New York City Cops

by Henry on October 29, 2011

Outsourced to Patrick Nielsen Hayden:

I don’t reflexively think ill of all cops, and in my 27 years in New York City I’ve had some interactions with local cops who seemed impressively decent, grounded, and on-the-ball.
But I would really like someone to convince me that this demonstrates anything other than widespread and deeply-felt contempt, by the NYPD, for the law and for the everyday citizens of this city.
It’s not the fact that 16 police officers were indicted in the Bronx for ticket-fixing and other chicanery, it’s the fact that their arraignment was greeted by over 100 off-duty officers swarming the courthouse and physically blocking reporters from covering the event:

The assembled police officers blocked cameras from filming their colleagues, in one instance grabbing lenses and shoving television camera operators backward.

This is far worse than anything any of the Occupy groups have done. Where are the helicopters, the tear gas, the tasers, the rubber bullets being deployed to pacify this threat to public safety? Oh yeah. They’re in the hands of these guys.
It’s almost like they’re incapable of self-governance and unable to maintain the place in a safe condition.

{ 145 comments }

1

kidneystones 10.29.11 at 4:14 pm

I’ll happily agree that there are some mixed-up individuals working in police forces around the world. Barring reporters from taking pictures of accused cops doesn’t suggest anything but union solidarity to me, however, and by an active minority.

If contempt for the law really is the issue, why not talk about drug-use and abuse among students and educators? I doubt very much whether the law-abiding role models on this board would dream of reporting the drug use of their peers and or students to the police. How many academics routinely turn a blind eye to drug use on campus? Don’t educators have a special responsibility to ensure that young people can study and learn in a drug free environment. There is no question that the sale and use of narcotics is illegal in the United States. It’s not a “what do you think?” issue. The law is clear. The wishes of concerned parents and the law are both ignored routinely whenever academics gather and ingest drugs or stand passively by as illegal drugs are consumed or shared.

There can be little doubt that educators who are ignoring the illegal activities of their students, friends, neighbors, and peers are every bit as contemptuous of the laws of the land as everyone else who feels a particular law isn’t serious enough to obey. Like the police in question, these educators simply hope to keep their peers and associates from the consequences of their illegal behavior and out of the public stocks.

The irony, of course, is that traffic-ticket fixing is much more clearly an example of a victimless crime than the sale and use of illegal narcotics. Nobody ever OD’d from traffic-ticket fixing. But giving the cops a good kick is good fun. If contempt for the law is the question, we can find far many much clearer examples than 1oo off-duty cops standing between cameras and their peers.

2

Ebenezer Scrooge 10.29.11 at 4:19 pm

It sounds to me like any other guild, like lawyers or doctors or judges or academics or priests or whatever. Whether or not they tolerate hanky-panky, they NEVER tolerate accountability to outsiders.

Of course, outsiders insist that guild members are accountable, imposing the rule of law on them. And rule of law, ultimately, refers to the state’s legitimate monopoly of violence. Which we’ve vested in the cops. Uhhhhh

3

Winston Smith 10.29.11 at 4:31 pm

A terrible analogy/comparison, kidneystones. First, no one can seriously deny that the activities in which the policemen in question engaged is reprehensible, flagrantly unfair, and an abuse of their positions. Grounds for thinking that recreational drug use is genuinely wrong are flimsy at best. The claim that ticket-fixing is more victimless than pot smoking is utterly absurd. Ticket-fixing violates the fundamental principle that all people should be equal in the eyes of the law. Second, professors don’t actually know which of our students use drugs; I don’t know why you’d think otherwise. Third, failure to investigate and report on a colleague or student is in no way comparable to actively preventing reporters from reporting on people who have already been indicted. Fourth, these policemen used physical violence; there is no analog on the other side of your analogy. Fifth, I’m not seeing how, even if your argument had worked in some sense, it wouldn’t simply be a blatant tu quoque. And as for your hypothesis that this is all driven simply by an antecedent animosity towards the police, and a love of cop-bashing, that, too, is false. I, for example, have had generally good encounters with the police–though not always, and take no joy from recreational cop bashing; but the actions of these policemen are inexcusable. That’s a conclusion, not a premise. Finally, contempt for the law is clearly worse when it is exhibited by those who are trusted with enforcing it. So your argument, so far as I can tell, does nothing to support your point.

4

Lake 10.29.11 at 4:33 pm

Contempt for the law is most worrying in a profession that exists to uphold the law. This point is so obvious, you must have made a special effort not to see it.

5

Barry Freed 10.29.11 at 4:35 pm

Please, DNFTT.

Bit of a double take when I saw this post as I had just been over at Making Light, then decided to come here to see what’s new and…

6

David Kaib 10.29.11 at 4:53 pm

This is one more illustration of a larger issue in our culture – law is seen as something that punishes bad people as opposed to bad acts. It is the antithesis of due process of law.

7

bob mcmanus 10.29.11 at 4:54 pm

Yes, ticket-fixing and being nasty to the press are wrong, but I just can’t seem to generate the outrage even I think I should have. Marijuana use is on the other side of the line, but I can reach across and touch it.

In fact, we do expect, even if we don’t like to talk about it. cops to use their judgement and just confiscate the pot. Or decide there wasn’t any traffic or whatever. Or even, horrors, let the good-looking speeder with the terrific smile go because it is a sunny day.

I guess the line I’m dancing is the one about trusting our cops to know when the law can be bent, and being able to not fall into total corruption, or to watch each other. We are not really showing respect, are we?

8

Doctor Memory 10.29.11 at 5:20 pm

Kidneystones@1: “If contempt for the law really is the issue, why not talk about drug-use and abuse among students and educators?”

Tell you what. How about we talk about drug use and abuse among cops? Implement a rigorous randomized testing protocol, not only for marijuana and cocaine but specifically for anabolic steroids among the NYPD and I’ll happily engage you in your (idiotic) argument about how nefarious reefer-addicted professors are polluting our precious bodily fluids.

9

Substance McGravitas 10.29.11 at 5:30 pm

Bit of a double take when I saw this post as I had just been over at Making Light, then decided to come here to see what’s new and…

I was kind of hoping for a video of the song in conjunction with it.

10

Barry Freed 10.29.11 at 5:35 pm

Help me out here Substance, I’m feeling a bit thick and failing to get the reference/joke.

11

Adam 10.29.11 at 5:37 pm

The NYC police department has about 35,000 officers. I’m not sure how you can infer “widespread” anything from the actions of 0.3% of the force.

12

The Raven 10.29.11 at 5:38 pm

I think anyone who calls themselves “kidneystones” is probably someone whose goal in writing is to be an irritant: a troll, in other words. But his post sparked a thought I’d like to expand further.

Respect for the law has to start with the people at the top, or there will be no respect for the law. It has to start with the people who enforce the law. So law has to be well-made, and it has to apply to the great as well as the small.

And it is not and does not.

13

Substance McGravitas 10.29.11 at 5:46 pm

New York City Cops, they ain’t too smart.

14

CharleyCarp 10.29.11 at 5:46 pm

Law breaking by the police should be punished more strictly than law breaking by the general public, and should be subject to more scrutiny by the general public. I’m not saying that all police are bad, neither is the OP, nor any commenter above. The officers who obstructed public scrutiny should be disciplined in such a way as to indicate zero tolerance for this kind of conduct.

15

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.29.11 at 5:56 pm

How does this ticket-fixing thing work anyway? Shouldn’t they have some sort of a computer system, with usual safeguards typical for financial computer systems? Weird, isn’t it.

16

Barry Freed 10.29.11 at 5:58 pm

Thanks Substance.

I’ll be shocked if that ever happens CharleyCarp, shocked, more than pleasantly surprised, and wondering about the temperature in Hades.

17

bob mcmanus 10.29.11 at 6:00 pm

The officers who obstructed public scrutiny

Oh, the hell with the press mob. The day I got 100 cameras on my lawn is the day I break a camera and a nose. They can sue me.

One reporter? Five? But we are supposed to tolerate these mobs? No. They can do pools.

18

CharleyCarp 10.29.11 at 6:09 pm

The debate about the difference between your lawn, bob, and the courthouse is in the other thread.

19

Barry Freed 10.29.11 at 6:46 pm

BTW, those signs they’re carrying are unbelievable, do they not know how “Just Following Orders” comes across. No, I guess they don’t.

20

Meredith 10.29.11 at 8:05 pm

From the same NYT story Henry links to:
“Jose R. Ramos, an officer in the 40th Precinct whose suspicious behavior spawned the protracted investigation, was accused of two dozen crimes, including attempted robbery, attempted grand larceny, transporting what he thought was heroin for drug dealers and revealing the identity of a confidential informant.
The case, troubling to many New Yorkers because of its implication that the police officers believed they deserved special treatment, is expected to have long tentacles.”

“Federal agents earlier in the week arrested eight current and former officers on accusations that they had brought illegal firearms, slot machines and black-market cigarettes into New York City. Recently, other officers have been charged in federal court with making false arrests, and there was testimony in a trial in Brooklyn that narcotics detectives planted drugs on innocent civilians.
Of the 16 officers arraigned on Friday, ranking as high as lieutenant, 11 were charged with crimes related to fixing tickets. All of them pleaded not guilty, and all but two were released without bail. Officer Ramos was held in $500,000 cash bail. Jennara Cobb, a lieutenant in the Internal Affairs Bureau, was released after posting a $20,000 bail bond. She was accused of leaking information about the investigation to other officers.”

“Particularly disturbing, the official said, was a news report that said some officers chanted “E.B.T.” at people lined up at a benefits center across the street, referring to electronic benefit transfer, the method by which welfare checks are distributed. The people had apparently chanted “Fix our tickets” to the officers. “

“Prosecutors said the bulk of the vanished tickets were arranged by officials of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union. All the officers charged with fixing tickets are either current or past union delegates or trustees.
As the investigation unfurled, the union played down its significance and consistently referred to ticket-fixing as “professional courtesy” inscribed in the police culture.”

“The Bronx district attorney, Robert T. Johnson, said the tickets fixed had robbed the city of $1 million to $2 million.”

It seems to me there’s a great deal to this story that needs to be taken into account. From this NYT report, everything about this demonstration (assuming the NYT story is accurate) stinks, as does the ticket-fixing itself. (And notice that this “perq” seems to be reserved for PBA officials, not even most officers.)
Law enforcement officers perhaps more than anyone else need to obey the law (unless they want to engage in civil disobedience, quite a different matter), especially in a city that prides itself on having those officers enforce “no tolerance” policies on the public (well, certain segments of the public).

21

stubydoo 10.29.11 at 8:14 pm

Barry @19: They still might perfectly understand how “just following orders” comes across. There has been talk in the press about how the legal defense strategy for the cops will be to reveal in court the names of the police brass who gave the orders. I for one gleefully anticipate such an outcome, though I suspect that that for one reason or another it will not happen.

Now, you may very well think that a rank-and-file cop who recieves an order that is both illegal and morally repugnant should defy that order, and having failed to do so and been caught, they deserve treatment as common criminals. Any you may well have a point there. But it isn’t necessarily the case that those who don’t see it your way have failed to think through the ramifications of what they are saying.

22

ScentOfViolets 10.29.11 at 9:41 pm

Now, you may very well think that a rank-and-file cop who recieves an order that is both illegal and morally repugnant should defy that order, and having failed to do so and been caught, they deserve treatment as common criminals. Any you may well have a point there. But it isn’t necessarily the case that those who don’t see it your way have failed to think through the ramifications of what they are saying.

