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Opinions & observations: Cops continue misinformation campaign to smear policies they don’t like

July 20, 2020 Maryanne Kaishian, Brooklyn Defender Services
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In my years as an attorney with Brooklyn Defender Services, I have witnessed a disturbing truth: police lie so often there is a word for it. “Testilying” happens in court and on paperwork, even when an incident was caught on video. Cops also lie to the public about policy issues to maintain power.

Commissioner Dermot Shea and other top NYPD officials continue their campaign of lies and disinformation against bail reform, which gave all New Yorkers some of the same pre-trial rights as the wealthy – namely, the right to fight a case while free and presumed innocent.

Shea claims, contrary to the NYPD’s own data, that the recent tragic shootings in NYC are the result of more equitable treatment of poor New Yorkers facing certain criminal charges. He would have us believe that the police are so disempowered by critics that they can no longer swoop in to stop crime.

Shea and NYPD brass also blame the City Council’s legislation that bans police chokeholds, highlighting both the inherent violence of policing and the inefficacy of attempts to reform the police. Chokeholds have been banned since 1993 and are already broadly defined by the NYPD’s own Patrol Guide as “any pressure on the throat or windpipe.” Proposed use-of-force legislation would simply codify the NYPD’s own existing rules, which they routinely ignore. In any case, the Council bill was not in effect when shootings occurred over the weekend. Moreover, the current rate of shootings for 2020 is no higher than that of 2015 — prior to bail reform — when Broken Windows-policing fanatic Bill Bratton was commissioner.

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The truth is that the NYPD has emerged from a global pandemic and economic crisis — when summer youth programs were gutted and public school funding was stripped — with its budget and outsized power intact. Plans to hire 500 new cops for the subways are forging ahead even as the city made major cuts to its Fair Fares program, which subsidizes Metrocards for low-income New Yorkers.

Now that demands for accountability and defunding have gained traction, the NYPD faces a PR crisis of its own making.

A Siena poll released in June shows that most New Yorkers, including 87 percent of Black residents, do not feel safer when they see a cop. Rather than attempting fundamental change, the Department is determined to prove itself indispensable in its current, violent iteration. To this end, the NYPD and its apologists peddle the falsehood that policing consists almost entirely of stopping crime in its tracks. They need you to believe that you, too, could be killed if you manage to divert a single cent from their coffers to your community.

The reality is that police are generally not violence interrupters, and they often do not solve crimes after they have occurred. Just 13 percent of all NYPD arrests are for crimes classified as “violent felonies.”

Of those, only half result in a conviction of any kindStudies show that increasing the size and budget of a police force does not directly correlate with safer streets. Even as spending on policing has increasedmost murders in low-income neighborhoods remain unsolved.

The NYPD demands accountability from everyone but themselves.

The Department refuses to require personnel to attend virtual misconduct hearings or provide body camera footage to investigators. Officers without masks beat masked demonstrators on video, after weeks of sometimes-violent mask-wearing enforcement, then insisted that more cops were essential for public safety.

We must divest from policing, not simply legislate palatable ways for police to inflict harm while the NYPD drains the city’s finite resources. Every dollar spent on policing is a dollar that is not spent on schools, parks, housing, employment initiatives or alternatives to policing with demonstrated efficacy. We have already seen these choices play out to devastating consequences.

And yet, against all evidence, the NYPD doggedly insists this city would improve if only the police department had more cops, more funding, more power, and less criminal justice reform.

Simply put, the police are lying again.

Maryanne Kaishian is senior policy counsel and staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services.

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