.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has an explanation for the disparity: Since police are concentrating their efforts on “the most problematic areas of the city” these are most often minority neighborhoods and thus more minorities get ticketed.

But not so, found The Daily News analysis. It found that no matter where they live, Blacks and Hispanics get many more summonses. On top of this, they are more apt to be ticketed in low-crime, primarily White communities not high-crime minority neighborhoods.

In some precincts there was as much as a spread of 50 percentage points, as the Daily News found in the 24th Precinct (Upper West Side – North), where Blacks and Hispanics comprise just 34 percent of the population but given an estimated 84 percent of the summonses. And the 84th Precinct (Brooklyn Heights,DUMBO), where they are 28 percent of the population but got 78 percent of the summonses.

The News examined Office of Court Administration data on 6.9 million criminal court summonses given out between 2001 and 2013 (mostly when former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was in charge) and NYPD figures on precinct demographics.

According to the analysis, Blacks and Hispanics were issued a disproportionate share of summonses, with a spread of 20 percentage points or greater in 32 of NYC’s 75 police precincts.

“The only precincts where the share of summonses received by blacks and Hispanics were close to their representation in the population were ones where they made up more than 90 percent of residents,” says the article.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and five other New York members of Congress sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last month seeking an investigation into constitutional and civil rights violations due to the NYPD’s “Broken Windows” policy, citing an earlier report by The News that found Blacks and Hispanics, who make up about half of the city’s population, got an estimated 81 percent of the summonses.

Although NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio defended broken windows as a crime-fighting strategy,  he told reporters that he aims to have  it “applied fairly and equally” and the issue will be part of a department-wide retraining.

“We’re going to apply the law equally. We want people in every community to know they’re going to be treated fairly. We have more work to do,” de Blasio said.

“Thank God The Truth Is Finally Out” Eric Garner’s Death Ruled A Homicide

August 1st, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Eric Garner's Death Ruled A Homicide


The death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was placed in an illegal chokehold by a police officer, has been ruled a homicide.

According to the New York Daily News, the New York City Medical Examiner said today that Garner died from compression of the neck and chest while being restrained by officers. The autopsy also found that Garner’s asthma, obesity and high blood pressure were factors that contributed to his death.

Garner’s widow, Esaw, says that she was relieved to hear the Medical Examiner’s findings.

“Thank God the truth is finally out. Thank God for that.”

“The Staten Island District Attorney’s office have been in touch with the examiner and released this statement in response to the recent news:

“We await the issuance of the official death certificate and the autopsy report. The investigation into Mr. Garner’s death continues.”

Garner, 43, died on July 17 when he was restrained for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. The whole encounter was caught on camera and Garner can be heard saying over and over again, “I can’t breathe.”

The officer who put Garner in the chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo, has since been reassigned.

Since Garner’s death, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton ordered that the NYPD’s 35,000 officers be retrained in how to properly apprehend suspects.

Do you think Garner’s death being ruled a homicide will result in a conviction for Pantaleo?

Brooklyn Using $1 Million To Investigate Wrongful Conviction Claims

July 29th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Brooklyn has dedicated $1.1 million annually to look into cases of potential wrongful convictions. It is under the tutelage of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, who has expanded his office’s Conviction Review Unit. And the unit is grabbing national attention.

It has had seven people in six months exonerated. It may not sound like much, but with a country’s judicial system bogged down with paperwork, these numbers are outstanding.

“Since 2007, prosecutors have started conviction integrity units dedicated to making sure the right people were found guilty of crimes. In many cases, exonerations have involved misidentifications and new DNA testing,” reports USA Today. But it has been found that most of the wrongful conviction claims in Brooklyn may involve police misconduct.

“Brooklyn is ground central,” Samuel Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, told the newspaper. “They are systematically examining a large set of cases in which there may have been serious misconduct by police officers and possibly by prosecutors themselves over a period of years involving dozens and possibly hundreds of homicide cases…That is an operation on a scale that nobody else has done.”

Compared to other parts of the city, Brooklyn’s cases are more complicated (and potentially more scandalous) as well as costly.

Of the 90 cases the unit is investigating, a whopping 57 of them involve former NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella. Scarcella’s policing tactics have been a sore spot for the NYPD, especially after evidence proved Scarcella coached a witness to pick a suspect out of a lineup. In that case, the suspect, David Ranta, spent 23 years in prison before being exonerated. “Scarcella is also accused of using one crack addicted witness to testify at a number of trials as well fabricating confessions and intimidating suspects,” reports USA Today.