Well, no, the other option – the only other option – is that that they prefer to operate in a fascist, authoritarian mode. With themselves in positions of authority, of course, and not subject to it.

These people have got to be trolling. Nobody, not even the law and order types, can seriously be defending cops breaking the law.

23

Salient 10.29.11 at 10:36 pm

Cramming a courtroom is an aggressive act, a show of force intended to intimidate and express solidarity. At the risk of calling an SoV cascade upon my head, I’ll assert that from my point of view there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with that act. But also, we can deduce the motivations for the protest, and we can assess the courtroom-crammers as a group and weigh in on whether their act was justified.

We can infer from the act that the participating officers express support for their colleagues. More specifically, it’s fairly clear at this point that the courtroom-crammers intended to assert, through coordinated disruption, their shared belief that the sixteen defendants ought not be charged or tried. This could be because [1] they feel the defendants have committed no wrongdoing and are being tried on false pretenses, [2] they feel ambivalent about the defendants’ guilt but have strong feelings that the procedure of the trial is unfair, or [3] because they feel that the defendants probably did break the laws as accused, but also that the laws themselves are unjust. (Maybe there’s a [4] and etc I’m missing.)

I would welcome a press release from the courtroom-packing officers (it seems safe to infer from their coordination that they wish to express themselves as a group). All the same, it seems to me that if we disagree with [1] and [2] and [3], then we can judge them accordingly. I’m mildly inclined to preemptively disagree with [1] and [2] and [3], but would be open to hearing the officers out.

24

Meredith 10.29.11 at 10:46 pm

Salient, I’ve been trying to imagine how to support these officers, and I await hearing from them/their spokesmen. Especially since one NYT article (well, I’ve read a bit more, but probably from the same sources as this article) can’t be relied on for all the needed information.
One way I’ve imagined: they resent being lumped in (implicitly) with a Ramos. That I could understand. But I’ve yet to hear that this is their motive. The PBA’s role in this (and maybe even someone in Internal Affairs!) is bothering me.
I’ve read that OWS folks haven’t gotten positive response from (at least most) cops when they’ve suggested to cops that OWS is acting on behalf of cops, too. I hope the PBA isn’t making us remember how unions (think Hoffa and the Teamsters) undermined their own agenda (before we even get into all the larger problems the left can have with “trade unionism,” and all that).

25

bob mcmanus 10.29.11 at 10:55 pm

…can seriously be defending cops breaking the law.

I most certainly can be. I also defend jury nullification and oppose strict sentencing guidelines.

The Law is digital. The world is analog. The map is not the territory. There is something I think in the nature of language that encourages categorization and the creation of bright lines. We tend to abhor a speed limit “somewhere between 50 and 70, depending on traffic, conditions, time of day, and the skill and condition of the driver”

I pretty much demand a gray area reserved for the exercise of human experience and judgement, understanding that this interface between Law-as-text and it’s interpreters and agents cannot be ex ante determined…

…especially since I don’t wear my shoulder harness when I drive to the store.

26

bob mcmanus 10.29.11 at 11:05 pm

I’ll be citing Stanley Fish any moment now.

The “Law” only exists as a social discourse creating itself in the actual practice of individuals and groups.

Aw hell, to be honest, you transcendentalists bore me.

Ain’t no “Law’ There are only people.

27

Colin Danby 10.29.11 at 11:14 pm

Because it *never* stops with a little ticket-forgiveness, Bob M. It extends to all the things noted by Meredith @20, that is to active criminality.

And angry mobs at courthouses are not a good thing even when they are *not* cops.

Think harder about the responsibilities of people who have policing power.

28

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.29.11 at 11:19 pm

Maybe there’s a [4] and etc I’m missing.

Selective application. They probably feel that everything is corrupt anyway, everyone breaks the law 50 times every day (this is NYC, after all, with all those Wall Street billionaires), and they’ve been singled out and picked on for political or some other reasons.

29

bob mcmanus 10.29.11 at 11:50 pm

29 is finding the authoritarianism in the wrong place.

28: Closer.

The cops hear the liberals saying “No, you may not exercise any personal judgement in the course of your job, and any questions you encounter should be answered by the law and your training. To the degree you do exercise personal judgement and discretion you yourself are a direct threat to public safety.”

And the cops say “You don’t have a freaking clue what my job is like”

“You can’t handle the truth!”

And liberals really can’t. These problems of personal judgement and discretion cannot be legislated, trained, managed, codified away. A remainder will always exist to be handled by politics and human interaction. It will be hard.

The liberals who say “The Law is the Law!” really can’t handle the truth, and are running away from reality as fast as they can. Transcendentalists.

30

bob mcmanus 10.29.11 at 11:52 pm

Oh, if you want to say these police exercised bad judgement, I am ok fine with that.

31

Meredith 10.30.11 at 12:14 am

bob mcmanus, from my point of view, you’re arguing against a straw man. I think most people want and trust cops (wise cops — we gotta trust that most have the requisite wisdom) to exercise their judgment. Which leaves a lot of gray area, and we appreciate that. And most people appreciate (or try their best to imagine) the endless crap cops have to put up with and how little genuine gratitude they reap and how that must take its toll. You don’t need a Fort Apache the Bronx scenario to realize that we put cops out there to do really difficult, potentially very dangerous work, for us, and demand an incredible amount of them.
None of which changes anything, it seems to me, in this instance. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that we gotta trust that most have the requisite wisdom: we have to expect it of them while supporting them in attaining it. We aren’t supporting them if we shrug when some PBA cronies get to fix tickets for their relatives and friends.

32

kidneystones 10.30.11 at 12:19 am

Interesting comments. Henry, Patrick, and company can find succor in the fact that they have an eager ally in Glenn Reynolds.

The drug use I’m referring to is not restricted to illegal marijuana or crack use (and sale) in schools and universities, but includes the entire gamut of drug-related illegal activity that is tacitly or overtly condoned by people charged with teaching and protecting the young. We might agree that police people have a special responsibility to “uphold” the law. If this is the case – that police do have a special responsibility, then we can reasonably assume that teachers and educators, who also occupy positions of trust and responsibility, should also be held to a similar, higher standard. That’s clearly not the case, at least when it comes to keeping the educational community free of illegal drug taking behaviors.

As I mentioned in my original comment, traffic-ticket fixing seems to me to be an extremely strange place for either camp to take a stand given the widespread lawlessness we see in most societies. The police unions very much believe that their members require/deserve the full protections of the law and it isn’t clear to me that standing between the press and cameras violates any laws. I’d offered evidence in the form of a snarky reference to OD’s.

Winston Smith might want to go back and re-read his own post. Cops routinely ignore violations of the law. Exercising that discretionary authority, in itself, violates the statute. Few people want to live in a world where laws are enforced any time a law is broken. Cops understand this. The fact that some cops are engaged in illegal activity should come as a surprise and shock to nobody.

Rather than drug test kids, I’d much prefer to see educators, parents, and school staff tested. My own experiences among children confirm that kids understand right from wrong rather better than adults. The “if I break the law, it’s ok” defense of illegal behaviors we see here in several posts wouldn’t survive a second in any lunch room or playground.

33

bob mcmanus 10.30.11 at 12:36 am

…we gotta trust that most have the requisite wisdom) to exercise their judgment. Which leaves a lot of gray area, and we appreciate that.

Great! So when do cops have to follow the law, and when can they ignore the law, and are you willing to put it in writing?

32:No, I don’t know much about cops.

So I am speculating, and trying to be descriptive rather than prescriptive.

The way I see it, cops are told they are never allowed to use discretion, yet they have to use discretion 100 times a shift. This creates an incredible amount of a specific kind of stress, and so sometimes to release the tension and retrieve their humanity, in an acting-out of a desperate repressed anti-authoritarianism, they break the law in small measured relatively harmless ways. Probably a lot of very black humor also that they wouldn’t necessarily want us civilians to hear. They also do charity work.

What can I say? It is what I would do.

34

Meredith 10.30.11 at 12:39 am

Who’s the transcendentalist here?

35

spyder 10.30.11 at 12:55 am

they break the law in small measured relatively harmless ways

Oh, you mean like killing people…
(We, here, have several officers, on trial, or in the process of getting ready for trial, for the “relatively harmless” murder of innocent civilians)

36

Cannoneo 10.30.11 at 12:58 am

Doesn’t ticket-fixing and its equivalent usually exist in a wider culture of perks and favors by those with access to the machinery of the legal system? In other words, where (some) police are fixing tickets, (some) prosecutors, legislators, and judges know about it, and are getting their tickets fixed, and are doling out their own, often more valuable units of currency. For one part of that world (the prosecutors) to turn on its foot soldiers (the cops), to *expose them to public condemnation as if they were the only wrongdoers and in collusion with violent criminals*, means either that a white knight reformer is at work, or some violent intramural conflict has occurred behind the scenes. Or the prosecutor has just made the risky decision to treat the cops like other low-level offenders, and use them to climb the ladder to the real bad guys, then let them off lightly. In any of these cases, it’s a profound breach of custom in a pressure-filled environment. Some bewildered outrage seem unsurprising (even if bad p.r.).

37

Watson Ladd 10.30.11 at 3:03 am

No, I understand absolutely discretion and its vital importance to the police officer. But when that discretion is used by the police to give favors to the connected and well-off, while others are not given that same benefit, something is wrong. This isn’t about letting a ticket slide: its about letting it slide for someone in exchange for patronage in the PBA.

38

Natilo Paennim 10.30.11 at 4:05 am

I’d like to focus in on one thing from the OP here: in one instance grabbing lenses and shoving television camera operators backward

This is assault and battery. If I did it to a cameraman, I might very well expect a short jail sentence, or at the very least a fine and probation. If I did the same thing to a cop, and was not summarily executed (which I wouldn’t be, since I’m not a young black man), I wouldn’t be surprised if I received a year in jail. The reason that most people despise the police (even those who pretend not to in order to shore up their corrupt ideologies) is that the cops want it both ways. They simultaneously expect to be above the law in their own actions toward others, while others’ actions towards them are dealt with in the harshest possible manner. Analogize that one, schmibertarian cop-lovers.

39

Marc 10.30.11 at 4:12 am

@34: The fascist attitude is noted, and not agreed with. Where on earth is CT getting these yobs from?

40

Marc 10.30.11 at 4:19 am

41

Salient 10.30.11 at 4:25 am

Meredith — not sure I’d go so far as to say I support them, though. I’m just willing to momentarily suspend condemnation long enough to listen to them. Honestly, this makes sense to me to do in part because under my current interpretation of events, their behavior is so egregiously damning that I don’t feel comfortable committing to it without also committing to a willingness to listen.

As it stands, it does not seem wholly unwarranted to explore further whether the behavior of the officers ran afoul of conspiracy law — if the collective of officers’ response to the arraignment of a dozen individuals is effectively “we all do what these defendants have been charged with, we see nothing wrong with the practice, and we intend to continue it” that strikes me as legitimate grounds for further investigation.

