New York Times is Wrong: NYPD Lawfully Thwarts Terror & Suppresses Violence
March 24, 2012
The New York Times is wrong in claiming in an editorial that the NYPD overstepped constitutional guarantees in protecting New Yorkers from violent crime and terrorism.
The Times continues to ignore the fact that the NYPD operates under a judicial federal accord in protecting New Yorkers against terrorism.
The Police Department also lawfully stops and questions individuals acting suspiciously and, in doing so, has dramatically reduced murders in the city's most violent-prone neighborhoods.
In intelligence gathering, the NYPD adheres to set of federal guidelines known as the Handschu consent decree, which were approved and promulgated by a federal judge.
The guidelines recognize that the NYPD must be proactive in the investigation of terrorism. They begin with the statement of a general principle which says:
“In its effort to anticipate or prevent unlawful activity, including terrorist acts, the NYPD must, at times, initiate investigations in advance of unlawful conduct.
“The NYPD is authorized to visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public” and “to conduct online search activity and to access online sites and forums on the same terms… as members of the public.”
The Department is further authorized to “prepare general reports and assessments… for purposes of strategic or operational planning.”
Those who intimate that it is unlawful for the Police Department to search online or map neighborhoods have either not read, misunderstood, or intentionally obfuscated the meaning of the Handschu guidelines.
TERRORISTS KEEP TRYING
Before 9/11, there were terrorist attacks in each of the decades of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, including the first attack on the World Trade Center. There have been no successful attacks in the past ten years. It’s not as if would-be terrorists aren’t trying. To the contrary, they’ve attempted to kill New Yorkers in 14 different plots, among them, two homegrown plots in 2011.
In May, the NYPD arrested Ahmed Ferhani and Mohammed Mamdouh, after Ferhani purchased firearms, ammunition, and a hand grenade from an undercover officer. Ferhani said he wanted to bomb a synagogue in Manhattan. Ferhani and Mamdouh are now in custody charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism and other crimes.
In November, the NYPD stopped another homegrown plot with the arrest of Jose Pimentel at his home in Washington Heights. Pimentel had spoken openly of his plans to attack post offices, police vehicles, and returning soldiers.
An NYPD undercover officer, working the JTTF in New Jersey was also responsible
For the arrest of two Jersey residents who tried to join terrorist overseas for training with the intent, in the words of one of them, to return to the US to "commit Jihad" here.
STOP, QUESTION, FRISK
NYPD critics also erroneously assert that the police are racially biased in making stops, ignoring the fact that we focus police resources where spikes in violent crime are the highest, and where last year 96% of shooting victims were minorities, mainly young men of color.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
NYPD tactics made a difference. Last year, murders in Brooklyn North fell by 16%. That’s almost four times the citywide rate of decline. Among African-American men between the ages of 16 and 37 in neighborhoods where NYPD/ Church Coalition churches are located the decrease was even more dramatic: 33%.
The critics also ignore the NYPD's own diversity. In 2006, for the first time in our history, the rank of police officer became majority minority, with more black, Hispanic, and Asian officers than white. In December we graduated a Police Academy class of almost 1,600 officers. They came from 58 different countries and speak 62 languages. In January, we hired an equally diverse class of 900 recruits.
Attorney General Eric Holder is rightly reviewing the constitutionally suspect surveillance practices that the New York City Police Department has employed against law-abiding Muslims. The Justice Department should also review other practices — chief among them, stop-and-frisk — that have virtually eliminated the presumption of innocence and that treat citizens, and even entire communities, as suspect even after they are proved innocent.
The Police Department’s project to monitor Muslims seems to have been particularly excessive in Newark, where in 2007, police officers photographed and gathered intelligence on mosque worshipers and restaurant patrons. This looks like a possible violation of a federal court order revised after the 9/11 attacks that bars New York City from collecting and retaining information during investigations involving political activity unless that information “relates to potential unlawful or terrorist activity.” That question will most likely be settled in court.
The Police Department has an unfortunate history of failing to comply with court rulings, like this one, that seek to avert the potential abuse of its power. Two years ago, a Federal District Court found the city in contempt for failing to obey a series of decisions issued between 1983 and 1993 that barred the police from arresting or charging citizens based on an unconstitutional statute against loitering. According to a settlement approved by the court, the city managed to illegally charge some 22,000 people between 1983 and 2012. Prosecutors must now try to expunge the convictions of thousands of people, many of whom have spent time in jail or lost job opportunities.
The Justice Department should also examine police conduct at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations last fall and winter, during which a high-ranking officer pepper-sprayed demonstrators without provocation. A lawsuit filed last week raises troubling allegations that officers pre-emptively arrested three people more than a dozen blocks away from a protest to stop them from attending.
The Police Department’s tendency toward blanket surveillance is on vivid display in its stop-and-frisk program, which results in the stopping of more than 600,000 mainly minority citizens on the streets every year. The department credits the program with reducing crime, but there is no proof that it does. A study carried out in connection with a federal lawsuit against the department has found that only about 6 percent of stops result in arrest and that less than 1 percent turn up weapons. In addition to criminalizing the victims of these stops, the program has undermined respect for law enforcement in the very communities where it is most needed.
Like stop-and-frisk, the city’s marijuana arrest initiative has also raised profound civil rights concerns. The state decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana 35 years ago and decreed that people would be arrested for those amounts only if they were displaying the drug in public. Even so, the city arrests tens of thousands of mainly black and Latino young people for possession every year. The department tacitly admitted wrongdoing last year, in a memo telling officers to arrest people only if the drug was in plain public view. But it could take years before the rank and file embrace the change.
The city has described the marijuana arrests as a way of getting criminals off the street. But state data show that a majority of people arrested under this program have no prior convictions. The dangers associated with the program were underscored last month in the Bronx when an overzealous drug detail pursued an unarmed teenager into his home and shot him to death. A packet of marijuana was found at the scene.
Since 9/11, courts have broadened the Police Department’s investigative authority in the vital interest of protecting the city from terrorist attack. The department should not interpret that as a license to run roughshod over the Constitution.
Editor’s note: In an effort to support the national security efforts of America’s finest, FamilySecurityMatters.org has reprinted the New York Police Department’s Press Release on this page along with the offending NY Times article.