New York City: Aggressive “Broken Windows” Policing but Carte Blanche for Banksters

Yves here. Class-based policing, particularly against blacks, has been a long-standing feature in New York City. Bill Black focuses on the mythology of the low-tolerance “broken windows” tactics under police chief Bill Bratton in the Giuliani era. What appears to have been more effective is his idea of mapping crime patterns and flexible deployment of police, with a focus on getting to know the problematic neighborhoods and focusing on the types of crime prevalent in them. But the monied classes appear to have derived more comfort than was warranted from “quality of life” tactics that made the streets seem cleaner but didn’t do much for crime, such as getting homeless people out of Manhattan. Black argues that current race-based crime strategies such as stop and frisk are not merely of similar dubious value but come with high hidden costs.

For instance, I lived in a townhouse in a very nice block of Manhattan (69th between Park and Madison) from 1987 to 1989. I’d be the first up and out on weekday mornings. In the fall and winter, there would be a homeless man sleeping between our unlocked outer door and locked inner door. I’d step over him carefully so as not to wake him up. I’d feel guilty, as in I didn’t begrudge him using our entryway to keep warm (in fact, I thought that was way better than him sleeping in the cold, or worse snow or sleet outside) but I felt I should do more, but wasn’t about to wake him up and engage him. (I still have no idea how the officialdom got or harassed them out, but the level of homeless people on the streets dropped markedly as the economy feel into a recession during the later 1980s and early 1990s. By contrast, the number of homeless now is up significantly, so it appears that stop and frisk has taken precedence in terms of use of police resources). I have a similar reaction to homeless people now. I regularly give them a dollar when I see them. But it seems so inadequate relative to the scale of their problems. And there are now so many of them just in my neighborhood.

The point of that anecdote is that “quality of life” or “broken windows” policing is based more on what amounts to fashion, as in what is prominent in the zeitgeist. For instance, getting rid of squeege men and getting graffiti off subway cars was perceived as important in the 1980s.  Was that helpful? Black argues not, since crime rates dropped all over the US, including in cities that didn’t adopt Bratton-style policing. One has to wonder why blacks and people of color are being targeted more aggressively now, as manifested in stop and frisk tactics and continued targeting of minority neighborhoods even as crime rates in them are down considerably. Is this the outward manifestation of deep-seated white fears that demographic changes assure that in the not-too-distant future, they will no longer be the majority in the US?

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

New York City exemplifies two perverse criminal justice policies that drive many criminologists to distraction. It is the home of the most destructive epidemics of elite financial frauds in history. Those fraud epidemics hyper-inflated the housing bubble and drove the financial crisis and the Great Recession. The best estimate is that the U.S. GDP loss will be $21 trillion and that 10 million Americans lost their jobs. Both numbers are far larger in Europe. The elite “C Suite” leaders of these fraud epidemics were made wealthy by those frauds through bonuses that measured in the billions of dollars annually.

The most extraordinary facts about the catastrophic fraud epidemics, however, is New York City’s reaction to the fraud epidemics. Not a single Wall Street bankster who led the fraud epidemics has been prosecuted or had their fraud proceeds “clawed back.” Not a single Wall Street bankster who led the fraud epidemics is treated as a pariah by his peers or New York City elites. New York City’s elected leaders have made occasional criticisms of the banksters, but Mayor Bloomberg was famous for his sycophancy for the Wall Street banksters that made him wealthy. In 2011, Mayor Bloomberg attacked the “Occupy Wall Street” movement for daring to protest the banksters.

“I don’t appreciate the bashing of all the hard working people who live and work here and pay the taxes that support our city,” said Bloomberg, during a press conference in a Bronx library.

“The city depends on Wall Street.”

“Jamie Dimon is one of the great bankers,” said Bloomberg. “He’s brought more business to this city than any banker in (the) modern day. To go and picket him, I don’t know what that achieves. Jamie Dimon is an honorable person, working very hard, paying his taxes.”

Bloomberg also questioned why the protestors were picking on wealthy bankers and other corporate titans.

It is, of course, depraved to claim that because banksters are made wealthy through fraud and pays a small portion of that wealth in taxes they should not be held accountable for those frauds because they are important to local finances. The claim becomes all the more risible when we take into account that under Dimon’s leadership JPMorgan became infamous for engaging in and facilitating billions of dollars in tax evasion that cost many governments, including NYC, enormous amounts of tax revenues. As a final indignity, most of the purported amounts that JPMorgan paid in settlements with DOJ are actually paid by the U.S. Treasury because DOJ allowed JPMorgan to treat large amounts of those payments as tax deductible. DOJ’s senior leadership used this as one of their cynical means of making the settlements paid by the banks appear far larger than they actually were.

In 2012, Mayor Bloomberg, in response to an expose and protest of Goldman Sachs’ corrupt culture by an insider (Greg Smith), publicly championed Government Sachs and its CEO (Lloyd Blankfein) who shaped that culture. The following passage is taken from Bloomberg’s report on Mayor Bloomberg.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS)’s headquarters in Manhattan in a show of support after a departing employee publicly criticized the firm’s culture yesterday.

“The mayor stopped by to make clear that the company is a vital part of the city’s economy, and the kind of unfair attacks that we’re seeing can eventually hurt all New Yorkers,” said Stu Loeser, a spokesman for the mayor.

Bloomberg visited the firm today about 11 a.m. and met with Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein and numerous employees, Loeser said.

Greg Smith, an executive director who sold U.S. equity derivatives to clients in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that he is leaving the firm after 12 years. Smith assailed the company’s treatment of clients and blamed Blankfein and President Gary D. Cohn for losing hold over the bank’s culture.

The reality was the Dimon and Blankfein were leading two of the world’s largest, most prestigious, and most destructive criminal enterprises. Nevertheless, as their repeated, massive felonies become more evident every month and as the Libor and FX conspiracies demonstrate that the CEOs of our largest banks are running criminal enterprises, their elite peers have not only failed to denounce the banksters but have instead demonized those who try to restore the rule of law in America as Nazis.

The crisis is marked by exceptional recidivism by these banks and banksters, the rapid progression of fraud in terms of severity and its spread through the elite banks, and the creation of a massively corrupt culture in banking and their political allies in which even the largest and most destructive frauds are ignored and the perpetrators are shielded from even the mildest forms of accountability. To sum it up, NYC exemplifies the moral depravity, endemic criminality, and resultant breakdown of the criminal justice system that “broken windows” theory predicts. “Broken windows” theory, however, is not applied by its conservative proponents to elite white-collar crime. When the SEC (purportedly) adopted the “broken windows”) theory, the same conservatives that give the theory rapturous support when it leads to the mass arrests of poor minorities for the most trivial of offenses become apoplectic in their rage against holding elites accountable for lesser offenses.