Outrageous wrongful convictions such as Ranta’s have wound up costing the borough and the entire city. In an attempt to compensate Ranta for all the years he spent unjustly behind bars, the City of New York made a settlement for $6.4 million before a $150 million civil rights lawsuit went to trial.

Have We Learned Nothing From Eric Garner? Cop Puts Pregnant Woman In A Chokehold

July 28th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Cop Puts Pregnant Woman In A Chokehold


Just weeks after the senseless murder of father and husband Eric Garner, the New York City Police Department is employing the chokehold as a way to restrain people.

This past weekend, an officer placed a pregnant woman in an illegal chokehold after he found her grilling on the sidewalk in front of her home.

An East New York advocacy group captured 27 year old Rosan Miller struggling with a police officer who clearly has his arm around her neck despite the fact that the NYPD are prohibited from using this method of restraint.

Officers went to Miller’s house in response to a violation of local law, grilling on a public sidewalk. During the citation, a melee broke out and Miller, her brother and her husband all ended up in handcuffs.

Miller’s brother, John Miller, was charged with harassment and obstruction of justice, her husband Moses Miller, was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction and Rosan was issued a summons for disorderly conduct.

When former city councilman Charles Barron heard of the incident and the two arrests, he called the police to express his displeasure and expedite the release of the Milers.

Barron summed up the ridiculousness of the situation with two simple and telling sentences.

“This was all over a grill. This is about grilling in front of her house.”

Barron also pointed out that Miller’s young daughter can be seen in the back of the photos, seemingly watching on as her mother is being placed in a chokehold.

Barron said the police were in the neighborhood responding to a domestic incident when they saw Miller and her family outside cooking.

This chokehold comes not even ten days after Eric Garner died as a result of a police chokehold. Right now, police are investigating whether or not a chokehold was used and how this particular officer should be punished, if he will be at all.

It really is astounding that a man could see a woman, visibly pregnant and endanger not only her life but the life of her unborn child as well.


Did The NYPD’s “Broken Windows Policy” Of Policing Contribute To The Death Of Eric Garner?

July 22nd, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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Eric Garner's death


The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signalling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime. – courtesy of Wikipedia

Death at the hands of police officers is not an uncommon occurrence these days.

Capturing it on video is not really unheard of either. You can go to YouTube and literally pull up hundreds of hours of dashboard cams and cellphone footage of police brutality and misconduct. However, only eight percent of citizen complaints about police brutality and harassment are followed by disciplinary action. When watching the tragic video of 42-year-old Eric Garner, who died recently after being put into a chokehold by a police officer in Staten Island (chokeholds are prohibited in the NYPD police guide by the way), I wondered if his family would become part of the elite eight percent to receive justice, or would they join the vast majority of victims whose calls for justice go unanswered?

While I’d like to be optimistic, sadly, the realist in me believes that the outcome will be the latter.

You can watch the first half the video here. There is also new footage of the aftermath, which you can view here. Be warned that it is pretty graphic footage, as you will literally be watching a man take his last breath. But as hard of a watch as it is, I feel like it’s necessary to see in order to put a real face to the never-ending problem of police officers using excessive force, as well as to help identify ways in which we can keep these incidents from happening in the future.

Prior to being choked by the police, Garner plead his case to plainclothes cops who had swarmed around him. He tells them that he wasn’t doing anything and that he was actually breaking up a fight when the officers approached him. However, one of the cops in the video asserted that they had witnessed him illegally selling cigarettes.

According to New York Tax laws, which regulate the sale of cigarettes, selling loosies on the street is regarded as a misdemeanor, which comes with a ticket for a fine (although multiple arrests and convictions of the same violation could lead to actual incarceration, but that is usually at the discretion of the sentencing judge – not arresting officers on the street). So why didn’t one of the cops just write him a ticket and let him move on with his day? Why did he need to be thrown to the ground by the neck, subdued and handcuffed? And more importantly, why had Garner’s alleged misdemeanor of illegal cigarette selling need to be met with that degree of police intervention? I mean, calling backup for a misdemeanor offense just seems excessive. And yet, for the NYPD, this approach to crime fighting has long been the popular policy.