Specifically, I’m willing to hear out the folks with “Just Following Orders” signs long enough for them to clarify whether they intend for this to say “please investigate our commanding officers for this, as they have directed us to commit wrongdoing; we offer our testimony as corroborating evidence for any such investigation.” If not, then JFO is plainly irrelevant, if anything “JFO and the Os were OK by me” is pretty close to a tacit admission of participation in criminal conspiracy. On the other hand, if the officers are acting in a coordinated way to proffer their testimony incriminating their superior officers… whoa boy.

42

Meredith 10.30.11 at 5:22 am

Also from the NYT article:
“”It is hard to see an upside in the way the anger was expressed, especially in Bronx County, where you already have a hard row to hoe in terms of building rapport with the community,’ said Eugene J. O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. ‘The Police Department is a very angry work force, and that is something that should concern people, because it translates into hostile interactions with people.’”
“‘A very angry work force….'” Something’s up here, but we don’t yet have enough information to know what, yet. (Probably a number of important things. Interesting that nothing but NYC’s supposed law enforcement successes have been discussed in recent years in MSM. The lid’s been kept too long on — on what? ) Like you, Salient, I’m only trying to stay fair. Adult is certainly right that “authoritarianism is a form of culture,” a form that police (like the military) are inevitably prone to. And we’ve put them in that spot and owe it to them to be watchers of the (our) watchmen, without expecting the watchmen to be angels.
All standard, as adult says, but I think there’s more to this story than just cops’ usual flaws and challenges. Why so much anger, now? (I’m thinking those white shirts at the Brooklyn Bridge, too. Where is this intense, and organized, anger coming from? What is it about?)

43

Meredith 10.30.11 at 5:45 am

Should also have acknowledged Cannoneo. Maybe that’s the scenario?

44

Tim Wilkinson 10.30.11 at 9:14 am

What the fuck is all this drivel about transcendentalism McManus? If you want to take the passive-authoritarian route, go ahead, but don’t pretend it’s a matter of jurisprudential metaphysics.

This is not matter of some tough judgement call, it’s a systematic – bureaucratic – approach to the routine perversion of the course of justice, driven by overt nepotism and having of course a financial dimension. That’s the driving offences anyway (all deemed worth ticketing by the officer at the scene, of course – you did get that bit, did you?). One or two other bits of the iceberg were also in view though of course – a little sample of the drugs and guns and favours for gangsters side of things, wasn’t it? None of this is surprising, of course, if that’s relevant in some way.

I’d agree with HV that there’s an explanation #4 not a million miles from meeting his description, though the defendants are being ‘singled out’ only in a rather Israeli kind of sense, that is they’re taking a defensive brand of umbrage at people complaining when they could surely find something else to complain about if they tried. Cops are used to impunity and mistake it for some kind of entitlement, hallowed as it is by custom and emboldened as they are by unanimity, solidarity, sheer weight of numbers (Serpicos, as everyone knows, need not apply).

The whining, cringing, cowards and misfits who are pointing their pudgy pampered little fingers and shrieking so shrilly just don’t understand what it’s like to have the job of being a lard-assed bully-boy. Especially since cops suffer such terrible deprivation when it comes to deference, mythologising, adulation, groupies, opportunities to posture etc. To be fair, it does seem a bit arbitrary to pick on just these few guys, and such relatively minor felonies. You can also see why their colleagues might be concerned about where it’s all going to end if not nipped in the bud.

Meanwhile the cast is supplemented by kidneystones in that staple comic role – the one who needs no encouragement to hold forth on the utterly unrelated topic of his/her deranged obsession, in this case students! smoking weed! er, on campus!

Then there’s Salient (sorry, S!) doing the handwringing thing – not wanting to jump to any observations. This is ending over backwards to a degree only previously achieved (allegedly) by Yvonne Fletcher.

What might really top things off might be to get that NYPD guest poster back – brandon, wasn’t it?

45

Andrew F. 10.30.11 at 10:47 am

The article, as badly written as any I’ve seen in the NY Times, is worth reading closely.

It appears that the court officers prevented the media from moving down the hallway to take pictures of the off-duty officers assembled outside the courtroom itself. It is unclear from the article whether it was one of the court officers who pushed back the photographer – presumably from attempting to head down the hallway – or one of the off-duty officers who was simply committing assault.

Or, of course, it could be that the photographer was aggressively jockeying for a better picture and was pushed back by an irritated off-duty officer.

I have to say that the article itself seemed to be half opinion-piece and half news-piece – an unfortunate trend in the NY Times. If any officers attempted to intimidate, much less assault, journalists, then clearly disciplinary action should be taken as quickly as evidence can be gathered to support such a conclusion. But it’s nearly impossible to form any strong conclusions on the basis of this article.

46

kidneystones 10.30.11 at 12:05 pm

Tim Wilkinson bursts a blood vessel or three. Take a deep breath. The issue is traffic-ticket fixing. I suspected we’d see rather more generalizations about the shortcomings of the people who suit up to protect the rest of us. If we’re cutting to the chase, I’d say Cannoneo has it about right, as far as the specific case is concerned. Why we’re talking about angry cops is another question. I wouldn’t say that Henry is posting to encourage a two-minute hate, even if that is the result in several cases. No, I’d say the reason the NYT crafted this piece in the manner they did is to create a particular frame around the topic of anger, one that identifies anger with the police, the favorite whipping boys and girls of the self-proclaimed liberal left. I noted in my second comment that Henry, Patrick, and now Tim find their strongest supporters among the Glenn Reynolds crowd, which should give anyone reason to pause and reflect.

I’ll add a couple of more points that will probably be even more difficult for Tim to connect. As noted, the NYT makes the cops the angry players of the week. This serves to deflect attention from the really angry people in the news this weekend: the rioters of Occupy Denver, for example, who scream that they want jobs and aren’t about to vote Democrat. That’s absolutely a discussion of angry people that some would prefer not to have.

The angriest people in this particular comment thread seem to be Tim and company. Why they are angry is their own business. But I suspect part of stems from having to defend an administration that is currently assassinating US citizens for what they write and say.

There are multiple strands connecting drug abuse, illegal behavior, and the behavior of authority figures. The drug laws in Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and other Asian countries probably strike some here as draconian in the extreme. They are born, however, of experience. I can’t see that they are any worse than the laws in the US. I’d much rather my own children take thirty strokes of a cane across the back in purely punitive Singapore, than spend thirty days in even the best juvenile reform facility in New York or Boston. As noted, white wealthy folks are extremely unlikely to see the inside of a jail for offenses that might well win a person of color a year or two in jail. If you think the police are the reason that’s the case, then you really don’t understand the dynamics and power of liberal elites. See Andrew Sullivan and his case as an illuminating example of this practice.

Should Herman Cain win the Republican nomination liberals are going to see much more conservatism from members of the African-American community who very clearly see a connection between the breakdown of authority, drug abuse, and illegal behaviors in nation’s schools. Conservative African-American parents, many of whom are anti-gay marriage and anti-decriminalization, currently vote Dem. That’s very likely to change if this constituency is presented with the opportunity of supporting a candidate who asks members of society to respect the police, respect teachers, respect themselves, and obey the law. The fact that this sounds so much like fascism to a vocal minority here simply confirms that Tim and company simply don’t know what fascism is.

Traffic-ticket fixing is a nothing issue and the behavior of all the cops in question is little different from the actions of most self-interested constituency. The posturing is slightly interesting, but pretty much matches the nothing-burger story in the NYT. Better than talking about angry protesters and attacks on police, however.

47

Jim Demintia 10.30.11 at 1:42 pm

Should Herman Cain win the Republican nomination liberals are going to see much more conservatism from members of the African-American community who very clearly see a connection between the breakdown of authority, drug abuse, and illegal behaviors in nation’s schools. Conservative African-American parents, many of whom are anti-gay marriage and anti-decriminalization, currently vote Dem. That’s very likely to change if this constituency is presented with the opportunity of supporting a candidate who asks members of society to respect the police, respect teachers, respect themselves, and obey the law.

You are funny.

48

wilfred 10.30.11 at 1:44 pm

@Tim, #47

“This is not matter of some tough judgement call, it’s a systematic – bureaucratic – approach to the routine perversion of the course of justice, driven by overt nepotism and having of course a financial dimension. “

Indeed it is. Some minor tinkering and that formula applies to Iraq, Fisa, Gitmo, waterboarding, and a host of other practices that have come to form a pervasive disregard for justice and simple decency.

But what the hell. Move on, I say. Look forward.

49

Henry 10.30.11 at 2:30 pm

kidneystones – as a general matter, when someone says, like Patrick:

bq. It’s not the fact that 16 police officers were indicted in the Bronx for ticket-fixing and other chicanery, it’s the fact that their arraignment was greeted by over 100 off-duty officers swarming the courthouse and physically blocking reporters from covering the event:

he is not merely trying to hint that he is not particularly interested in taking a stance on the issue of ticket-fencing. He is saying it explicitly and deliberately, in terms sufficient for the meanest intellect &c&c. The point he is making – which is as far as I can see entirely correct (and all of the flimflam that you have introduced is entirely irrelevant) is that if OWS protesters had been shoving the media, grabbing the lenses etc, this would have been treated as public affray, and the people responsible for it would have arrested. They were not – for the obvious reason that those who would otherwise have been arrested are the people who usually do the arresting. Now, it could well be that Glenn Reynolds has suddenly decided that he is all in favor of OWS, and is writing indignantly about the hypocrisy of cops doing this kind of thing, while pepper-spraying and firing baton rounds at OWS, in which case there would be a Reynolds-PNH-Farrell connection of the sort that you suggest. Or, it could be that you are spouting complete codswallop. I have no particular desire to pollute my Sunday morning by surfing over to see what Reynolds has been saying recently. But I am nonetheless prepared to place my bets on which of these two possibilities is the more plausible.

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Watson Ladd 10.30.11 at 2:32 pm

Kidneystones, those who enforce the law must respect it far more then those whom they enforce it over. A policeman derives his authority not from his gun or his badge, but from the uniform and the respect it commands. When the police are seen doing illegal acts, it detracts from that respect, and ultimately places the police officer as the blue gang with the radios.

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bob mcmanus 10.30.11 at 3:12 pm

What the fuck is all this drivel about transcendentalism McManus?

1) Saying that cops who break the law (ticket fixing) and violate public norms (City Hall) were acting out authoritarianism just struck me as a little weird. I needed to think about what was going on.

2) So maybe it was just a contentless insult process liberals were comfortable with? In a way calling the cops anarchists (making their own rules or admitting to few restrictions or accepting no outside authority) would be very uncomfortable? Why?

Oh whatever. Let’s just say that some days I consider myself a collectivist or council communist of very-far-left-libertarian and believe that liberalism/process liberalism is an authoritarianism, said authority or fount of authority (Rousseau’s General Will?) being totally abstracted directly in order to be unavailable for examination. The monarch was transcendentalized so that the people could be obedient and “free” simultaneously.

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kidneystones 10.30.11 at 3:19 pm

Hi Henry. I take Patrick’s point. As I don’t view anyone’s writing or opinions or sewage, generally speaking, I’ll respectfully suggest that I’m better informed regarding the dubious assertions of Pr. Reynolds and company than most here. I’ve had a number of email exchanges with him over the years, btw, and he takes criticism with much greater equanimity than most. Your own commendable good humor is the stuff of legend as you know. At the risk of ruining your morning, I can attest to the fact that Reynolds has been ranting and raving about the excessive zeal of the police for many years. It’s an essential feature of his libertarian Ayn Rand kick: howling about the corrupt behavior of those with a state monopoly on violence. You and Patrick are very much playing among Reynolds’ cow pies, if we can employ your own aromatic terminology.