This class-based rush to shield elite white-collar criminals from even the mildest forms of administrative accountability (the SEC uses “broken windows” as a PR slogan, not a reality) while simultaneously adopting an ultra-aggressive policy of arresting mostly poorer Blacks and Latinos for the most minor of offenses (e.g., selling small numbers of cigarettes from broken packs). The proponents of using “broken windows” to arrest large numbers of minorities for minor property offenses almost never demonstrate any awareness of the obvious obscenity and disaster of allowing banksters to grow wealthy by defrauding with impunity. Eric Garner ends up dead because the police arrest him for selling goods without paying sales tax (amounting to several hundred dollars in lost government revenue over the course of a year). The fraud epidemics cost that drove the financial crisis and the Great Recession cost our Nation $21 trillion – and no senior banker who led the frauds in even arrested. (As I have explained, the Department of Justice and the FBI do target a tiny slice of the mortgage fraud “mice” – particularly those of disfavored minorities like Russian-Americans – for prosecution.)

The “strategy” of ignoring or even praising the banksters’ enormous frauds while aggressively arresting the poor for the most minor of property offenses is obviously indefensible on every conceivable basis. The strategy is grotesquely unfair and the elimination of the rule of law for banksters has caused catastrophic harm and will cause even greater harm in the future.

But what of the other prong of the strategy that led to Garner’s death? The costs of that strategy are typically ignored. The benefits of that strategy are the subject of intense debate. The proponents of mass arrests of disproportionately poor Blacks and Latinos for minor property offenses had a superb and unprincipled PR machine. Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, eventually admitted his guilt to a series of felonies. The NYPD PR machine claimed that NYC’s reduction in reported crime was produced by “broken windows” policing. The reality was that most major municipal areas that did not employ “broken window” strategies reported substantial reductions in crime in the same time period. Further, the police in many cities were employing new strategies during this same time period, so attributing causality to the reported crime reductions (a) to police strategies in general or (b) any particular police strategy is generally unreliable. (Criminologists also know that reported crime levels are often unreliable. Local officials frequently game the numbers and Kerik later confessed to committing many acts of deceit in connection with other events.)

In addition to arresting large numbers of poorer, darker-colored citizens for mostly minor property crimes under the rubric of “broken windows,” NYC followed a strategy of massively increased “stop and frisks” of disproportionately poorer Blacks (50%) and Latinos (30%). By 2011, the NYPD was conducting 684,000 humiliating “stop and frisk” actions in a single year (nearly 1874 per day – with an average of 1500 of those being Blacks and Latinos). Only a small percentage of these humiliations result in successful prosecution. To its credit, the Cato Institute has excoriated the NYPD’s stop and frisk policies. The average large bank’s C Suite has a dramatically higher crime incidence than does a street in Harlem. All the property crimes committed cumulatively by Black and Latino residents of Harlem over the last 400 years were exceeded in the typical minute of the Libor fraud and cartel.

To this systematic anti-prioritization of criminal justice resources that causes the NYPD to ignore the most destructive property crimes in history that are (disproportionately) committed by elite whites and focus overwhelmingly on the least destructive property crimes committed in parts of the city (disproportionately) inhabited by Blacks and Latinos one must add “stop and frisk,” the outright racist effects of the sentencing disparity for powder v crack cocaine, and the emphasis on arresting drug sellers overwhelmingly in poorer areas inhabited disproportionately by Blacks and Latinos. Collectively, the strategy means that policing in NYC is aimed overwhelmingly at Blacks and Latinos, creates the constant humiliation of young Blacks and Latinos, makes it inevitable that large sections of these communities will view the police as the problem rather than the solution, and produces the self-fulfilling prophecy of leading to grossly disproportionate numbers of Black and Latino males having criminal records that impair their ability to get jobs and form well-functioning families. The resultant hostility between the police and much of the community means that both groups feel that they are under siege by the other.

Other members of the broader community – and that includes many Blacks and Latinos – support the NYPD police strategies. Many crimes do cause serious financial and/or personal injury. Some property crimes (minor burglaries of homes while no one is home) that cause little financial loss can cause other serious harms because the victims feel violated and unsafe. Most crimes by Blacks and Latinos are committed against Blacks and Latinos.

Repeatedly humiliating male minorities through “stop and frisk” operations and arrests for trivial offenses – people who know that they are prioritized as targets because they are poor Blacks and Latinos – has to produce a combination of rage and a deep belief that the police’s actions are not legitimate but a form of racial and ethnic degradation. This means that arresting such individuals is inherently dangerous – and police know it. Police are taught to be aggressive and dominating in such encounters and to view every arrest as a dangerous encounter with someone that may cause them grievous or even fatal injury.

It is generally wrong to think of the police in such arrests as swaggering thugs. The police and the minority being arrested often share mutual terror. As the person being arrested struggles or flees the police officers’ fear spikes. It is unusual for police to be seriously harmed during arrests, and far more likely that the suspect will be harmed, but every police officer is told multiple stories about situations in which a police officer was hurt or killed during what seemed to be a routine arrest. As humans, we are primed to respond to narrative, not statistics.

How one responds to the death of Blacks and Latinos being arrested in such struggles depends almost entirely on which of two rival perspectives one takes. While I know that many readers will hate this sentence, I urge readers to understand that both perspectives are rational given the framing of the issues. Each group comes away from the police encounter with the minority suspect more strongly convinced of the truth of their own framing of the issues. The police see the resistance to their authority by someone who is violating the law (no matter how minor that violation) as deeply offensive and view supporters of the criminal who (a) violated the law (no matter how trivial) (b) defied the officers’ authority and commands, (c) further violated the law by resisting arrest, (d) “forced” the officers into a dangerous confrontation where (e) the officers felt fear and sometimes terror, which (f) led to the unintended death of the criminal who was resisting arrest, (g) which will haunt the officers for the rest of their lives, (h) exposing them to public hate, (i) blighting and perhaps even ending their career, (j) exposing them to state and federal criminal investigation and possible prosecution, (k) civil suits, while (l) “playing the race card” and claiming that the officers were bigots. From the police perspective, the death of the criminal at the hands of the police is a tragedy brought on by the criminal.

(Yes, I know that “suspect” would be a more accurate term than “criminal.” However, “criminal” is the word the police will use and believe. This tendency is even more extreme when it comes to our drone strikes where the U.S. “defines” whoever we kill as “terrorists.”)

From the police perspective, the arresting officers are the victims and the attacks on them for doing their duty – a duty to enforce laws devised by society, not them – and a duty that puts their lives at risk, is a grotesque injustice compounded by an outrageous smear claiming that they acted as they did due to racial animus. People who defend the criminal and attack the police are morally depraved. The police see their elite critics as ingrates and hypocrites who want the police to act aggressively when the critics’ lives and property are at risk but feel free to second guess them after the fact when things go tragically wrong in confrontations with minorities.

