Saturday, June 8, 2013

A state felony to annoy police once? -- How about a felony civil rights violation to stop-and-frisk kids 25X?

The New York State Senate wants to make it a felony to annoy one police officer -- one time? After all cops take the job to avoid conflict, stress or real danger.

How about federal civil rights legislation that makes it a felony to infringe whole classes of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights --
day-in-and-day-out?  Did someone say stop-and frisk? The privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment is important enough to be a part of the Constitution because it is an important part of our DNA.  Treating supposedly (supposed to be) free people like prisoners in their own neighborhoods truthfully ruins their whole lives.

According to a New York Magazine story Officer Pedro Serrano, who dissented from massive unconstitutional intrusions by secretly recording superior orders
to perpetrate abuse and making those recordings public, he “lost count of the number of times he was stopped and frisked [growing up], but he estimates somewhere between 25 and 50.”  [p.2]  

From the same story: “As for his fellow cops at the 4-0, Serrano discovered that they fell into three camps. One third supported him (“They were like: ‘We get it, no problem’ ”); another third were furious (“They think what I did is wrong”); and the rest were neutral (“They were like, ‘We don’t care either way; we just  don’t like the bad stuff that’s coming because he’s pissed off now’”).  [p.7]

 It is heartening to know that only one third of the cops turn out to be yahoos. Yahoos are not inherently evil – most are just  bureaucratically insensitive doing their job (human nature; have to be some). But when yahoos are put in charge of a whole police department – and then told to make everyone else into yahoos – at a very quick step, yet – you get the kind of all pervasive Fourth Amendment violations upsetting New York City neighborhoods; in turn giving departments across the country (Oakland?, Boston?) bad ideas.

The caption under the picture topping the first pages describes three teens being thrown on a wall and groped "on Seneca Avenue in the Bronx, on their way home from school in September 2012." 

Here is my first question -- which fits so many of these stops: If these kids are stopped for resembling descriptions of perpetrators of a crime, why did the police not hold them for a witness or victim to come and identify?  Second question: Given it is a 1000 to 1 shot (more like 10,000 to 1? – never happened to me) that any one person is exhibiting a suspicious bulge in their clothing resembling a knife or gun, making it 1,000,000 to 1 to find two in a row and 1,000,000,000 to 1 to find three in a row, how can police explain habitually frisking whole gaggles of kids -- or any other category -- at once?

Nothing seems capable of guaranteeing Fourth Amendment protections at the local level. Even federal courts can only do so much against determined executive opposition.   [[ Opps; I guess not -- have to rewrite this section.  The 1964 federal Civil Rights Act makes it a felony to conspire to infringe First Amendment rights while acting under color of law. ]]   Unfortunately, as late as 2013, there may be a growing need for federal civil rights legislation to put teeth into Fourth Amendment protections.

Federal civil rights legislation criminalizing Fourth Amendment prohibited intrusions at some level (I cannot suggest precise language) could do double and triple duty.

Double duty: the crazy business in the Boston suburb of invading every house within a 20 square block area without warrants in pursuit of a 19-year-old who might be in possession of a handgun would have been deeply discouraged by the existence of federal privacy wrong doing penalties. Triple duty: President Bush's warrantless wiretaps never would have been considered in the first place. Nor possibly would much of the unconstitutional data-gathering we all strongly suspect is going on behind closed government doors these days but are totally barred from discovering, were a felony civil rights conviction attached.

Where are we going to find a new Lyndon Johnson dedicated to pushing through the new civil rights bill?  (Hint: Elizabeth Warren for president. :-])

Fictionalized Account

Real Account 

Crime was already down 4X when Mad Mayor Bloomberg took office -- whence he upped stops and frisks 7X by the year 2011 (from 100,000 to 700,000).  4 X 7 = 28 times as many stops per reported crime.  Last year down to only 20X.  ("Mad  Mayor" alludes to hizzoner building a brand new $400 million courthouse in the Bronx -- after we already opened a brand new $120 million court in 1977, to catch the then criminal case overflow, which new court was almost as nice as the 1939 landmark courthouse and architectural anchor of the neighborhood up the block on the Grand Concourse.  He blew another $630 million presumably doing the same trick in Brooklyn -- also after crime went down 4X!)

1 comment:

Denis Drew said...

When I was a San Francisco taxi driver I refused to keep a trip sheet -- a record of where I picked up and where I picked and dropped off -- pure laziness on my part!

My "legal" excuse if caught was going to be: If everybody took a taxi cab every day could the government force us to keep track of where everybody goes?

Suppose I pick up a closeted guy from a a gay nightclub and drop him off in front of his private home -- the police could find out and use that to scare off any complaints -- just for one example.

Ditto for Uncle Sam keeping track of who everybody talks to and where everybody goes.
* * * * * *
A side note on the Fourth Amendment:
My notion of constitutional privacy being in our DNA leads to a sort of if it feels bad, don't do it -- and -- if it doesn't feel that bad, don't worry too much about it too much outlook.

On drones: It feels very bad -- I don't need to listen to a lot of analysis -- feels like super-nanny state.

On DNA swabs for arrested persons: It is literally an un-warranted intrusion; but you are being subjected to so much more already -- hand-cuffed, strip-searched, finger printed -- that it represents just a little bit (five seconds) more and so much good comes of it that the courts can allow it. It's arguable; but not out of reason.