As for the “incident”. This particular case seems to be an extremely minor infraction of abuse by any reasonable standard. I can think of countless much more serious incidents. Double standards are the staple of life. I see no reason to become upset over this particular example.

The assertion that we should expect a higher standard of behavior from those in positions of social trust, however, is one that I support. I realize that you may not wish to address the specific points I raise – that pervasive drug abuse in the educational community and the blind eye educators show to such abuse is much more damaging to the public good than police officers grabbing cameras or bumping into the press. That remains my position, however.

I don’t want my own children around teachers or parents who condone or ignore illegal drug use. I do not believe that children as young as 10 should be compelled to decide whether or not to take drugs and engage in illegal activities. I support, quite seriously, a broad range of draconian measures to protect children from drugs. I can also assure that a great many people in my part of the world hold similar views.

Hope the morning goes well. Thoroughly enjoyed your recent stuff on the EU.

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bob mcmanus 10.30.11 at 3:19 pm

I mean, there is some serious weirdness going on here:

“The cops who break the law and violate social norms are authoritarians while we, who demand an absolute obedience to the law, are the true lovers of freedom”

WTF?

54

Watson Ladd 10.30.11 at 3:36 pm

bob, freedom is not served by anarchy. Banditry can destroy freedom just as much as the state, and since the state is in theory accountable to the people, it is preferable.

55

dk 10.30.11 at 3:40 pm

@kidneystones 56

“I can attest to the fact that Reynolds has been ranting and raving about the excessive zeal of the police for many years.”

citation needed

56

evilrooster 10.30.11 at 3:52 pm

@bob mcmanus:

I think your mistake is in the placement of the authority in the context of the term “authoritarian”. Were the authoritarian mindset about the authority of social institutions such as the rule of law, than violating them would indeed be a violation of authoritarianism.

However, as the term is usually used, it refers to the notion that a set of people are in power, and that their personal authority is the force in question, whether or not they break the law or violate social norms. So deference to a cop qua cop, whether or not his actions conform to the rule of law, is an authoritarian act within the meaning of the word.

In that context, yes, “cops who break the law and violate social norms are authoritarians”; they are relying on their authority as police officers to justify their actions.

(As for your second part? “lovers of freedom” is such a bucket term as to be essentially meaningless. But I’d suggest that those of us who consider the rule of law, rather than particular people, to be one of the building blocks of a free society have more right to that term than authoritarians.)

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Tim Wilkinson 10.30.11 at 4:00 pm

Yes, and authoritarianism is about interpersonal power relations. The cops are in a dominant position so their lawbreaking is an expression of dominance and privilege. And the idea that they are special authority figures who get to wield discretion in opposition to (nominally) democratic laws is a distinctively authoritarian view.

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bob mcmanus 10.30.11 at 4:01 pm

58:For me at least, the weird liberal reaction to the NYC cops connects directly to the liberal reactions to OWS:”Where are the leaders, the demands, the goals? Who the hell is making the rules in the park? It’s it’s it’s impossible, a crime against nature.”

Liberals have become so authoritarian that obedience is freedom.

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Barry Freed 10.30.11 at 4:05 pm

I feel the need to step into this thread again and just say re kidneystones: DNFTT

Thanks all, this has been a public service announcement for the Crooked Timber commentary community.

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bob mcmanus 10.30.11 at 4:06 pm

special authority figures who get to wield discretion in opposition to (nominally) democratic laws is a distinctively authoritarian view.

The hell it is. If the enforcers are serving Qadaffi maybe, but not if they are acting as a small group.

Only if the law-breaking is an obedience, a submission to a different authority. And I am not even sure about that.

I was not creating a general rule or a new authority when I was smoking pot. I was anti-authoritarian.

Criminals as authoritarians is really weird.

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Satan Mayo 10.30.11 at 4:15 pm

If any officers attempted to intimidate, much less assault, journalists, then clearly disciplinary action should be taken as quickly as evidence can be gathered to support such a conclusion. But it’s nearly impossible to form any strong conclusions on the basis of this article.

We can tell obviously that they’re trying to intimidate PEOPLE IN GENERAL and the judicial system in general, but we can’t precisely tell whether they’re trying to intimidate any individual people in particular.

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Jim Demintia 10.30.11 at 4:15 pm

Barry, do you really mean to say that we can’t take it for granted that someone advocating the mandatory drug-testing of college professors on a CT thread about police corruption is arguing in good faith?

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Tim Wilkinson 10.30.11 at 4:23 pm

McManus, do you really not think that approving of a police force that throws its weight about as much as it likes without being retsrained by ethical/legal rules is a passive-authoritarian attitude?

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Barry Freed 10.30.11 at 4:30 pm

Jim, Why yes, I guess I really do mean that. And I think I’ve rarely seen Henry as vexed as when he stepped back into to spank the offender above. (Then again I’m just starting again to read CT threads after a number of years away, now I’m beginning to see why I left).

65

Kal 10.30.11 at 4:31 pm

@kidneystones: *blows a ring of pot smoke*

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Tim Wilkinson 10.30.11 at 4:33 pm

And just a reminder that even sticking to just the ‘ticket-fixing’, this means a bunch of people who feel free to drive around drunk, at high speed, dangerously, etc because they are related to cops – actual cops of course never even getting the ticket in the first place.

67

Kal 10.30.11 at 4:33 pm

Ah, stupid autoformat. Those were supposed to be asterisks. Why would the comment software support HTML, but also interpret random non-HTML-tag symbols to be formatting marks?

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Jim Demintia 10.30.11 at 4:34 pm

@Tim Wilkinson

Of course, dude. Police officers should just be getting high, fixing tickets, and participating in illegal gun rackets all the time, cuz breakin’ the law is what freedom is all about.

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Tim Wilkinson 10.30.11 at 4:45 pm

Also, Criminals as authoritarians – this is basically the subject matter of ‘parapolitics’.

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Salient 10.30.11 at 4:49 pm

Then there’s Salient (sorry, S!) doing the handwringing thing – not wanting to jump to any observations. This is bending over backwards to a degree only previously achieved (allegedly) by Yvonne Fletcher.

Oh no, I’ve definitely come to conclusions. Coordinated disruption is a legitimate tactic when it is used to combat injustice. I see no breach of justice protested here: all I see is a gang of a hundred mobsters who control of part of the city, engaging in coordinated intimidation of due process, acting in solidarity with other mobsters. The fact that the mobsters happen to be agents authorized by the state to make arrests and such only makes it much worse.

If the NYPD (or at least those who participated in the protest) would like to retain its legitimacy in the eyes of people like me, they would do well to clarify what injustice they are protesting. As of right now, in the absence of a statement, I feel completely comfortable calling for the police department to formally censure and penalize every police officer who was known to attend the protest, with penalties up to and perhaps including termination of employment. About the only clarification I would accept is that the officers gathered to protest the prosecution of low-level offenders, to encourage the Bureau of Internal Affairs to investigate their own commanding officers, and to express their willingness to testify on the record against their commanding officers. That’s what “Just Following Orders” would have to mean in order to confer legitimacy. If this wasn’t an attempt to call for higher-level investigation, then there’s not a single officer in that crowd that deserves any respect or deference from any of us, and if the coordinated disruption continues, it’s time to start calling for their resignations, as well as more thorough corruption investigations.

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bob mcmanus 10.30.11 at 4:58 pm

66: I approve very little.

as much as it likes without being retsrained by ethical/legal rules is a passive-authoritarian attitude?

This is literally crazy.

No, actually, approving or emulating the anarchist, nihilist, criminal, bandit or other anti-social or asocial actor is not passive-authoritarian. Not that I necessarily do so.

Now if, or to the degree the cops were “following orders” we have a problem of competing authorities or passive-authoritarianisms, which is often the dilemma most of us face.

But acting “unrestrained by ethical/legal rules” is a radical individualism, not a passive-authoritarianism. I feel I’m in the Twilight Zone.

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Tim Wilkinson 10.30.11 at 5:26 pm

Have you seen Serpico? Do you really think this kind of pack-mentality privileged bully-boy antics and the hippy-punching good ole boy type of attitude that underlies them – an attitude continuous with those of the proverbial nigger-killing lawmen feeling their notches – are individualist and freedom loving rather than authoritarian and oppressive?

That you should buy into the Dirty Harry myth that expecting these armed thugs to make some concessions to the rule of law is in some way oppressive is quite frankly fucking staggering. Next you’ll be telling us about the shameful way the constuitutional rights of arms companies are flouted and all the rest of that pseudo-libertarian macho posturing.

It’s a bit early for the Godwin option, but the idea that having a police force that functions like a mob is in some way romantic really has had its chance and failed to deliver freedom. The Golding option, perhaps, for some kind of less heavyhanded hint as to how this stuff pans out.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.30.11 at 5:46 pm

But there is another movie, Lumet’s Prince of the City, also based on real-life events. And that one takes a much more mcmanusanian view: life is messy, nothing is black&white, don’t rush to judgment.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.30.11 at 5:50 pm

…in fact, I just noticed wikipedia saying: “Lumet felt guilty about the two-dimensional way he had treated cops in the 1973 film Serpico and said that Prince of the City was his way to rectify this depiction”.

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Tim Wilkinson 10.30.11 at 5:59 pm

Well the big thing about Serpico is that it is a true story, faithfully rendered in its essentials (which also tend to tally with numerous other investigations, testimony and experience of this kind of thing).

Mr Lumet’s inner life is not something I’m inclined to agonise over at any great length in this connection.

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Tim Wilkinson 10.30.11 at 6:12 pm

I think I agree with all that, as with your previous comments here – I don’t think I’ve said anything to suggest otherwise.

(Well, I dunno about the Gates business – I didn’t follow the episode with any great interest and was primarily concerned with some of the cop’s other comments about saving face and keeping ‘order’.)

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dbk 10.30.11 at 6:18 pm

This is a really strange thread. Let’s backtrack for a moment or two to consider: the NYPD are (natural) members of the 99%. Currently, they are being required to countermand their class interests at OWS as (de facto, though not de jure) servants of the 1%. They are surely not happy about this.

Suddenly, there are indictments for ticket-fixing (and other charges, some considerably more serious) by the representatives of the 1%. Ticket-fixing, btw, not just for friends but for members of the 1%. What interest group (or guild, or professional association) wouldn’t feel betrayed? “We do your bidding [sc. at OWS], and this is how you repay us?” One can only wonder what was going down in the mind of the Bronx DA (although these investigations have been in the pipeline for years acc to the NYT, so he may not have been able to hold off).

IMVHO, this is what is called a “teachable moment”. The NYPD can stand with their own class, or they can stand against it. No wonder they’re so angry – how can anyone who’s being forced to oppose their own class/people/interests not be angry?

A couple days ago, Ingrid had a post on Poetry and People. I think I was the only person on the thread who noted that the film I return to again and again was Serpico, and there is a reason for this. The “despairing hope” (or “hopeful despair”) of the lead character gives me hope in the midst of my own despair. The police are by law the people’s protectors; they are of the people. I feel hopeful at this moment, because I sense that the decision by the (Bronx) DA may awaken members of the force to the reality that they belong with – not against – the occupiers.