The same kind of logic chain, can be done from the perspective of Blacks and Latinos who correctly see the NYPD strategy as counter-prioritizing criminal justice resources. The NYPD uses its resources in a manner that is irrational from any societal perspective. The NYPD’s use of resources is fundamentally based on class, but it also inherently leads to concentrating police on the (overwhelmingly minor) crimes of poor Blacks and Latinos.

Criminal justice scholars, particularly those who from a police or intelligence background, understandably often share the police perspective rather than the critics’.

“Everyone is just demonizing the police,” said Maki Haberfeld, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of criminal justice. “But police follow orders and laws. Nobody talks about the responsibility of the politicians to explain to the community why quality-of-life enforcement is necessary.”

“Quality-of-life enforcement” means “broken windows.” “Everyone,” is not, of course “demonizing” and everyone is not demonizing all “police.” Dr. Haberfeld knows that the problem from the perspective of many Blacks and Latinos is that “police follow orders.” Those “orders” constitute the NYPD strategy that causes the police to counter-prioritize the use of their resources.

Dr. Haberfeld knows that the police frequently do not enforce the “laws.” They do not do so for two primary reasons. First, as Edwin Sutherland explained 75 years ago in his presidential address to sociologists that announced the concept of “white-collar crime,” the police typically do not enforce laws against the massive white-collar crimes committed by elites. Second, even under a “broken windows” regime the police do not arrest large numbers of those they have probable cause to believe have committed some criminal offense. Women, girls, whites, and social elites are all less likely to be arrested for minor criminal offenses. The police frequently warn and chastise rather than arrest. If they always arrested suspects for whom they had probable cause to believe had committed minor blue collar crimes a huge percentage of males of every race, ethnicity, and class would have juvenile arrest records. Prosecutors exercise even greater discretion and often refuse to prosecute cases. I do not know of any criminologist, prosecutor, police officer, or judge who favors the police arresting, and the prosecutors prosecuting, every case in which anyone is apprehended who the prosecutors believe committed a crime.

As financial regulators, we did not take an enforcement action against every violation of law and every unsafe and unsound act we discovered even when we believed we could establish those violations. We did, however, require supervisors to explain why they did not believe such an enforcement action if the violations were continuing. I do not know of any regulator who believes that we should take an enforcement action in every case where we find a violation or unsafe and unsound act. We were, as we can now tell with the benefit of seeing many other regulators in (in)action, vigorous regulators who believed in the rule of law for everyone. We also believed in justice, the exercise of judgment, and the desirability of not making mountains out of molehills. We successfully distinguished between matters like liar’s loans (long before they were called by that name) – which we drove from the industry because only a fraudulent lender would make such loans – and minor, typically unintentional violations of rules that the lender’s managers were happy to remedy and try to avoid in the future. Underwriting quality is not a molehill – it is the essential function to be a prudent, profitable, and non-predatory lender.

Dr. Haberfeld’s last complaint, if accurate, represents a major advance among NYC politicians.

“Nobody talks about the responsibility of the politicians to explain to the community why quality-of-life enforcement is necessary.”

Politicians used to rush to “explain” that we must target the most minor offenses of poor Blacks and Latinos and humiliate male Blacks and Latinos hundreds of thousands of times every year in “stop and frisk” confrontations in NYC. This was supposedly “necessary” to prevent a (mythical) rapidly increasing epidemic of violent crime by young, predominately minority “superpredators” who were deliberately dehumanized as “feral” by inventors of this “moral panic” such as James Q. Wilson (one of the co-developers of “broken windows”). These claims ignored the actual epidemics of crimes of the Wall Street elites (the true “superpredators”) that devastated the Nation. The phrase “criminal justice system” is an oxymoron when we allocate our resources in a manner that is inherently unjust and certain to fail against the elite offenders who cause incomparably greater financial losses and maim and kill more people than do blue collar criminals.

I am not aware of Dr. Haberfeld ever upbraiding the NYPD or Attorney General Holder for failing “to explain to the community why quality-of-life enforcement is necessary” on Wall Street. If she has done so I hope she will contact me and I will pass on to my readers her efforts to explain that necessity.

American elected officials are becoming increasingly aware that the drug war is insane and causes terrible injury to our Nation and catastrophic harm to several other nations. It is hard to find a public official who will now defend the racist policies we followed in punishing crack cocaine far more severely than powder. Sadly, as recently as 2010, the Fraternal Order of Police disgraced itself by attacking legislation that simply reduced the 100:1 disparity.

Dr. Haberfeld was one of the important advisors in the DEA’s failed drug wars. I stress that the DEA’s failure was inevitable and not the product of Dr. Haberfeld’s advice. The only way to “win” the drug war was not to engage in it. Given the 9/11 attacks and her background as an Israeli intelligence specialist, Dr. Haberfeld now works largely in the anti-terrorism field.

Criminologists debate whether “quality-of-life enforcement is necessary” or disastrous in the blue-collar crime context. Criminologists generally do not agree that research has demonstrated any such “necess[ity].” Criminologists increasingly recognize the extreme costs inflicted on society of applying the racialized and class-driven counter-prioritization of “broken windows” strategy in the manner used by the NYPD.

Ironically, the “broken windows” strategy worked far better in the context of elite white-collar, e.g., in our response to the control fraud epidemic that drove the savings and loan debacle and our crackdowns on junk bond and liar’s loan frauds. “Broken windows” strategies against elite white-collar crimes have far fewer drawbacks than they do in the blue-collar sphere. Conservative proponents of “broken windows” strategies against blue collar crime, however, rarely mention elite white collar crime. Sadly, Sutherland’s observations about the unwillingness of elites to take elite white-collar crimes seriously and the resultant enormous cost of such crimes remains largely true 75 years later.

The “broken windows” strategy against blue collar crime and the related strategies that have made it inevitable that criminal justice enforcement will be unjust and will fail against elite white-collar criminals also makes it inevitable that large numbers of Blacks and Latinos and the police will be largely unable to understand each other and work together. The frames of the police and large numbers of Blacks and Latinos are not simply different, but inherently contradictory under these police strategies.