Just a couple of months prior to the death of Garner, The NYPD announced that it would be targeting subway performers, particularly the young pole dancers, who are mostly young black and Latino men. These individuals are known for doing acrobatics and Hip-Hop dance routines in the aisle of moving subway cars. The new emphasis on stopping the performers is all part of the department’s return to the “broken window” style of policing.

According to a recent CBS news article, quite a few performers have already been arrested:

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is going after graffitists, motorcyclists, and now subway acrobats as part of his “broken windows” policy of policing. Over 240 performers have been arrested this year so far, compared to less than 40 people at the same time last year.

Is it a significant crime? Certainly not,” Commissioner Bratton said of cracking down on the seemingly harmless, but mayhem-inducing offense. The question is “Does it have the potential both for creating a level of fear as well as a level of risk that you want to deal with?

Police have started studying passenger complaints to figure out when and where to place plainclothes officers on the subway, in order to stop the potentially dangerous acrobatics.

The key word here is “potentially.” In other words, the city’s police department is wasting valuable resources and man hours to target what amounts to “potential” property crimes, public nuisances and other minor offenses, by going after the neighborhood squeegee man who “services” your car at intersections, the kids who bust a move for cash and ask to pump gas for you at gas stations, and the lowly schmuck selling single cigarettes out of a $12 pack of Newports.

Commissioner Bratton seems to think that data is on his side (although as noted in this Salon piece, even the NYPD has admitted that recent numbers on the effectiveness of the broken window policy of policing are unavailable and inconclusive) as well as history, as it was this same focus on broken window policing the commissioner used to allegedly reduce crime during the Rudy Giuliani years (ironically, New Yorkers are supposedly in the more “progressive” de Blasio years but with Giuliani-style policing). But the problem is that correlation is not causation. And at least one study of the implementation of Bratton’s broken window policing has shown that much of the statistical data around the reduction of real crime coincides not only with a national decline in violent crimes, but a time when unemployment had dropped and the economy had strengthened in the city.

In my opinion, a person who might sell “loosies” or does poorly choreographed dance stunts on a subway car probably won’t be the same guy who rapes, murders and pillages for the sake of causing mayhem. Sometimes they are just young poor kids. Maybe they’re homeless. Or in the case of Garner, perhaps they’re an older man with kids to support (if we are to go by the police’s official account of the events, and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt). But more times than not, they remain pretty non-violent folks who are mostly trying to make a dollar out of a dime and a nickel while real criminals are moving about, running amok.

In fact, it appears the real criminalization happened when the police, aided by the criminal justice system and politicians who pass and co-sign these laws, decided that it would target low level “criminal activity” as a crime of interest, which means that black and brown people are profiled more. Now with arrest records, convictions, fines and maybe even incarceration, we have created barriers for individuals in the future to seek and access employment and even welfare, as well as financial aid for school and housing. 

Meanwhile, New York’s Financial District is about a 42-minute car ride away from where Garner died. I’m certain that there are plenty more significant non-violent offenses taking place there. But we rarely – if ever – see a video of cops swarming a white guy in a suit or wrestling him to the ground in a chokehold because they witnessed him discussing some insider trading. Nobody is worried about windows over there…


Citizens Can Now Sue NYPD Over Stop-And-Frisks

June 23rd, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Leonard Zhukovsky /

Leonard Zhukovsky /

The New York City Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy has been controversial since it began with many civil rights organizations say the policy unfairly targets minority men, especially young African-American males. And now victims of unjust “stop-and-frisks” can sue the police.

The NYPD had tried to stop this from happening, but in a recent decision State Supreme Court Justice Anil Singh upheld the Community Safety Act passed by the City Council last year making it easier for citizens to sue the NYPD for racial profiling.  And the Manhattan judge also rejected a request from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association to issue an injunction against the measure, reports The New York Daily News.

Minorities were stopped disproportionately and 90 percent of the stops did not end in an arrest.

“Local Law 71 does not prevent police officers from continuing to stop, question and frisk while utilizing their training and experience,” Singh wrote in a 35-page decision.

“The law only seeks to deter the use of attributes such as race as the sole basis for an investigatory stop which is antithetical to our constitution and values,” the judge continued.

According to New York Civil Liberties Union president Donna Lieberman, this decision will not only help citizens but also the police as well.

“It is a victory for all New Yorkers, including the police, because it is building trust and respect between officers and the communities they serve,” she noted.