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Salient 10.30.11 at 7:03 pm

“The NYPD can stand with their own class, or they can stand against it.”

Problem is, they’re being completely opaque about which choice they’re making. There’s nothing inherently wrong with executing a highly public coordinated disruption without a specific message to assert, of course. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with showing up purely as a gesture of solidarity to a fellow member of a group–I’d probably go stand with a crowd and support and applaud in much the same way for a fellow Occupant.

But when the group in question is, by their own admission, police officers who break various minor laws in an intentional and systematic way and would like to keep doing so, there’s really no reason to support them or condone their civil disobedience (when and where it does occur). There are plenty among the 99% who are willful and enthusiastic agents of the 1%. When you say “They are surely not happy about this” I wonder, what evidence of that do we currently have?

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dbk 10.30.11 at 7:39 pm

Salient@84

Yes, you’re completely right – they’re being opaque about which side they’re on
(cf. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iAIM02kv0g).

That’s why I called this a “teachable moment”.

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ScentOfViolets 10.30.11 at 9:37 pm

For those of you who still don’t get it – these are not crimes on the order of someone running a red light or driving drunk. They are an abuse of the public’s trust.

Think about it this way: how would you feel about an incompetent engineer who builds a bridge that fails under the designed load vs an engineer who deliberately builds a bridge to fail within the the specified design tolerances? How would you feel about a doctor who misdiagnoses a patient through incompetence as opposed to a doctor who deliberately infects his patients with malarial parasites?

Now, how would you feel about one hundred doctors showing up and trying to intimidate the press and the jury during the trial of one of their own for deliberately infecting their patients?

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Tim Wilkinson 10.30.11 at 9:51 pm

#84 – Well yes, it would be wonderful if the 1% did manage to alienate their troops. But the default position is that when you get a job as a cop, or when you stay on post rookie status anyway, it’s pretty clear that you are siding with ‘the authorities’ against troublemakers and degenerates, and indeed that this division need not coincide very closely with that between those who do and don’t observe the letter of the criminal law.

Note that as well as ‘Only obeying orders’ signs, there were the ‘”This has been going on since the Egyptians” – Mayor Mike Bloomberg’ signs – which seem to have been intended exculpatorily, as normalising the practice of extending these courtesies to the ‘good guys’. And apparently signs saying ‘NYPD culture’ signs.

Also may as well point out that it appears that there were, unamazingly enough, things like domestic violence being ‘fixed’, as well as the oh-so-trivial business of impunity for drunk drivers.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.30.11 at 9:52 pm

I feel bad about doctors taking bribes and kickbacks from pharma companies. But I suspect almost all of them do, one way or another. And engineers probably make similar deals with their suppliers. Money makes the world go round.

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Bruce Wilder 10.30.11 at 9:54 pm

Of the 16 officers arraigned on Friday, ranking as high as lieutenant, 11 were charged with crimes related to fixing tickets. So, yes, these are crimes pretty much on the order of someone running a red light or driving drunk. Running a red light or driving drunk is trivial as long as it remains only a theoretical risk, and has no realized consequences. Fixing a ticket, similarly, typically has no immediate consequence — a bridge doesn’t fall down and no one develops malaria. Try to keep some perspective, here.

Four of the officers were charged with somewhat more serious offenses, and one, whose misbehavior prompted the investigation, was charged with a serious pattern of criminal conduct.

My father was a policeman, a Michigan State trooper, who blew the whistle on some very, very serious corruption, back in the day. He told me the fish rots from the head: you don’t get petty corruption in a police force without serious corruption or incompetence at the top. So, when I see mostly low-ranking officers being charged with petty corruption, I have to wonder. Low-ranking policemen involved in ticket-fixing sounds like a serious failure of supervision, but where are the top-ranking officers being held accountable?

These policemen sound very angry. Anger trumps shame — I understand that dynamic. But, something else is going on here.

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Meredith 10.30.11 at 10:58 pm

A couple of thoughts on this very curious thread. Ticket-fixing, like driving drunk, may not in itself be a big deal. At least, driving drunk isn’t a big deal — until you get into an accident and kill or maim somebody (maybe yourself). And a ticket fixed here or there — who would claim the whole justice system is collapsing because of that? But systematic or routine ticket-fixing (which can eventually result from the ticket fixed here or there) is perhaps more like the drunk who does get into the lethal accident, in that the results of that systematic/routine fixing undermine the fundamental principle that we are all equally subject to the law (the laws we have made). By that principle, the police remain “one of us” as well as “for us.” They are subject to the same laws we all are. (I know I’m idealizing here. I still think in terms of aiming high and then getting to work. Misreadings of Stanley Fish notwithstanding.)
Judges accord credibility to police testimony almost by definition. I hear about this all the time from my daughter, who is in the process of becoming a defense attorney in NYC (alert: a huge percentage of “crimes” involve low level drug-dealing, including dealing in marijuana, and charges are brought almost entirely against people of color. A problem here! — maybe not of police making, but it speaks to some other comments). If police are to deserve that credibility from judges (and jurors), they’d better stop fixing tickets, for starters.
If the NYT article is accurate (and who knows? I agree with an earlier commenter that the grey lady has become a journalistic embarrassment), PBA types got this particular perk, not all officers, and PBA types were demonstrating. This may be an important point. That union leadership and union rank-and-file might be out of sync — well, that would be nothing new.

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Bruce Wilder 10.30.11 at 11:06 pm

Are folks aware of the hot controversy over the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy?

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john c. halasz 10.30.11 at 11:24 pm

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chris 10.31.11 at 4:00 am

“You can’t handle the truth!”

…Perhaps it is worth a reminder that this line originates from a character who first orders his subordinates to do something illegal (against the orders of superiors in the military), then when those orders result in the death of another of his subordinates, engages in a cover-up in which he tries to frame the subordinates as responsible for his decision, ultimately resulting in their careers being ruined while yet another subordinate commits suicide over his involvement. All of whom are better human beings than he is, not that that’s hard.

I mention this because authoritarians are otherwise prone to remember the architect of this series of events as the hero.

Whether that has much to do with police behaving as if they expect to be above the law as a matter of course, I’m not quite sure, but maybe it does. For authoritarians, I think, there are people who make and enforce the laws, and people against whom the laws are enforced; the notion of the rule of law applying to everyone is so alien to their mindset they can’t grasp it even if they actually live in a society that works that way (or is supposed to work that way — of course if you get enough authoritarians into the law-enforcement machinery then it will stop working as a rule-of-law society even if it was designed that way).

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Harold 10.31.11 at 4:34 am

I agree. Stop and frisk is a much bigger deal. People get sent to jail for three days awaiting arraignment and then lose their jobs for a phony charge, typically trespassing.

Could it be that this is a way of going after the union? Not that I condone ticket fixing, far from it.

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Meredith 10.31.11 at 5:20 am

Yes, stop and frisk is the very bigger deal, in itself and because it exposes a larger propensity.
Harold, I am interested in this idea that some forces or other may be going after the union. Shades of Wisconsin? If so, then what a mess. Has the (possible) corruption of the PBA’s leaders and its functionaries made the union vulnerable to this legal assault (being carried out by people with, possibly, different and “higher” motives)?
All this makes Afghanistan seem transparent by comparison. Awaiting more information on NYC….

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kidneystones 10.31.11 at 5:34 am

dk writes: citation needed. I’ll give it a quick look. The fact that you are unfamiliar with Reynolds’s position on the state’s monopoly on violence says rather a lot about what you know and don’t know about 21 st century libertarians. Isn’t there an index in those “How the Koch Brothers Are Planning To Destroy Democracy” bibles so popular these days? Reason, Matt Welch, et al are all in favor of decriminalizing drugs and curtailing the excesses of the police. I can easily recall a Reynolds post circa Abu Ghuraib when he observed that conditions in many US prisons suggest a long history of cruel and unusual punishment practices that garnered very little outcry. You really don’t know how these folks roll, do you? You should.

If I have the time, I may help you do the search in the IP archives. Or you could simply email Glenn and ask for the info. He publishes frequently in law reviews and may have something formal you can use.

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Harold 10.31.11 at 6:12 am

I wouldn’t put anything past Bloomberg.

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kidneystones 10.31.11 at 6:19 am

Here you go, dk. Part of a week from the IP archives: 8/11/2001. I suggest you devote a moment to at least familiarize yourself with Reynolds’ positions. I’ve included just the first few entries. Enjoy!

WHO DIED AND MADE YOU GOD? That’s the question many are asking bioethicists these days, according to a story in Sunday’s New York Times. It’s a good question. It’s not like God was especially good as a source of answers for moral questions (the Inquisition comes to mind as an example of this approach’s flaws) but nowadays bioethicists are increasingly asked to take the place of religion. And they’re not God, or godlike. They’re just officious people with graduate degrees. They’ve become part of an overarching ethics establishment with no particular claim to legitimacy and with substantial evidence of feathering its own nest at the expense of the interests it’s supposed to protect. This problem isn’t unique to bioethicists, but they suffer from it as much as any others.

Posted 8/11/2001 11:51:07 PM by Glenn Reynolds

MORE ON THE CONTROVERSIAL LEON KASS: Ronald Bailey joins Virginia Postrel’s concerns about the appointment of the highly partisan Leon Kass to head George W. Bush’s bioethics commission. As mentioned below, I agree. This is like putting Neal Horsley in charge of a commission on the ethics of abortion. Will the press focus on Kass’s precommitments on this issue?

Posted 8/11/2001 02:03:37 PM by Glenn Reynolds

TERRIFIC column by Dorothy Rabinowitz on the continuing madness of the Amirault witch-hunt in Massachussetts. Now that their case has been discredited by evidence that the children “victims” were coached and browbeaten into saying exactly what the prosecution wanted to hear (chilling excerpts provided) the prosecutors have brought these victims back for a press conference. Now they’re reporting entirely new, and even more fantastic, episodes of abuse — episodes never mentioned earlier in depositions or at trial. Sadly, these former kids (they’re practically grownups now, over a decade later) probably sincerely believe that this stuff happened. They’re victims all right — victims of prosecutorial brainwashing. If child abuse is horrible because of the lifelong anguish it can inflict on its victims, then isn’t virtual child abuse — in which the lifelong anguish is inflicted without the actual abuse — nearly as bad? Not much chance that the prosecutors will be held accountable, though. Historians will look back on the Amirault case and the other episodes like it the same way they look back on the Salem witch trials. (Hey, that was in Massachussetts too…). The WSJ and Dorothy Rabinowitz deserve medals for bravery in an era when anyone who decries such horrors is at risk of being deemed a pedophile-lover. When will the federal Department of Justice investigate this case? And when are state bars’ ethics commissions going to start disciplining prosecutors for offering obviously manufactured testimony, and for refusing to back down when they’re caught? If a plaintiffs’ lawyer did this sort of thing in a tort suit, he or she would be disbarred. Why should prosecutors, who can take people’s lives and liberty, not just their money, be held to a lesser standard?