Even if we assume that “politicians” actually had (and accepted) a “responsibility” “to explain to the community why quality-of-life enforcement is necessary” the politicians’ efforts would fail. Dr. Haberfeld does not seem to understand that she is demanding that Black and Latinos communities accept the NYPD’s policies, and their framing of the issues, as valid. Note that she uses the world “community” rather than “communities.” Why would Blacks and Latinos ever agree that a system in which 80% of the “stop and frisk” humiliations are inflicted on their children constituted “criminal justice?” Why would Blacks ever agree that the 100:1 crack/powder cocaine disparity was “criminal justice?” Whey would Blacks and Latinos ever agree that a drug prosecution effort that disproportionately targeted their children for arrest for drugs represented “criminal justice?” Why would Blacks and Latinos ever agree that “quality-of-life enforcement is necessary” for poor minority communities while Wall Street elites grow wealthy and devastate our Nation, particularly Black and Latino communities, with impunity? Why would Blacks and Latinos ever agree that ending the rule of law for banksters represents “criminal justice?”

What does “quality-of-life enforcement” actually mean? When the NYPD, overwhelmingly, humiliated Blacks and Latinos an average of 1,500 times daily through “stop and frisk” encounters, what happened to the quality of their life? What happened to the quality of life of all the Blacks and Latinos who witnessed those humiliations? What happens to the quality of life of Blacks and Latinos when their kids are far more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than white kids with the same incidence of drug use? What happens when their kids spend far longer in prison because they use crack while the white kids use powder cocaine? What happens to the quality of life of the Blacks and Latinos targeted by predatory lenders when the lenders’ CEOs’ crimes go unpunished?

How many Blacks and Latinos must we incarcerate and even kill for trivial offenses in order to optimally improve the “quality of life” of Blacks and Latinos? Why does spending the City’s scarce dollars in this strategy of repression improve the “quality of life” in Black and Latino communities more than using those dollars to create jobs?

Who seriously believes that the failed drug war, net, adds to the “quality of life” in the City? Who thinks it adds to the “quality of life” in cities throughout Mexico and Colombia?

The Black and Latino communities have heard, ad nauseum, “politicians” “explain” why “quality-of-life enforcement” is supposedly “necessary” in their communities. They have heard the thunderous silence of the proponents of this claim – the failure to even attempt to “explain” why “quality-of-life enforcement” is not necessary on Wall Street. They do not accept the validity of the explanations and they know full well why the NYPD refuses to even try to enforce the rule of law on Wall Street.

It is time for the NYPD to listen to explanations from the Black and Latino communities about the reality of the NYPD’s criminal injustice system. The Black and Latino communities would love a NYPD that made the reduction of serious blue collar and white collar crimes in the City its top priorities. If the NYPD adopts a strategy that does not require the Black and Latino communities to accept the NYPD’s current (false) framing that defines their communities as the City’s problem and Wall Street as the City’s paragon, then the police and the Black and Latino communities’ framing of the issues will no longer be inherently contradictory. Cooperation and mutual respect in struggling against the most serious crimes becomes a realistic possibility if the NYPD is willing to evolve and embrace the equal application of the rule of law to everyone in the City.

Criminology can help. The mother of all serious crime “hot spots” in NYC can easily be mapped using Geographical Information System (GIS) software. The system would generate nice tight crimson circles around the C-Suites of the twenty largest Wall Street banks and bank holding companies.


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  1. flora

    Great post. Agree completely that the disparity in law enforcement between Wall St. felonies and street level infractions is grotesque beyond measure. It sounds like the opening of a science fiction novel.
    Wall St. and Real Estate companies own NYC. The international super-rich have discovered NYC and exclusive skyscrapers with multimillion dollar apartments are springing up.
    I wonder if, in addition to racism, the “broken window” policing in NYC is due in part to skyrocketing real estate values there. So, in the guise of “quality of life”, harass lower income looking people who might live in rent controlled buildings, driving them to move farther out from the city.

  2. YankeeFrank

    Matt Taibbi has a short piece up at Rolling Stone on this same subject. He makes the point Bill makes and goes a bit further by saying the police are quickly losing legitimacy with the public because of these hypocrisies. I know among my circle of friends this is very true.

    The fact is that these police tactics, which are certainly ordered from above, are also warmly accepted by the cops themselves. They are thorough-going racists almost to a man. They define the “safety” of a neighborhood almost solely by the proportion of white to black residents. I know this because I have had occasion to ride around with detectives and uniformed cops and listen to them jabber on at each other about what they are seeing out their cop car windows, and because of what I see on the streets. Its not uncommon to see a young black kid being violently taken down by cops for no reason.

    Of course they don’t ONLY target minorities. A white friend lived in Bushwick for several years prior to this latest wave of gentrification and he had long hair and looked like a metalhead. The cops would routinely harass/search him and even tackle him to the ground without announcing who they were merely for the “crime” of walking home. So there’s a class-based part of this too, but its mainly race-based, at least in NYC.

    Since the incidence of crime is higher in poor black neighborhoods, this is all the “proof” the cops need to embrace stop and frisk and other harsh tactics: its just more proof of what they already believe which is that blacks are animals who need to be violently controlled. Most of the cops in NYC come from the mostly blue collar Irish/Italian suburbs and are stupid thugs who prefer pushing (black) people around and beating on them to working as an electrician or plumber. One thing even Taibbi gets wrong is the idea that their jobs are hard and dangerous. This meme is utterly wrong and also very insidious because it gives justification to the idea that “you don’t understand how rough it is out there so don’t second guess the cops”. Actually, there are many jobs more dangerous than being a cop, and when you read those stats about how many cops die on the job each year (very few) just remember that at least half of those are in traffic accidents. The fact is that cops are something like 2-3x more likely to be physically abusive to their families than the average person. And the cops that are “decent” people really aren’t because of the way they protect the monsters in their midst.

    The key takeaway we whites are now learning is how completely different the experience of the police is for us and for black/latino citizens. Most of us live in a bubble where we just don’t know any of this, and when we are confronted with facts like surveys that show blacks think the police are not doing their jobs properly while whites largely do, we shrug and go “huh, I wonder why that is” and go on with our day. Thankfully, and largely due to social media and camera phones, this is changing rapidly.

    If this problem is going to be solved what we need is an entirely new governmental body that’s sole job is regulating and controlling the police. They have to be completely independent such that they don’t work with the police and DA’s in any capacity, they have to have thorough investigative and prosecutorial powers against the police, and job performance has to be tied to how many dirty cops they jail every year. The police are completely out of control and always have been. This is not a new thing. Cops are thugs in a gang with badges. They always were and always will be. Until we as a society acknowledge that fact and treat them accordingly, nothing fundamental will change.

    1. PQS


      The police have been out of control since the Drug War, in my experience, since asset forfeitures created such an enormous pool of potential graft and corruption. Since 9/11, they’ve gone completely over a cliff.

