We have all seen the videos depicting police brutality in various parts of our nation and many of us here in New York (as others did elsewhere) continue to take to the streets. Not surprisingly to some, the NYPD has responded to cries for an end to police brutality this summer with exactly that; police brutality. This summer (and previously, historically) NYPD has shown a disgraceful display of excessive police force on crowds of overwhelmingly peaceful protestors including beatings, rubber bullets, punching, shoving, pepper spraying and driving into crowds. More than 2,500 arrests were made and hundreds were held for over 24 hours after a judge ruled to suspend habeas corpus. Late July we saw the NYPD Warrant Squad use unmarked vehicles in the middle of a peaceful protest to forcefully kidnap “suspects” investigated for graffiti vandalism. These incidents of violence and the suppression of the people’s right to protest is in line with a history of gross brutality and is further proof that the NYPD is beyond reform.
Current levels of police violence and abuse of authority are not unprecedented. This has been a battle lasting multiple decades. And at every juncture of the people’s resistance to end police brutality, demands for police reform have followed. And in response to the people’s demands for reform, NYPD resistance has followed. And instead of addressing the concerns of the people they are paid to serve, the NYPD responds with more brutality, more corruption and more impunity; further proving that violence and racism is ingrained within the DNA of the police department itself.
Last month’s unlawful police siege of the apartment of Black Lives Matter organizer Derrick Ingram is yet more proof that the NYPD is simply beyond reform. According to The New York Times, Mr. Ingram was inside his Manhattan apartment while “a police helicopter patrolled overhead, officers banged on his door and police dogs waited in the hallway.” Outside Mr. Ingram’s building, the street had been closed off by “roughly two dozen police vehicles and dozens of officers, including some who were wearing tactical gear and carrying shields.”
This extraordinary and disproportionate show of force was all in response to the alleged crime of shouting in a police officer’s ear with a microphone. We have seen time and again that the NYPD – which acts increasingly like an occupying army which answers to no governing body, and certainly not to the people of New York City – we have seen time and again that the NYPD treats Black and brown citizens as enemy combatants. On August 7th, they responded to the lawful protest against unequal treatment of people of color by unlawfully besieging the home of a Black man. The NYPD failed to provide a warrant when asked, lied about the presence of Mr. Ingram’s legal counsel, and attempted to illegally and aggressively question Mr. Ingram through the door of his home – all while their helicopters, K9 units, and squad cars attempted to intimidate him.
This and other gross spectacles, along with all acts of police violence and intimidation past present and future, are not only morally reprehensible, but come at a great cost to taxpayers. Even those who are not abolitionists must concede that there is an ABSURD amount of money excessively spent on the NYPD and on the over-militarization of the NYPD. For those of us with the faith, courage and conviction to believe in a world with true social safety nets, economic justice, and community care the ideal NYPD budget is $0.
If the NYPD’s response to citizens protesting police brutality is to make an even bigger show of force, and to terrorize those they are meant to “serve” and “protect”, then they cannot be entrusted to abide by any of the current toothless proposed “reforms.”
Such distrust is historically warranted. For decades the NYPD has vehemently resisted reform, and has instead, brazenly acted with the confidence of impunity. In response to public scrutiny of NYPD corruption and excessive force, a Civilian Review Board was created in 1993 to review police misconduct, however to this day, police commissioners retain discretion to impose discipline and routinely reject the recommendations of the board. It is for this reason that I advocate for an elected CCRB with the community having firing and suspension power over the local police. In that same year, 1993, the use of chokeholds was banned, but the tactic continues to be used today, including in the 2014 murder of Eric Garner (and don’t get me started on this most recent piece of legislation see my previous statement Re The Chokehold Ban: Are We Really Going to Debate Amending This Already Weak Law?). Despite statistics disproving that stop-and-frisk reduces crime, the NYPD opposed intense pressure to end the controversial program for years.
The NYPD is a violent, inherently racist, rogue military force that does not keep our great city, or the people in it, safe. The incidents this summer are yet another piece of evidence: this institution cannot be reformed. It must be defunded, and eventually abolished.