Posted 8/11/2001 11:53:02 AM by Glenn Reynolds

THE BULLMOOSE is joining Josh Marshall in attacking President Bush’s stem cell decision. Well, not really. Marshall says (wrongly, I think — see below) that Bush’s speech was terrible. Bullmoose thinks that it’s the tepid response of the pro-lifers that’s terrible. Bush has betrayed them, says the moose, but they don’t care so long as they maintain access. I think that’s unfair. In truth, despite all the posturing, the stem-cell issue is peripheral. It is to the abortion debate what Quemoy and Matsu were to the Cold War: something you can argue about precisely because it is peripheral. Bush isn’t going to concede much, if any, ground on the abortion front where it really matters — he won’t be vetoing any partial-birth abortion bans, for example. (I think he should veto such a bill, because regulating abortion isn’t a legitimate part of the commerce power but that’s neither here nor there.) In truth, there’s a lot of consensus on the middle ground in the abortion area: most people know you can’t really outlaw it, and don’t really want that anyway, but they don’t really like abortion and don’t mind if it’s moderately hard to get one. This situation is deeply unsatisfying for people who like nice, clean ideological divisions. But most voters, and most politicians, aren’t those sorts of people.

Posted 8/11/2001 10:36:06 AM by Glenn Reynolds

EVEN MORE PROBLEMS FOR THE FBI: According to this story, FBI agents and prosecutors allowed informants to plot and commit serious crimes, including murder. A similar scandal has been unfolding in Boston. Now, I understand that when you have informants in criminal gangs, by definition they’re going to be committing crimes. But at the same time, “informant” status has been used, apparently not uncommonly, as a “get out of jail free” card. At some point it looks less like assisting an investigation on the part of the informant, and more like complicity on the part the government. The ability to, er, overlook crimes is an inevitable part of law enforcement and prosecutorial discretion. It’s also one that is enormously susceptible to corruption, abuse, and bad judgment. Once again, it appears that the FBI isn’t up to the job.

Posted 8/11/2001 10:15:21 AM by Glenn Reynolds

93

Eric 10.31.11 at 6:27 am

This may be one of the more bizarre CT threads I’ve seen.
There are some pretty zany opinions, from those defending police corruption (i.e. McManus and KidneyStones) to Salient’s somewhat authoritarian anti-authoritarianism. But it seems fairly clear that what the officers did was illegal and should be punished. Even if there are a lot of gray areas in cops’ work, and the occasional shooting of cellphone-wielding men is one of the biggest, in this case it’s pretty clear that cops systematically broke the law. The only way I can see the protest as being defensible is if the corruption starts higher up on the chain.

Also, for dbk and those talking about police unions, I wonder if you’ve been paying much attention to the labor movement these past twenty years. Cops and firefighters tend not to stand in solidarity with other unions–in many cases, they are the only unions that throw their weight behind the anti-labor candidate. Being a cop is a hard job–most of the time you are dealing with wary or hostile people who are trying to make your job difficult–but I imagine that one of the hardest parts is that you are treated with wariness by the rest of the “working class”, which is why policemen tend to emphasize solidarity almost to the point of absurdity. But I think one of the lessons of Wisconsin is that the rest of the labor movement is happy to include policemen. It may be worth their while for police unions to start thinking about where they stand.

94

L2P 10.31.11 at 6:30 am

“Of the 16 officers arraigned on Friday, ranking as high as lieutenant, 11 were charged with crimes related to fixing tickets. So, yes, these are crimes pretty much on the order of someone running a red light or driving drunk.”

There is no petty crime when it comes to subverting criminal justice. These are all serious crimes – very serious crimes. Cops get charged with traffic violations ALL THE TIME and you don’t get hundreds of other cops protesting the “unfairness” of it all. The NYPD is up in arms here b/c these cops are in SERIOUS, SERIOUS TROUBLE.

I can’t understand for a second this tendency to downplay what these cops did. I don’t understand why anyone would analogize selling justice to “running a red light” or a student smoking pot. Those are citations, or minor misdemeanors at best.

95

Sebastian 10.31.11 at 7:09 am

How is it that we have failed to mention the heroin trafficking in a police car?

96

sg 10.31.11 at 8:13 am

what a sad, sad thread.

97

Barry 10.31.11 at 12:39 pm

Sebastian 10.31.11 at 7:09 am

” How is it that we have failed to mention the heroin trafficking in a police car?”

Because even the most rabid right-winger have trouble excusing that as ‘boys will be boys’, or ‘police judgement’.

Note that I’m not saying that they won’t excuse it in the end, just that they’ll have trouble.

98

bob mcmanus 10.31.11 at 1:23 pm

what a sad, sad thread.

Yup.

Oh, I am a Direct Action (so to speak) Leftist who thinks the groveling obeisance to the Rule of Law displayed in this thread simply means that the necessary next steps (so to speak) after OWS has failed will be unavailable. You do know that General Strikes are very illegal (horrors), not to speak of most of Gene Sharp’s tools.

The Right does not have your fastidiousness and they will bury us.

99

bob mcmanus 10.31.11 at 1:26 pm

Hell, all President Perry is gonna have to do is make the Democratic Party illegal and y’all will go home and watch tv.

Screw the Law.

100

Sebastian 10.31.11 at 2:53 pm

Wait are we confusing mcmanus with a right-winger?

101

Ed Marshall 10.31.11 at 2:57 pm

Like what do you do, Bob, other than playing Rambo Leftist on the internet?

I actually used to be the Crass encrusted, Black Bloc engaging in direct action. Sneered at any other form of protest. We were going to throw our bodies into the wheels of the machine and make the thing stop. Made sure I got a bloody nose at the protest, I bet I Was A Better Anarchist Than You. I was twenty. That was my excuse.

What do you think that you are going to do? I’m guessing that you are way too old to play Street Fighting Man at the barricades against tear gas, tasers, and baton rounds, so it sounds quite a bit like you are bored and playing a game of “Let’s you and him fight!”. A rather cruel one, that I know from experience doesn’t end well for the people who actually have to get out there and do it.

102

Ed Marshall 10.31.11 at 3:17 pm

and by the time that you have disappeared so far up anarcho-syndicalism’s ass that you are writing apologia for the police, it’s time to turn in your copy of Rocker’s Theory and Practice and call it a day.

103

Dragon-King Wangchuck 10.31.11 at 3:32 pm

re: Good cops and bad cops.

They are teh same cops.

There is no reason why people with criminal tendencies can’t enforce teh law on others. There’s no reason why a man who views peaceful protestors as valid targets for beatings can’t also risk drowning to save a stranger’s life.

Just because a cop is dirty, that doesn’t mean that they can’t behave like good cops at other times. And likewise, just because they behave like good decent cops that truly deserve to be regarded as heroes, that doesn’t mean they can’t also be sociopathic scumbags that see themselves as Nietschean übermenschen who occasionally deign to use their powers to protect teh lower classes.

In fact, law enforcement as a profession leans towards this view of itself – as a collection of heroic exemplars of teh human race tasked with maintaining law and order. They are society’s guardians and fighters of crime. They serve and PROTECT. They are resistant to ideas liek community policing, because all that namby-pamby stuff gets in teh way of locking up evildoers.

Add to that teh adversarial justice system. As teh rationalization goes, teh folks who enforce teh law put their lives at stake every day and need to rely on one another to teh utmost. Teh requirements of teh job breeds tribalism to a crazy degree.

Worse still, teh “us vs. them” mentality, is further enforced by society’s view that for the police “us” means “good” and “them” means “criminal.” No wonder cops view themselves as above teh law.

Not to say that there isn’t any truth to teh “few bad apples” view – that teh bulk of teh really reprehensible behaviour is committed by a tiny minority of police. That’s probably pretty accurate. The problem is that “being rotten to teh core” isn’t seen as a bad thing by teh other apples. When was teh last time one of these investigations was prompted by teh whistleblowing by a police officer? Heck, when was teh last time an investigation into police misconduct wasn’t actively hampered by other police officers?

That’s teh thing about teh “few bad apples” – that at some point they spoil teh whole damn bunch.

104

MPAVictoria 10.31.11 at 3:33 pm

“I don’t want my own children around teachers or parents who condone or ignore illegal drug use. I do not believe that children as young as 10 should be compelled to decide whether or not to take drugs and engage in illegal activities. I support, quite seriously, a broad range of draconian measures to protect children from drugs. I can also assure that a great many people in my part of the world hold similar views.”

Hate to tell you this kidneystone but if your kids are older than 12 I bet they have been around people smoking pot or drinking under age. Don’t worry though, they will get through it just fine. Most of us do.
/You must be a lot of fun at parties.

105

bianca steele 10.31.11 at 3:44 pm

@110
Yes, and that is part of the usual justification of the exposure of occasional scandals. To change this to a system in which scandal is never permitted to be seriously aired would be a serious reversal.

106

Barry 10.31.11 at 4:05 pm

DKW, did you get the memo that ‘teh’ was on the tired list? It hasn’t been ‘hawt’ for a couple of years now.

107

Barry Freed 10.31.11 at 4:13 pm

Yeah, talk about teh overload.

108

Substance McGravitas 10.31.11 at 4:18 pm

DKW’s fingers were broken by policemen so you could be a little more sensitive.

109

sg 10.31.11 at 4:23 pm

Bob McManus, you are so far up your own arse on this one. You’re showing a remarkable naivete about power and its abuse. The other defenses of this kind of police corruption are also pretty sad. It’s depressing to see this level of ignorance on a left-wing site.

110

Tim Wilkinson 10.31.11 at 4:31 pm

Yes, McManus: the point of the rule of law is not ‘people being told what to do’, it’s ‘people, even if they are being told what (not) to do, at least not just being ordered about arbitrarily by unconstrained dictators’. Constraining authority is not authoritarian; discretion first engine of tyranny; or see previous comments; ah forget it.

111

Dragon-King Wangchuck 10.31.11 at 4:44 pm

DKW, did you get the memo that ‘teh’ was on the tired list? It hasn’t been ‘hawt’ for a couple of years now.

OMGWTehFBBQ!

112

ScentOfViolets 10.31.11 at 4:51 pm

Of the 16 officers arraigned on Friday, ranking as high as lieutenant, 11 were charged with crimes related to fixing tickets. So, yes, these are crimes pretty much on the order of someone running a red light or driving drunk. Running a red light or driving drunk is trivial as long as it remains only a theoretical risk, and has no realized consequences. Fixing a ticket, similarly, typically has no immediate consequence—a bridge doesn’t fall down and no one develops malaria. Try to keep some perspective, here.

So then my hypothetical doctor hasn’t committed a serious crime if the patient he’s infected with a potentially deadly disease successfully fights it off? If a wife hires what she thinks is a contract killer to off her husband isn’t really a contract killer and turns her into the police she hasn’t really committed a serious crime (hey, no one was even marginally hurt, let alone seriously injured, let alone killed!)

You might want to rethink this one, and why speeding and drunk driving are considered crimes in the first place. You might also want to think what would happen if instead of paying the fine for speeding you flat-out refused to do so and claimed that you really shouldn’t even be called to account for a minor infraction where – Hey! – no one got hurt. Just see what the police think about that sort of reasoning when it’s you and not them using it.

And going back to my original point, I’m not really talking about the police who are being tried for various crimes right now; I’m talking about the off-duty “protesters” whose position is apparently that the police shouldn’t have to stand trial for any of these charges. Like the original poster, PNH was saying.