      I do like how Black attacks the political class for offloading their responsibility to explain the tactics and policies onto the police. This is not only unfair, it is the wrong mission for the police, because it creates an authoritarian heirarchy that shouldn’t exist in a police force. The police are there to “protect and serve” all the citizens, and their jobs are paid for by citizen taxes. They are not supposed to be the watchdogs of the wealthy and politicians (in an ideal scenario, that is,) but by distancing themselves from the police, the politicians create this very situation, since the police get to make up their own rules in response and apart from any larger mission.
      I believe this also partially explains the generally militaristic nature of the current policing out there – they think they are the Army with a compliant and silent Congress and Executive branch to let them do whatever they want in the streets.

  3. Working Class Nero

    These are subjects very important to me and I have to say that this article is incredibly well done and balanced given the sensitive nature of the subject.

    But there is a paradox. To help explain it I first have to run my usual spiel about social classes just to be clear about where I am coming from. There are four social classes, Rentier, Bourgeois, Proletariat, and Lumpen-proles. Rentiers and Lumpens are parasites and the natural enemies of the productive Bourgeois and Prole classes. Keeping these four categories in mind can help us understand what is happening.

    From a class-based perspective, it is clearly desirable for the Bourgeois and Prole (B-P) join together (putting their own class differences temporarily to the side) to attack BOTH the Lumps and the Rentiers. In other words ideally we would have a classic two front class war with on the Poor Front the B-P allied against Lumps while on the Rich Front the B-P are allied to defeat the Rentiers.

    And by defeat I mean keep to a reasonable size. Only a completely totalitarian society can completely defeat both Rentiers and Lumps.

    It is just as clearly obvious that it is very much in the Rentier’s class interests to convince the Bourgeois and Proles to either just fight each other, and in rare cases where these two classes are united enough to pose a threat to any parasitical class – to make sure all B-P firepower is directed towards the Poor Front and against the Lumpens and as a result there will be all quiet on the Rich Front, at least from B-P guns that is. This is clearly the state of affairs we see in the US right now.

    And of course while B-P guns are all quiet on the Rich Front, the Rentiers are gaining ground by effortlessly moving their divisions ever deeper into B-P territory. And while the Lumps may be well defeated in New York City, they are gaining power elsewhere. Society collapses when the Lumps and Rentiers grow so powerful that they squeeze the economic life out of the defeated central powers (the Bourgeois and Proles). This is the case in many third world nations today.

    One other aspect of the Stop and Frisk policy in New York is that there is also a war between Rentier and Lumps over who gets to suck the life blood out of the citizens. The Rentier would love nothing more than to push poor blacks out of New York City which means sky-rocketing real estate profits for the Friendly FIRE groups that exist in New York as well.

    With all this in mind I would just like to push forward a concept that is pretty strongly hinted in the post. Far from abandoning the weapon of Stop and Frisk, we should not only be defending it, but more importantly, redeploying it for use on the Rich Front against the Rentiers. Banksters should be ruthlessly Stopped and Frisked although it is for someone with far more financial and regulatory knowledge that I have to convert this concept into an actual battle plan.

    This is where race, gender, and Identity politics can become problematic. There is a tendency among some groups to immediately pin any racial, identity, or gender disparities on a grand conspiracy. Too many blacks getting arrested? Well that can only mean the racist tentacles of Deep White (my mixing of the concepts of the Deep State with the concept of White Privilege) have to be involved. That’s not to say that racism, sexism, and whatever other isms are non-existent – only that proliferate overuse of these explanation can tend to be an effort to obfuscate the over-riding class dynamics at play. And of course exacerbating racial tensions among the Bourgeois and Prole classes only helps solidify current power imbalances for the Rentiers.

    For example, the Stop of Frisk policies in New York have unbelievably huge gender disparities. Around 93% of all people stopped were male. Is this evidence of the Deep Matriarchy?

    What is fascinating about the Stop and Frisk program is that for whatever reason, only one other community in America (that I am aware of) has implemented a Stop and Frisk policy as strict as New York’s. And that the small city of Miami Gardens in Florida. Slate-type click-bate articles are endlessly churned out highlighting the racial disparities found in this program. What the almost always fail to point out is that the city is something like 80% black, 18% Hispanic, and only 2% white. The police force seems to be around 50/50 but the political power structure of the city is 100% black. Have a look at the leadership group who implemented Stop and Frisk in Miami Gardens:

    So is this black power structure being defeated by an omnipotent Deep White conspiracy or are perhaps the class-based explanation I offer closer to the truth (neither theory would ever completely explain any phenomenon, concepts are only guides).

    Why is all this racial, gender, Identity stuff so important? Because when the day comes that the forces of B-P unite enough to actually deploy some sort of Stop and Frisk against the Rentiers, I don’t want to hear any whining about how the attacks on the Rentiers are like the Nazis because they are disproportionately impacting one group more than others. In the case my dream comes true; the bankster Stop and Frisk program would be deployed against an entire parasitical Rentier social class, not any specific identity, racial, or gender group per se.

    And so the paradox is, although as bad as it is, I most certainly don’t want to kill the concept of Stop and Frisk. In fact I want to do the exact opposite. I want to save it, to enlarge, to arm it, to even militarize it, and I want to turn it loose on a massive scale as a weapon against the Rentier class parasites.

    1. blucollarAl

      The promotion of racial and ethnic identity and the instigation of racial antagonism to prevent, diminish, undercut economic, social and class solidarity is as old as colonial America. The historian Edmund Morgan pointed out that in the Virginia Colony, slaves and indentured white farmers were treated unequally under the law despite being similarly situated economically, with privileges accorded to the whites that were denied to Afro-American slaves solely on the basis of their racially based status (the indentured farmer being legally recognized as “white and free” ). As the cultural historian Richard Harvey Brown has noted, employers for decades used “divide and conquer” tactics to promote racial-ethnic identity and privilege in order to discourage unionization and worker class-consciousness. Race, ethnic-nationalist hostility, xenophobia, religion (“white Christian America”), all conspired to exclude racial minorities, especially Afro-Americans, from trade and craft unions and thus promoted a kind of “craft privilege” and blue collar segmentation of the workforce.

      Notice the almost total absence of any class or economic perspective in the MSM and the corresponding emphasis on racial identity in coverage of the most recent events.

  4. MartyH

    WC Nero, take a look at The 3-ladder system of social class in America. It might be interesting as a sharper lens.

    Bill Black’s underlying point is not dismissed with a discussion of class. New York City’s “broken windows” approach has always been a cleansing of Wall Street’s home town so that its elite were more comfortable in “their city.” When we focus on Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, we see the military as war-fighters. What we down-play or forget was that that military and the domestic police were deployed to optimize for both the Nationalist and the commercial (economic) success of the Nation-State (Corporate-State) … Broken Windows policing was the norm. The State was made safe for the rich and powerful. The propaganda (nothing new) relentlessly re-framed reality.