“This law provides an important opportunity for New Yorkers who are subject to racial profiling or other discriminatory behavior the opportunity to vindicate their rights,” she added.

Even Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the City Council measure, unlike former mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had sided with the unions in trying to fight it.

But PBA president Pat Lynch said his organization would appeal the ruling.

“This law sends an extremely bad message to our police officers who will see themselves in legal crosshairs with every arrest they make. Potentially, this bad law can have a very serious impact on public safety,” Lynch said.

But Singh disagrees. “The City Council passed Local Law 71 to address a local concern relating to civil rights and police activities. The law does not prohibit or restrict the right of a police officer to make a stop … Rather it addresses the consequences of biased-based profiling by law enforcement personnel,” Singh wrote.

NYC Medical Examiner Unable To Determine Cause Of Avonte Oquendo’s Death

February 27th, 2014 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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human remains believed to belong to Avonte Oquendo

Source: NYDN

Last month, we reported on missing autistic New York City teen Avonte Oquendo, whose body parts were found scattered in College Point, Queens. At the time, New York City police believed Oquendo initially drowned in the East River. And now, after an exhausting amount of attempts, the city’s Medical Examiner says he cannot determine how Oquendo died, according to The Daily News.

Avonte Oquendo, whose form of autism made him incapable of verbal communication, was last seen on October 4, 2013. Surveillance footage documented him running away from his school, Center Boulevard. For months search teams looked all around for Oquendo but eventually called efforts off. Vanessa Fontaine, Oquendo’s mother, has since filed an emergency lawsuit against the NYPD, seeking access to the investigation files surrounding her son’s disappearance. Unfortunately, she has been denied twice with the Manhattan Supreme Court deeming her request an “invasion of privacy.”

Check out a news report on Avonte Oquendo’s death in the video below.

Civil Rights Leaders, Retail Execs Create A Bill Of Rights To Protect Black Shoppers From Racial Profiling

December 11th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Who would have thought it would ever come to this — that we need a bill of rights to protect black shoppers from racial profiling at retail stores?

Because shopping while black has become hazardous, civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and retail executives have developed list of rules that will be posted inside stores to ensure that black shoppers will not be racially profiled and targeted simply for buying expensive items, reports The New York Daily News.

According to the bill of rights, store employees who racially profile customers can be disciplined and possibly fired. Also, vulgar language or excessive force while detaining suspects is prohibited. Employees must “respect the basic civil and legal rights of any person suspected of a crime,” the list says.

Regulations must be applied nationwide and stores will be subject to internal tests to make sure they are in compliance. The list must be posted in common areas in the stores, available upon request and placed on store websites. Some stores have even promised to run ads publicizing the bill of rights to customers.

The bill comes after a string of racial-profiling allegations and lawsuits from black shoppers. To prevent this from happening again, a coalition of high-end retailers such as Barneys, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor and other department stores and civil rights leaders came up with a “bill of rights” to protect customers from “shop-and-frisk” practices.

Sharpton called the “best practices” agreement, which is the first of its kind between community leaders and the retail industry, as a step in the right direction. “The message I think is very simple,” said Ed Goldberg, Macy’s vice president. “We understand the gravity of the situation. . . . We subscribe to the document that’s going to be released by the retail council.”

The coalition, however, has been unable to convince the NYPD to participate. “We cannot have an agreement with the NYPD without the incoming commissioner saying, ‘We agree to that,’ ” said Sharpton, who has requested a sitdown with newly appointed Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. While Bratton’s office has yet to issue a statement, a spokeswoman for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio told the newspaper that the commissioner-designate would be happy to meet with the group.

“Mayor-elect de Blasio has said repeatedly that his administration will have zero tolerance for racial profiling of any kind,” said spokeswoman Lis Smith, adding that de Blasio “deeply appreciates” the retailers’ willingness to adopt the new policies.

Bratton was first police commissioner at a time when crime was rampant in New York City. However, he’s now working for a mayor who was elected on the premise that he would crack down on practices like stop-and-frisk that disproportionately impact the minority population of the city. He was credited for getting the city on a path to less crime, though some of his tactics were controversial. He went on to become a law enforcement leader in Boston and Los Angeles. It’s his record in LA, where traffic stops increased under his leadership, that has already got critics weighing in.

We’ll have to wait and see how Commissioner Bratton will handle this and a number of other issues he’ll be faced with.