113

kidneystones 10.31.11 at 4:53 pm

Hi MPA, I hate to break the news to you, but I can guarantee our kids haven’t been around pot, cocaine, E, or lsd. As for the parties, suffice to say, it’s been a very long time since I spent much time around people lurching into each other in a state of chemically-induced euphoria. I’m reluctant to expand on the topic of popularity simply because I don’t want to risk jinxing my extraordinary good fortune. I know some wonderful people. As for the drugs and kids question, my wife and I don’t consider alcohol and tobacco to be “drugs” in the same way that pot, coke, and lsd are. That isn’t to say the case can’t persuasively be made that these substances are drugs. What I’m saying is the behaviors we are seeking to protect our kids from are those that involve the ingestion of illegal drugs. And I can assure you that we have succeeded, so far. Kids are 12 and 15. The solution is simple – live in a community where drug use is both heavily stigmatized and heavily punished. My wife and I are not interested in debating the damaging effects of illegal drug use with anyone. Nor, I suspect, are our neighbors. We simply don’t want our kids to have to decide whether to engage in illegal drug-taking activities while they are children. Folks in our community believe that’s a decision no child should be forced to make. When children become adults they are entirely free to make their own decisions.

Shocking way to live, isn’t it?

114

MPAVictoria 10.31.11 at 5:15 pm

“Hi MPA, I hate to break the news to you, but I can guarantee our kids haven’t been around pot, cocaine, E, or lsd.”

Hi kidneystones, how can you guarantee this? All you can guarantee is that you haven’t CAUGHT your children around these substances. That proves nothing. Kids are very good at hiding things from their parents.

“As for the drugs and kids question, my wife and I don’t consider alcohol and tobacco to be “drugs” in the same way that pot, coke, and lsd are.”

Just because you do not consider them to be drugs doesn’t mean that they are not drugs.

“We simply don’t want our kids to have to decide whether to engage in illegal drug-taking activities while they are children. Folks in our community believe that’s a decision no child should be forced to make.”

Unless you live on a compound somewhere in Utah it is likely that your children have already made these kind of decisions. Probably multiple times. Also it is likely that at least some of your neighbours regularly use some sort of illegal drug.

/Also I apologise for the party crack. It was uncalled for.

115

bob mcmanus 10.31.11 at 5:19 pm

147: Lord, you liberals make it all so complicated.

Can OWS stay in the park or not? What is the principled difference between OWS defying an evacuation order and a cop fixing a parking ticket? What is the difference between cops at City Hall and OWS supporters protesting and arraignment?

The law and the state are nothing more than tools to help your friends and hurt your enemies, enacted and wielded by those who have seized political power. I may not like what the cops have done, and want to see them hurt, but I am not clear if I really believe they have done anything wrong. Ain’t no higher laws. Predicting the eternal chains of consequences (if we let cops break laws, cats will sleep with dogs)) is religion.

When liberals start understanding that, maybe we can get a jobs bill instead of a bank bailout (see it is the money multiplier, at a ratio of 7:1, with adequate reserves and depending on velocity blah blah). Science.

Obama and Geithner understand the law. They’ll cash the checks.

116

bob mcmanus 10.31.11 at 5:36 pm

I first came onto the blogosphere about the time Bush started torturing and the liberals were telling me the Law would protect the vulnerable from the powerful. How’s Iraq? How’s John Yoo doing?

Damn right I have contempt for the Law.

I still respect politics, the shout in the street.

117

Sebastian 10.31.11 at 5:42 pm

“What is the principled difference between OWS defying an evacuation order and a cop fixing a parking ticket?”

Jesus Christ. I’m temperamentally conservative (though at this point I want to strangle Limbaugh, Gingrich, and Palin) and I can answer this question.

Fixing a ticket is an expression of power over the people whose tickets you don’t fix, and a method of extracting gratitude/favors from people whose tickets you do fix. The OWS not leaving the park is nothing like that. It is a tradition of political engagement which has existed as long as democracy.

“What is the difference between cops at City Hall and OWS supporters protesting and arraignment?”

The cops at city hall are trying to protect their own privilege and the ‘right’ to selective enforcement of the law. The OWS supporters (at least at this point) are merely pointing out that the systemic structure is failing to do what it promised.

Furthermore, the policemen got away with crap that would have been cracked down hard against if the OWS supporters tried. At this point your statement has all the logic of “the OWS supporters and the police are exactly like people waiting for the subway at rush hour because all three are large groups of people who consume oxygen while breathing”.

You’re right. But in completely irrelevant ways.

118

Dragon-King Wangchuck 10.31.11 at 5:58 pm

Great! So when do cops have to follow the law, and when can they ignore the law, and are you willing to put it in writing?

If I were Dragon-King, cops would have to follow teh law ALL THE TIME. They can ignore the law or bend the rules in order to catch teh bad guys exactly NEVER. NOT EVER. NEVER NEVER NEVER.

What is the principled difference between OWS defying an evacuation order and a cop fixing a parking ticket? What is the difference between cops at City Hall and OWS supporters protesting and arraignment?

Teh protesting/ticket fixing cops get to go back to carrying guns and enforcing law. I fully support teh right of police to protest or engage in civil disobedience. I also fully support Society’s right to have standards about whom they choose to trust with powers of arrest and detention. That teh people in the role of Police can be held to a higher standard of behaviour – teh Uncle Ben Principle about Power and Responsibility being directly related (not inversely as it seems to have become) – I am okay with that.

Also too, WTF? Ticket-fixing vs. denying an order to abandon your political protest? Uh, yeah I would have to say there are principled differences between teh two.

119

Tim Wilkinson 10.31.11 at 6:16 pm

McM – you’re the one going on about some trancendent unattainable Wrongness. Myself I’m just talking about authoritarianism, power relations, that kind of stuff. And who you calling ‘liberal’?

120

Lemuel Pitkin 10.31.11 at 6:26 pm

DKW, did you get the memo that ‘teh’ was on the tired list? It hasn’t been ‘hawt’ for a couple of years now.

Yep. Even when the competition gets very stiff, like on this one, Dragon-King’s tehs and moars remain the single-most irritating feature of CT comment threads. It’s like if you’re an interesting conversation except that one person in the group keeps reaching out and pulling on your nose. Partly you wonder why he’s doing that, but mostly you just really want to not talk with him.

121

Dragon-King Wangchuck 10.31.11 at 6:38 pm

Yep. Even when the competition gets very stiff, like on this one, Dragon-King’s tehs and moars remain the single-most irritating feature of CT comment threads.

Sw33t. A WINRAR is ME!

Partly you wonder why he’s doing that, but mostly you just really want to not talk with him.

Well at least I can use that as an excuse when no one talks to me and can continue to avoid showering.

122

dbk 10.31.11 at 7:31 pm

kidneystones@120

Okay, I give up. Could you please reveal, if not the township and county, at least the general area where you live, and in which your children have never been exposed to any (illegal) drugs?

I always had the sort of general impression that one of the roles of a parent was to help one’s children acquire a value system that would make them able to resist illegal drugs, regardless of geographic location. Because you never know where your children might end up living …

On another note: this thread is now so far OT (er, what was the topic?) that it seems (to me, anyway) BLR.

123

Meredith 10.31.11 at 9:09 pm

Thank you, Sebastian, (and from someone not the least bit conservative).

124

Tim Wilkinson 10.31.11 at 10:23 pm

Bruce W @ driving drunk is trivial as long as it remains only a theoretical risk, and has no realized consequences. Fixing a ticket, similarly, typically has no immediate consequence

Well, not really. Driving drunk is culpably reckless regradless of whether the downside risk actuallly eventuates. ‘But’, you reply, ‘the ticket will not be fixed if someone has been killed’. Quite possibly not, but that’s not reaqlly the point. The problem about this kind of impunity for a certain class of drunk drivers is that it is anticipated.

The expectation of impunity encourages (removes the deterrent from) drunk driving. It’s irrelevant if when someone finally does goes killed the ‘ticket’ doesn’t then get ‘fixed’. In the individual case it is too late, and in general these cases don’t have much deterrent effect – drunk drivers are – of course – reckless about the prospect of actually crashing. (And incidentally, there should be a lot less moral luck involved in sentencing for these crimes – no-one really expects to crash, so the motivational impact of penalties for doing so being piled on top of the other grim consequences is pretty feeble.)

Similar consids also apply to other forms of dangerous driving – which is what these traffic offences mostly concern (and again note that ticket fixing applies only to tickets which a cop on the ground decided merited a ticket).

Motorists like to think that traffic offences are only on the books as just some kind of arbitrary persecution (massive metal things hurtling around at high speed – what could possibly go wrong?). Back here in reality the idea that legislators are happy to piss off the motoring lobby is on a par with the bullshit talked about evidentiary ‘technicalities’ as if judges and legislators are all criminal lovers who get off on enforcing perverse rules, or morons who really should be listening to the famously brainy boys in blue.

Even parking prohibitions are often there for safety reasons, though admittedly it’s generally primarily the safety of mere pedestrians.

125

MPAVictoria 10.31.11 at 10:52 pm

“Motorists like to think that traffic offences are only on the books as just some kind of arbitrary persecution (massive metal things hurtling around at high speed – what could possibly go wrong?). Back here in reality the idea that legislators are happy to piss off the motoring lobby is on a par with the bullshit talked about evidentiary ‘technicalities’ as if judges and legislators are all criminal lovers who get off on enforcing perverse rules, or morons who really should be listening to the famously brainy boys in blue.”

Though we are starting to get far afield I really have to disagree that safety is the primary motivation behind speed limits. It is not speed that causes accidents but poor driver training. Germany provides an excellent example of how high speeds can coexist with a safe motoring environment. I would love for Canada and the United States to adopt this kind of system.
/Climbs off hobby horse.

126

Tim Wilkinson 10.31.11 at 11:08 pm

It is not speed that causes accidents but poor driver training that may be the case, though just out of interest it certainly doesn’t follow that there is motivation other than safety for speed limits.

I can’t (certainly won’t) attempt to address that particular issue – but I would guess that a fair proportion of speeding drivers, at least, are at least rather under-justified in their beliefs about the low correlation of speed and casualty rate/seriousness.

Autobahns/motorways are highly specialised driving environments, too, and results from them can’t be applied to the rest of the road system.

But if you are right, and motorists know this and are thus justified in ignoring speed limits, even though legislators for some reason are unresponsive to the facts, then consider mention of speeding in the above to have been retracted.

127

kidneystones 10.31.11 at 11:52 pm

Hi MPA,

There are lots of communities like mine and we’re a long way from Idaho. I’ve already identified the general region. I’m not at all sure that it matters, but since this seems to matter we live in Tokyo. I appreciate your apology, btw. I generally enjoy your comments even when you’re being a bit brisk. Your concern is also clear and very welcome.

In your reply, however, you’re not telling me anything new or anything that isn’t obvious. I stated clearly that tobacco and alcohol can be seen as drugs, but that we are principally concerned with illegal drug activity. I hope you’ll at least entertain the possibility that I do know what I’m talking about regarding drug use in Japan. I know a great many American, Australians, Brits raising families here and the consensus view is that Japan/Asia is much safer place to raise kids. I also recognize that this self-selecting group has clear biases.

The social fabric here is very much intact. I contemplated offering a recent experience earlier to illustrate this point and might as well serve it up now. Last Friday I boarded one of the thousands of pristine trains that transport us through our day. It was just after 5:00 pm and the condition of the car was still immaculate. (True, the car might have just been cleaned. I sat on an empty seat opposite two young middle-school boys. One attempted to slyly drop a tissue on the floor behind his bag. One of the adults immediately fixed him with a glance and instructed him to think more clearly about his actions. The contrite lad picked up the tissue and we all returned to our activities. That’s what life is like here. It’s far from perfect in many repects, but I think the episode suggests we have plenty of reason to believe that our kids are not being exposed to drugs. We allow our kids access to information and a very large measure of trust. We’re fully aware, I hope, that we are far from perfect parents. Our kids are old enough and perceptive enough to see through that particular smoke screen. I know plenty of people raising fine families in the US and the UK.