    This isn’t simply a (snarl-word) “fascist” problem. It is a concentration of wealth and power (inequality) thing. Inequality is an objective, a goal. Achieving dominant wealth and power enables practical political control and immunity from the norms and standards of normal socienty (“The Law” is readily co-opted). When power is invested in hierarchic structures and when private control of wealth/capital is not properly regulated, the power hierarchy is exposed to corruption and “capture.”

    Bill points out a couple of blatantly obvious symptoms of an advanced example.

  5. Paul Niemi

    Broken Windows, broken lives. I saw an image of Eric Garner in the choke hold, arms wide in surrender, his executioner on his back. The image stayed in my mind all last night. I woke up with it. Sadly, I’m prompted by my lights to recommend that moral and law-abiding citizens should move away from New York City. The place has become sick to the point of evil.

    1. YankeeFrank

      What happened on Staten Island to Eric Garner is not isolated to New York at all. Do a google search of all the people that have been killed by the police just since the Michael Brown murder and you’ll find a plethora of innocents killed by cops in similar ways Garner was. So please keep your hand-wringing for NYC to a minimum.

      This is a nationwide issue, and its not just race, but also class-based as many posters have noted. The only problem I see with treating it solely as a class issue is the cops themselves, who are happily convinced of the debased nature of blacks and latinos. All of our fancy socio-economic, rentier-control analysis isn’t wrong, its just not what actually motivates cops to go out and kick ass every day. Sure they enjoyed beating heads at OWS, but that’s a one-off for them. They’re a gang, and they will happily direct themselves at and where the plutocrats direct them. But the fact is they simply don’t have enough day to day targets that the plutocrats care about so they have their own agenda which is to imprison as many blacks as possible. To beat them, instigate them, jail them for petty crimes and generally wear them down to a nub. Its the sport of champions for the men in blue. And sure, they feed the prison industrial complex but remember, most of that is still in public hands despite the best efforts of CCA and its ilk. This issue with the police won’t go away until we put leashes on them. Strong ones with choke collars we wouldn’t dream of using on a defenseless dog.

      1. Paul Niemi

        It is a nationwide issue, but other cities have faced it with resolve. If you want, google Otto Zehm. For killing him here in Spokane, a jury in Yakima sent Officer Thompson to prison. The conviction shook up city government, and it was much needed.

        1. YankeeFrank

          Good for Washington. I’m sure the police are thoroughly reformed now. Even if they are, which is doubtful unless you have a fully independent CCRB with full investigative and prosecutorial powers, its not just a New York problem by any means. In fact, there are cities with much worse police brutality problems than New York. Ever looked at Chicago? Or New Orleans? Or Baltimore? I could go on but I won’t.

          1. Paul Niemi

            The fact that you can point to other cities known for police brutality doesn’t excuse New York City, sir. If you live there, what steps are being taken to cut it out?

            1. YankeeFrank

              I was responding to this bit of nonsense in your original comment:

              “I’m prompted by my lights to recommend that moral and law-abiding citizens should move away from New York City. The place has become sick to the point of evil.”

              There are roughly 16 million people that live in and around NYC. The vast majority of us are decent people, just like anywhere else. We just voted for a mayor who ended stop and frisk, and hopefully with what’s going on now we will get some real reform with a serious CCRB with teeth that can uproot much of this corruption and racism. But regardless, my point is that this is a nationwide problem so if you’re going to move away from NYC because of it, there are precious few places you could relocate that won’t have the same problems. I’m not quite clear on what YOUR point is. I’m not “excusing” NYC for anything. On the contrary, I wrote two posts above that were very harsh about the police in my city. Your comment felt nasty and thoughtless, with a huge dash of sanctimony thrown in, sir. Not a nice mixture at all. And given that Yves herself is a longtime NYC resident, perhaps you should realize that you cannot paint an entire city the size of New York with one silly statement.

        2. Jacob

          The police officer who murdered Zehm got only 4 years in prison. Any working-class non-cop would’ve been sentenced to life or a death sentence.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Eric Garner’s last words, verbatim:

      “I can’t breathe!”

      “I can’t breathe!”

      “I can’t breathe!”

      “I can’t breathe!”

      “I can’t breathe!”

      “I can’t breathe!”

      “I can’t breathe!”

      “I can’t breathe!”

      “I can’t breathe!”

      “I can’t breathe!”

      “I can’t breathe!”

      Rest in peace, Eric, in God’s eternal embrace.

      I can appreciate Black’s scholarly/lawyerly effort to mount an academic defense of Eric’s murderers, but it just doesn’t wash. The choke-hold was black-letter-law illegal, Eric Garner’s 11 desperate pleas for his life and involuntary struggle for air, make another charade of justice by an incestuous grand jury “prosecutor” a simply intolerable travesty. Even so, as in Ferguson,ric Place-Holder will sit serenely with his thumbs up his sphincter.

      Glen Ford is absolutely right. The Black community is justified using any and all means neceassary to resist such criminal tyranny. And supremely hypocritical imperial utterances that “there is never an excuse for violence” be damned. This is a moral crisis equal to those that precipitated the American Revolution and Civil War. And tyrants like Barack Obama and Eric Holder “who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable” (JFK).

      1. Paul Niemi

        I am in agreement with you, right on. But I’m of a little different complexion from those above pointing to race, to class, to nationwide is the problem. If those were true, and maybe they all are, I don’t want people to think federalizing the police or passing the buck to the feds to solve is the preferred answer. I’m going to be really mean and hold New Yorkers accountable for their own cops. New Yorkers, you have the responsibility to govern your own police department, so do what you need to do, make the reforms you need to make. What New York cops do, in uniforms you paid for, is on your back. So set an example.

        1. YankeeFrank

          There you go again. Yes we’re all guilty. But only in New York. Everywhere else the cops commit racist violence its not the responsibility of the people. Gotcha.

          1. Paul Niemi

            Wrong. Read the comment again. The point is people in their local communities have primary responsibility for their local police. If you prefer to look beyond the local community, the next place to affix blame is the state legislature, for criminalizing long lists of behaviors that are inconsequential and not worth risking life to enforce.

        2. Doug Terpstra

          Police-state militarization is rampant nationwide, not just NYC. We had a similar police murder last week here in Phoenix (home of the infamous Sherriff Joe Arpaio) where an unarmed black man was gunned down while reaching for his prescription medicine; the murderers acquitted once again by grand farce. It happens frequently in many cities, which makes this a clear crisis for the DOJ, as do the war on drugs and selective sentencing laws that have incarcerated more blacks (over a million, more than 50% of the prison pop.) in for-profit prisons than ther were slaves before the (first) Civil War. But Obama is just too busy carrying water for Wall Street, conducting coups, and warmongering to lift a finger — a criminal disgrace for which I hope he pays dearly.

