Monday, October 18, 2010

Police Misconduct Costs NYC Taxpayers Nearly $1B to Settle Claims

The increasing militarization of police has had profound social ramifications across the United States, as citizens increasingly feel threatened by those sworn to protect them.  Beyond the social fallout, a recent Associated Press investigation skims the surface of the financial impact of police excesses over the previous decade.  

In typical Associated Press misdirection, a video accompanies the article, which literally has nothing to do with what is written around it.  The original title of the article is ambiguous, "AP Investigation: Nearly $1B in NYC Police Payouts."  If one were only to watch the video, one would assume that the $1B somehow has been paid out in counterterrorism operations, as the video focuses on a "dirty bomb" patrol boat protecting the UN building.  Strange.  However, the article itself does possess a few kernels of truth.

According to the AP investigation into the NYPD:
Nearly $1 billion has been paid over the past decade to resolve claims against the nation's largest police department . . . the total spending outstrips that of other U.S. cities, though some smaller cities and departments also shell out tens of millions of dollars a year in payouts.
These payouts often are due to provable wrongdoing by individuals, yet ultimately fall on the taxpayer according to the report, as "officers themselves don't usually bear personal responsibility."  It is precisely this lack of personal responsibility which contributes to the overall impact on society.  There are countless examples of police who have been repeatedly cited for brutality and other ethics violations being protected by the "thin blue line" of the supposed police honor code that too often protects their fraternity above protecting the public.  

The AP investigation deflects the payouts as being "less than the cost of insurance," but misses the point that this growing problem threatens to destabilize an already weakened trust in police that has more to do with failed police training and testing requirements than it does the legal system or a "litigious" atmosphere where, "Some law firms have made it their business to sue the city."

The public has been hoodwinked to believe that an increasing number of violent encounters over non-violent offenses is due to the "heat of the moment" or some type of combat lingo more appropriate to foreign war-time environments.  What would people think if firemen responded to a house fire and instead of putting out the fire, came in with gasoline?  They would rightly think poor training, or psychopathic behavior.  It's a simplistic analogy, but accurate when one considers the AP's own example of police raining 50 bullets on a car carrying an unarmed man and his two friends following a bachelor party.  The justification?  The car didn't stop as ordered, and police "thought the men were armed."  That's it?  Proper hiring and training practices -- physical, emotional, intellectual, and cultural -- never would have permitted this to happen.  Police are supposed to be trained using standard "containment" exercises for both vehicles and domiciles specifically to identify who is armed and who is not.  This particular lapse cost the city (taxpayers) $7 million.  

A recent failed containment of psychopathic proportions just occurred in Phoenix, Arizona that perfectly illustrates both poor training and poor hiring practices.  Officer Richard Chrisman (cited previously for "disciplinary problems") and his partner responded to a domestic dispute.  Not minutes into the encounter, an unarmed man and his dog were both killed, after Chrisman allegedly shouted, "I don't need no warrant mother------."  Phoenix must now wait and see how their tax dollars will be applied to this barbarity.  

Now that police are being equipped with the lastest military gear, even better training is required to temper their new lethality.  As the economy continues to implode, and citizens wish to peaceably assemble and demonstrate their distaste for a wide range of political and economic policies, more high-tension police encounters are inevitable.  This goes far beyond the highlight case of NYC.  An entire YouTube channel is dedicated to Cops Out of Control, with video evidence of horrendous abuse. 

Citizens everywhere should engage their local police to tell them that they unequivocally support their courageous duty to public service, but will hold them personally accountable for any sign of brutality or misconduct.  For those who wish to be active, Citizen Review Boards are gaining support.  If it really is "a few bad apples" as they like to say, then it shouldn't be too difficult to identify and remove them.

The National Police Misconduct Feed is a great source to track daily reports, statistics, settlements, and pending cases.

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RichardC said...

Elected officials in charge of police should consult a trustworthy psychologist to identify personality types likely to cost their jurisdictions money. The problem is cowardly men who are angry because they are cowards. They become cops so they can demand the respect they have never been given. When the desired respect is not forthcoming, they become even angrier. As cowards, they are most likely to attack those who are no physical threat to them. We all know cowards are reluctant to confront dangerous adversaries, as we saw at Columbine and VA Tech. The flip side of cowardice is unseemly pleasure in hurting the weak, which we see cops doing all too often on YouTube. The Rodney King video showed a big, strong man surrounded by a dozen cops all of whom were afraid to wrestle him into handcuffs, even twelve against one. Instead, several stood at arms length and hit him repeatedly with clubs. Afterward, one expressed his cowardly pleasure at the damage done to King's face. Without the video, it would have been a routine arrest. Cell phones today all have video. More and more cops will try to attack bystanders with cell phones, hurting many and suppressing some evidence but not all.
The psychology is there; most of these people can be weeded out. The real solution is fewer cops. Enough cops to save you from a home invasion in three minutes will always be enough cops to beat our deaf grandmothers or shoot our mentally handicapped sons. We shall have to learn how to protect ourselves. If you don't like guns, maybe large dogs and razor wire. Cops are not our friends.

saltypig said...

"courageous duty to public service"


Activist said...

Thanks for the comments. It is easy to become cynical toward police when we see these highlight cases. The brutality and nonsensical violence is increasing, undoubtedly. The point is that there is roughly 10% of police who are an extreme threat. We need to weed these people out as best as possible. We need to demand that our local police take action. Many people are already too fear-stricken to even approach police.

As for saltypig -- the intentions of most police are to be courageous and upstanding. Again, the headline stories certainly don't make it appear that way, and the system of enforcement certainly should be called to task for not doing their job in getting the best people they can. So, I respectfully disagree. I would agree, though, that police brutality and misconduct is one of the most repugnant offenses against society.

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