Cheers!

128

MPAVictoria 11.01.11 at 1:52 am

kidneystones,
It was sincerely interesting to read about your experience raising children as a foreigner in Japan. As I feel we are getting a bit off topic I will leave the conversation here.
Thank you for your response.

129

josefina 11.01.11 at 2:04 am

kidneystones: When will you trust your children to make “adult” decisions? Have you picked out a particular birthday? (If so, I hope you’ve come up with a ceremony to mark the transition—something like a bar mitzvah or a quinceañera. That’s the least you can do.) Do you expect your children to eventually make their own way in the wider world? Or do you expect them to remain in the hothouse in which you’ve raised them?

I grew up in a small town in the U.S., small enough that unspoken consensus authorized any adult to rebuke, chastise, or otherwise correct any minor. I grew up with loving (and loved) parents who monitored my every interaction with the world. I grew up feeling smothered and suffocated and all but obliterated.

When I left my hometown at age 18, I had a very hard time figuring out how to interact with strangers and decode their messages, especially because the interactions and the decoding and the messages involved *things* that my parents had worked so hard to keep from me, so I couldn’t turn to them. And all that was nothing compared to the painful, brutal struggle to figure out who the hell I was.

kidneystones, if you love your children and want them to develop their own selves, you’ll let them make their own decisions, their own mistakes. And age 12 is not too young to say, “Yeah, thanks, but I’m not interested.” It’s good practice.

130

Atticus Dogsbody 11.01.11 at 4:42 am

Having lived in both Japan and China (where drug laws are more draconian and the social stigma attached to drug use even greater than Japan) I am stunningly impressed with kidneystones’ ability to live in a dream world. That’s not a case of rose colored glasses, he’s wearing a blindfold… also, pumping Glenn Reynolds. Dear, God!

131

sg 11.01.11 at 5:35 am

Hey kidneystones, I went out to Shibuya for halloween on Saturday night, with Kiki the witch and a crazy vampire, and let me assure you that a great many of the people I met there were pilling. I wonder how all those costumed crazies managed to stay up until 5am? Perhaps you haven’t been to a nightclub in Japan yet, or read Tokyo Real, or visited the saike scene, or wandered Kabukicho at 3am? And perhaps you haven’t considered the large number of unaccompanied schoolkids one sees around these “danger” spots at all hours of the day or night? Your kids could be amongst them! They do go to cram school, right? Or perhaps you’re “sheltering” them from exposure to drug use in the extremely dubious environs of an International School …?

Your comments, based on life in Japan, are hardly relevant to New York are they? Especially when one considers the way police corruption is handled in the city of lights …

132

Meredith 11.01.11 at 5:54 am

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kidneystones 11.01.11 at 8:34 am

sg and Atticus provide an illuminating glimpse of one facet of ex-pat life in Japan. For those interested in learning about the seemier side of life in Tokyo, Speed Tribes is a good read. I mentioned that we provide plenty of information to our kids. You can ne certain that they have been told about people like sg and his friends. I wish both sg and Atticus well. They live the life they love and they’re welcome to. The references to Kabuki-cho are entirely applicable if you agree that an evening in Times Square sums up life in America. Life on drugs in Japan sounds about as exciting as life on drugs anywhere.

Enjoy!

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sg 11.01.11 at 8:52 am

charming, kidneystones. Do you always leaven your opinions of the world with such an enormous dose of judgmental bile? Why do you assume that because I met a couple of high people at a nightclub I am one of them? Or is it the mere act of going to a nightclub that offends you so?

You also obviously don’t wish me and Atticus well; you think we’re junkies and a bad influence on your children, and want us locked up, and admire the Japanese system of doing just that. Why bother with the passive-aggression?

Oh, and please do share with me what you told your children about me and my friends. It’s surely enlightening for them and me both.

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Emma in Sydney 11.01.11 at 9:41 am

sg, it’s especially delicious given your specialist academic field, if I remember correctly.

136

Tim Wilkinson 11.01.11 at 9:51 am

Ah, kidneystones exegesis.

“…kidneystones has produced a subtle yet highly entertaining satirical allegory, coolly vivisecting the ethos and praxis of the NYPD to reveal an ugly reality all the more shocking for the understated metaphory. By an inspired abduction of the narrative across oceans to an environment differently, more quietly, dysfunctional in its hypermasculinity, new trenchancy is enlisted to the service of this determinedly oblique denunciation of kiss up kick down authoritarianism; of uniform and uniformity; of status privileges conferring rights of open-ended command and control and of the total subordination concomitant with them; and, of course, of the squirming, teeming hive of corruption and hypocrisy that is the War in Drugs. Overlaid on the invocation of that all-too-corporeal – corporal – milieu, the lightest harmonic overtone of allusion to the hikikomori, the drug-free dropouts unable or unwilling to submerge themselves in the pack…[cont p.93]“

I sat on an empty seat opposite two young middle-school boys. One attempted to slyly drop a tissue on the floor behind his bag. One of the adults immediately fixed him with a glance and instructed him to think more clearly about his actions. The contrite lad picked up the tissue and we all returned to our activities.

This is unimprovable.

The hideously unambitious transgression: ‘One attempted to slyly drop a tissue on the floor behind his bag’.

The stifling vigilance of the adult who ‘immediately fixed him with a glance’. Not even a glare; a mere glance is skewer enough, any more prolonged eye contact excessive, decadent.

The rebuke grimly chilling in its bland pallidity, as psychically disruptive as any flash grenade in its gnomic, elusive obscurity: ‘instructed him to think more clearly about his actions’.

And finally, the robotic joylessness encapsulated in ‘we all returned to our activities’. Returned to our activities satisfied, after having abruptly broken off from these activities, all heads turning as one, like Midwich Cuckoos or drinkers in a stranger-silenced saloon, to observe the inevitable, silently delegated correction of this affront.

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kidneystones 11.01.11 at 10:07 am

Hi Tim, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Far and away your best contribution of this thread. We are so very different and isn’t that a good thing. I sincerely hope you enjoy tour choices as much as I do mine.

Cheers!

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kidneystones 11.01.11 at 10:47 am

Clearly the conversation has deteriorated. sg can’t seem to understand whether he met a couple of people high or an entire segment of Tokyo. The pro-legalization community are so outages to discover that they share common ground with Reynolds both on the question of criminalization and police excesses that at least one reader believes I agree with Reynolds when I explicitely stated I do not. I was genuinely surprised that dk could be so profoundly ignorant of 21st libertarian thinking, loopy as it is.
I don’t know if sg and Atticus are junkies and I certainly wouldn’t think any less of them if they were. In our short time together, sg has confirmed that we’re unlikely to find much common ground on most topics that I could name. I realize that it’s probably expecting too much to ask sg to discover any space, even in the almost infinity of the internet for a largely pro firma “I wish you well.” But you have it.

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Uncle Kvetch 11.01.11 at 10:49 am

The references to Kabuki-cho are entirely applicable if you agree that an evening in Times Square sums up life in America.

You mean hordes of glassy-eyed families trudging from the world’s biggest Toys ‘R’ Us to the world’s biggest Disney Store and then going to eat at the world’s biggest Olive Garden? Yeah, I’d say that pretty much sums it up.

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sg 11.01.11 at 11:57 am

To follow up Tim Wilkinson’s cute critique of kidneystones’ presentation of a Japanese train … I should add that public confrontation is absolutely not the way that Japan maintains good manners and public etiquette – it’s the opposite of how Japan works. Japanese are all about “let’s enjoy being environmentally friendly together!” and “how about we use the toilet neatly!” and the like. In fact, even quite horrifying breaches of social etiquette will be smoothly ignored by those surrounding the offender.

I’ve never seen anyone publicly rebuked on a train in Japan. My partner was once, for using her phone in the “omoiyari” (kindness) zone, but I’ve never seen that happen to anyone else and I think it was an overt (by Japanese standards) expression of racism. People follow rules here for many reasons, but fear of being “instructed [...] to think more clearly about [one's] actions” is not one of them.

In fact, in the queue for that very same nightclub, I intervened when a foreign guy (why are they always foreigners?) started feeling up the girls behind me. They certainly weren’t going to raise a fuss, and no one else was going to. And I did it by getting his attention and standing in the way, rather than confronting him. It’s just not how things are done around here.

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MPAVictoria 11.01.11 at 1:23 pm

“In fact, in the queue for that very same nightclub, I intervened when a foreign guy (why are they always foreigners?) started feeling up the girls behind me. They certainly weren’t going to raise a fuss, and no one else was going to. And I did it by getting his attention and standing in the way, rather than confronting him. It’s just not how things are done around here.”

God damn people are awful sometimes. Good on you for intervening.

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Bill Snowden 11.01.11 at 4:06 pm

Tim Wilkinson @144 wins the thread. Does anyone remember how this mess started?

143

ezra abrams 11.01.11 at 4:13 pm

I was born and raised in NYC
and all I have to say is, what planet of not informed and naive are you on ?
So many times, the same story; dog bites man
for instance, last year (I think) NPR had a story about a high level detective on the upper west side (washington heights, actually) and a citizen asked him about how the investigation into a rape is going. So he says to himself, thats really wierd, I never heard about this case, and I should have
He investigates, and finds that since the precint is under enormous pressure to reduce crime rates, they mis classify rapes to lesser offenses.
so this veteran detective complains to IAB.
He now lives in upstate ny, and , regulaarly, groups of cops drive up their and pound on his door, taunting the rat.
Without even trying, anyone who calls themselves a new yorker could come up with many similar incidents.
I think back in the serpio day, story of a rooky, first day on the job, a veteran very ostentatously removes a rolex from a perps wrist.
later, the veteran tells the rooky, heres the roles, we can return it – we just wanted to make sure you are ok
etc etc ec
As Errol Flynn says, dont ever, ever, ever, spit in the face of a NYC cop
Ford Maddox Ford tells the story of how he is walking thru a london park at nite, and a policeman startles him, and Ford, a son of priviledge, says, what the deuce do you mean by that officer
Ford’s friend remarks on how only someone who is upper class could get away with that

144

politicalfootball 11.01.11 at 4:38 pm

@150:

Indeed, a good thread for Wilkinson, who neatly disposed of mcmanus in 76:

That you should buy into the Dirty Harry myth that expecting these armed thugs to make some concessions to the rule of law is in some way oppressive is quite frankly fucking staggering. Next you’ll be telling us about the shameful way the constuitutional rights of arms companies are flouted and all the rest of that pseudo-libertarian macho posturing.

It’s a bit early for the Godwin option, but the idea that having a police force that functions like a mob is in some way romantic really has had its chance and failed to deliver freedom. The Golding option, perhaps, for some kind of less heavyhanded hint as to how this stuff pans out.

145

Natilo Paennim 11.01.11 at 4:46 pm

108: I’m guessing that you are way too old to play Street Fighting Man at the barricades

I can attest that this reference would go completely over the heads of young radicals today. Ke$ha should really cover it soon.

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