          Please see some of the videos posted by Paul Craig Roberts to better understand the extent of the crisis. If the self-satisfied walking-dead liberal class doesn’t wake up, they will have no defense against the justifiable violent backlash that’s coming.

  6. newyorker

    this harrassing of non-whites is the feature, not the bug. is it not clear that the nypd’s first duty is to serve as the watchmen to the 1%. the rest of us white folks get the residual benefit of keeping our neighborhoods more or less crime-free. the grotesque take down of eric garner is probably done hundreds od times a day to put the fear of the authorities into people like him, only with a non-fatal outcome. (the cops should have suspected he was too unhealthy to safely withstand his handling, but cops aren’t known to be that smart).

  7. newyorker

    i was cut off. bill diblasio was i am certain pulled aside by the powers that be and told no way in hell will the city return to the state it was in in the nasty ’70s (i was there!). he could run any program or charade he wanted but the newly gentrifying parts of nyc, the destination of lots of wall street money, would not undergo a rollback.

      1. beene

        We have to remember why Bratton was moved from his post in Boston,Ma.. It was after Bratton started strip searches on the streets of Boston, that the public force his move from Boston. Bratton, has failed up all the way to NY.

  8. cripes

    We keep hearing how much crime has gone down.
    Is this really accurate?
    In addition to the explosion of financial and fraud crime, there is a lot of evidence that data-driven crime reporting has incentivized municipal police to refuse filing or downgrade felony complaints just to meet the demands of idiots like Bratton in NYC or Gerry McCarthy in Chicago. They prefer arrests for marijuana and turn-style jumping or loose cigarette sales.
    Of course, rapes, murders, robberies and drug dealing by law enforcement are rampant, adding to actual, if not reported or prosecuted crimes. Is not civil forfeiture itself, where police roam about like highwaymen robbing motorists at gunpoint also crime? In Philadelphia, they are pursuing home seizures (robbery) of utterly innocent people, at a faster rate than other cities, but it’s everywhere. Google it, or watch John Oliver’s takedown:
    Wage theft by employers is conservatively estimated at 50 billion annually, how much of that is reported in their crime stats?
    Medical fraud, almost completely the province of medical providers is hundreds of billions annually, where does that appear in the stats?
    New York City itself, along with other “global cities” like London, Dubai, Hong Kong or Paris has fashioned itself into a hideaway for global gangsters, who sink their criminal proceeds into 70 million condos they visit twice a year, overpriced art and tech companies, hedge funds or T-bills. The populace is driven into serfdom and poverty or exile to accommodate this Cayman-on-the-Hudson.
    Hidden in Plain Sight: New York Just Another Island Haven
    The epidemic of fraud, foreclosure, job losses, divorce, suicide and homelessness are crimes that reverberate through society causing incalculable harm beyond the avarice of the B-school jerks prancing around in their Rolexes and Mercedes.
    Crime is not down.

    1. Carla

      cripes, you are SO right (I mean of course, correct). The crimes that destroy thousands, even millions, of lives are ignored, and the perpetrators richly rewarded, and to add insult to injury, lionized. It’s sickening and paralyzing. What are we to do?

      I can only suggest that we must wrest our political system from the criminal class. As a fitting recognition of the 5th anniversary of Citizens United coming up in January 2015, start a local affiliate of the Move to Amend and get a proper version of the We the People Amendment on your local ballot:

      113th CONGRESS

      1st Session

      H. J. RES. 29

      Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only.


      February 14, 2013

      Mr. NOLAN (for himself and Mr. POCAN) introduced the following joint resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


      Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only.

      Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:


      `Section 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only. Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

      `Section 2. Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure. Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed. The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

      `Section 3. Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.’

      For more info:

      We have now passed this at the ballot box in 6 municipalities in Ohio, and it will be on the ballot in several more in 2015 (or I will die trying). It has been passed by voters in more than 70 cities nationwide. Anywhere it has been on the ballot, IT HAS NEVER FAILED.


  9. Chauncey Gardiner

    The impairment of the rule of law and the kid glove treatment of the white collar criminals who engineered the massive control, securities and market frauds that have cost our nation so dearly in terms of both damage to social values and the economy is outrageous, as is the contrasting brutal and sometimes deadly treatment mentioned above. The question is what We the People can do about it? The leadership of the two legacy political parties have shown themselves to be in the pockets of those with wealth, regardless of how that wealth was obtained. Moving the needle toward restoration of the rule of law for all citizens will require limiting control of media by the few and restoring the role of the courts. Failure to do so assures continuance of the criminal behavior at both ends of the spectrum, as Bill Black has pointed out, and I further believe will ultimately place the idea of nation at risk.

  10. susan the other

    This was super great I love it that he has done something here like specializing his “throw the crooks in jail” theme to “if you aren’t gonna throw the crooks in jail you damn well better give equal justice to the Blacks and Latinos for their way far lesser offenses.” And calculating the relative damage to society from the banksters v. the cigarette sellers – the banksters having caused the US and the world more in damages (far more) than WW2 (Andrew Haldane would certainly agree.) it makes immediate sense to not even bother the petty offenses committed by almost benign capitalists. Which is probably the highest order of morality any capitalist can obtain.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Thank you for using the word “morality” in your post. But we ought not forget another word: legitimacy. None of our institutions have any remaining legitimacy, whether you’re talking about the local police forces, the regulatory agencies, the political parties, corporate America, or the Supreme Court. The rule of law itself is no longer legitimate because it is now applied differently depending upon how much money you have or what the color of your skin is. I’m completely weary of every new aloof, minute detailing of the actions of Nero’s bow as he fiddles away, as if the destruction of our lives and our futures was just another intellectual exercise. It is beyond time that people acknowledge that there is no legitimacy left across the length and breadth of our republic: “Republic”: from the Latin *res* Thing and *publica* Of the People. A thing of the people. That we don’t retake the legitimacy of our republic, by ourselves and for ourselves, is not their fault. It’s ours.

  11. Blurtman

    In December in 2009, New York City police decided to decisively crack down on fraud. In this case, a street vendor who “…would first approach…tourists, then ask them their names, write their names on the CDs and then demand payment of $10.” The vendor fled, and police allege that he fired upon them, and was then shot dead. It seems quite unbelievable that the deceased vendor would have constructed a note claiming that he would shoot it out with the police if he were apprehended. But even so, a $10 fraud results in a police pursuit and death of the fraudster, while nearby, fraudsters who steal millions are treated as kings. That is what NYC is. That is what a two-tiered justice system is.

  12. Jackrabbit

    In his much criticized remarks after the Ferguson grand jury decision, Obama said something to the effect: no one needs good policing like poor/black neighborhoods.

    we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make

    I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur. Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law. As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work WITH the community not against the community to distinguish the handful of people who may use the grand jury’s decision as an excuse for violence – distinguish THEM from the vast majority who just want their voices heard around legitimate issues in terms of how communities and law enforcement interact. Finally, we need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation. The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates. The good news is that we know there are things we can do to help.”

    Make sure police forces are representative of the communities they serve.
    enlisting the community
    criminal justice reform

    H O P

  13. Jeremy Grimm

    The job description for working as a police officer is a tv-movies-crime novel fantasy compared to most of the work our police do, especially in our smaller cities. A very old report – 60s – on police activity indicated most police calls take them to settle domestic fights. The report suggested the police should form teams of one male officer and one female officer both trained in handling domestic squabbles. I doubt much has changed in what most police calls involve.

    As for law enforcement per se, the push to make law enforcement a business has probably done more to undermine respect for the law and for police officers than all the truly egregious cases like that of Eric Garner. Law enforcement is a cost center. Making it a revenue source is a crime against society — and against police officers. I have spoken with several police officers who quit and found other employment because the job was so different than the job description. They joined to serve and protect but spent most of their time and energy enforcing petty traffic law and misdemeanor laws to meet their quotas — yes they were given quotas in spite of all maneuvering public officials do to deny that quotas exist. Instead of solving crimes, their job was finding someone they could charge with a crime.

    As for the crime waves we’ve been fighting for so many years — try to find a criminal defense attorney, a “real” criminal defense attorney. Look in the online attorneys’ directories and you will find all kinds of criminal defense attorneys to defend such serious crimes as drunk driving, low level drug offences or shop-lifting, as well as assorted misdemeanors. Try to find a defense attorney who handles assault or aggravated assault, or more serious felonies. As noted in Ian Walsh piece:

    “Almost all sentences are plea-bargained: the person with almost all the power in the system is the prosecutor. He or she is judge and jury for the vast majority of cases, and even when a case does go in front of a judge, the judge’s discretion is extremely limited.”

    Not much left for a defense attorney to work with. Besides, the cost of a defense attorney is well beyond the means of all but the wealthiest. Even so, look at how few cases of serious felony crimes are tried. No wonder it is hard to find a defense attorney.

    I spent several mornings in municipal court fighting and losing some very questionable traffic citations my children collected. Not one serious crime came up for hearing during all those mornings. I heard of case after case of petty misdemeanors whose chief purpose seemed to be creating revenues for the police, the court and the many attorneys specializing in the intricacies of drunk driving and shop-lifting law. Most defendants were young adults, barely more than teenagers. What I saw was a money machine. No justice served and none intended.

    More recently, I spent several long mornings and partial afternoons at the county court where serious felonies are tried. The most serious case I to come up was a case of aggravated assault. The suspect assailant, someone I know well, is mentally unstable and hardly a criminal. But we have no better way to deal with the mentally unstable than our criminal justice system. In his case the state is bringing charges, contrary to the wishes of the victim. The police were called in by the hospital where the victim was treated for injuries. The insanity of the attack and the attacker were of little concern to the state. The state believes the insane must pay for their crimes like any other common felon.

    I watched another man facing serious prison time for an assault, blow-up in court — I suspect one of his jailers tweaked him during a recess between portions of his hearing — and demand a court trial, completely undermining a plea bargain his public defender worked out with the prosecutor. The man was so obviously disturbed, so plainly unstable even a layman like me could see his lack of competence. No matter — the judge set aside the plea bargain his public defender worked out and allowed the man to face trial. I doubt the judge had latitude to do otherwise. The legal definition of competence is quite different than the ordinary meaning and usage of the term. Legally, a defendant short of catatonic or hopelessly delusional can/must be regarded as competent. While the plea bargain this fellow passed on was no great bargain, he faces several more years at the end of a trial. The trial will cost the state, cost the victim of this man’s attack and cost this man several years of his life while doing little or nothing to help him. At best, he will come out of prison just as insane and angry as he was when he went in. I did not notice any efforts made to find out what happened during the recess to so greatly transform the seemingly repentant defendant that left the court at recess into the wild-eyed lunatic demanding a court trial on return from recess. No justice served and none intended.

    Bill Black draws a stark contrast between how the law is applied to blue-collar crime and white-collar crime. One aspect of this contrast he left out is the contrast in penalties, and the prisons where time is served. A felony assault, like the occupy woman striking a police officer as in the case recently heard in New York can pull 8 years at a state prison. If a white collar criminal were actually tried and found guilty for a multi-million or multi-billion dollar fraud, how much time would that white collar criminal serve and in what prison? Would the time served or the prison compare with what punishment the banker might receive if he robbed a convenience store at knife point for $50?

      1. juliania

        I’m sorry, but when a misdemeanor turns into a crime punishable by death, something has really changed, as Bill Black points out. A somewhat confused man (confused because he should know better than to argue with a policeman in this fraught environment) was choked to death for selling cigarettes out of a pack. He was doing this because he needed money, just a bit, and he didn’t want to be just begging for it.

        Way back in the day, my young sons painted rocks and sat on the curb to sell them to raise money for bicycles. The newspaper wrote up their story. This is not a different case, but this man was choked to death.

        And more of us now that the economy is only for the upper class to thrive, more of us will be just scraping by and at risk of being murdered – it has gone that far. It is not the citizenry who are doing this; it is not even the policeman on the beat, who is caught in the middle; it is the powers that be, and we are outraged.

        Trickle up!!

        The Grand Jury did not bring an indictment. I submit that they should have indicted – indicted our Justice Department for condoning this sick and suppurating environment of evildoers. If they cannot do that, they should never be allowed to convene again.

  14. Nate

    In my view the question of whether stop-and-frisk policies of NYPD are “racist” is likely unknowable, but also entirely irrelevant, namely because virtually ANY form of suspiciousness searches/seizures are abhorrent and should not be tolerated. IMO by their very nature suspiciousness searches/seizures are inherently prone to corruption and abuse, no matter what the motive, and should have been stopped from day 1. As the saying goes once you allow an inch, well, you get the idea…

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have to differ with you on your claim that whether stop and frisk is racist is unknowable. The stats in NYC are damning:

      “Nobody racially profiles” is a curious statement. Every year since 2003, blacks and Latinos have consistently accounted for around 85 percent of stop-and-frisk selectees; according to 2010 census data, blacks and Latinos make up 52.6 percent of New York City’s total population. “Even in neighborhoods that are predominantly white, black, and Latino New Yorkers face the disproportionate brunt,” reports the New York Civil Liberties Union. “For example, in 2011, Black and Latino New Yorkers made up 24 percent of the population in Park Slope, but 79 percent of stops.”

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