Arrest Quotas and Police Misconduct
Kendell Richburg Baltimore police: Do arrest quotas encourage cops to break the law?
Richburg was part of a plainclothes police unit known as the Violent Crimes Impact Section. The VCIS was charged with getting guns and drug dealers off the streets of Baltimore. (The unit was renamed and effectively disbanded last December by new police commissioner Anthony Batts, in the wake of citizen and City Council criticism that its tactics were too aggressive.) Lots of urban police departments have employed specialty units like these, tasked with moving into high-crime areas and rapidly lowering crime rates. These units persist because they work. They make a lot of arrests, seize a lot of guns and drugs, and generally produce the kind of statistics that police officials can proudly tout to politicians and the press. They are blunt objects, and sometimes you need a blunt object if you want to make a dent.
But look closely at incidents of police brutality or corruption and you’ll often see them connected to these “jump-out boys,” so named because the officers tend to jump out of cars and aggressively pursue their targets. In 2011, the city of Chicago disbanded its extremely effective Mobile Strike Force unit, in part because citizens complained that its members played too rough. (In a 2012 Chicago magazine story about the city’s new police chief, Noah Isackson mentioned the 2006 revelations that “some officers robbed and kidnapped residents, and the accusations a year later that one officer plotted to murder another.”) In 2002, New York City disbanded its Street Crimes Unit, three years after four plainclothes officers fired 41 shots at an unarmed man named Amadou Diallo, killing him on the steps of his apartment. (The proximate cause of the unit’s downfall was the lawsuit Daniels , et al. v. the City of New York, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights in the wake of the Diallo shooting, alleging racial profiling in the Street Crimes Unit and the NYPD at large.)
Arrest quotas are likely to produce police misconduct. This isn’t farming. You can’t expect 1300 felons an acre like they were corn. Crime varies with opportunity. Such things as the weather (criminals hate cold weather) interfere with crime rates. Police
work is not a business (not yet) and until then we don’t need performance numbers based on arrests. There are a lot of ways to measure police performance but I would it to be clear that policemen who think, who can defuse difficult situations and secure the trust of the citizens on the beat are the ones to promote and rate highly. You can be a pretty poor excuse for a policeman and generate good numbers under a quota system.
Let me say it again – Policing is not a business. It’s a public service. Introducing corporate number crunching as performance measures takes police from defenders of the public to a constant threat to a citizen’s freedom or wallet. For a business model is a totalitarian model, money and power become the drivers of policy not justice and fairness.
From around the web –
From the web site, Bossip:
“He stated that he targeted and focused on (Blacks and Latinos) because he wanted to instill fear in them that every time that they left their homes they could be targeted by police,” Adams said while questioned by plaintiff attorney Jonathan Moore. “First of all I was amazed that he was comfortable enough to state that that in that setting,” Adams continued.
After Sen. Adams expressed dismay at Kelly’s alleged admission, the commissioner allegedly replied, “How else are we going to get rid of guns?”
This high-profile case will contribute to many more people seeing how in fact stop-and-frisk is racist, illegitimate, and illegal. In just the first few days, some damning testimony has already come out. The lead plaintiff in the case, David Floyd, a Black medical student in the Bronx, testified how he has been subjected to stop-and-frisk twice: once as he was just walking down the sidewalk and a second time when he was helping a neighbor who had been locked out of their apartment. Floyd said, “I felt like I was being told I should not leave my home… First and foremost, I didn’t do anything; I am not a criminal.” 16-year-old Devin Almonor also testified, recounting how he was stopped and frisked and then arrested when he was 13-years-old as he was walking home. A lawyer representing the City of New York suggested a cellphone in his front pocket might have “created a bulge,”— as if that was reason enough for a cop to stop him to look for a concealed weapon.
Bronx NYPD officer Pedro Serrano taped his supervisor telling him, “The problem was what? Male blacks. And I told you that at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this: male blacks 14 to 20.” That tape was played in court.
Stop-and-frisk recreates the signification of criminality attached to black and brown skin and creates real forms of social stigmatization, diminishes life opportunities, limits basic rights, and reproduces mass joblessness.
Race-based policing thus contributes to cycles of violence, both state violence and violence between people, and reinforces the very practice of race-based policing while allowing the social conditions that lead to crime in the first place to go ignored.
In this way, the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactic is a case of what Loïc Wacquant calls the “racialized penalization of poverty” in the United States, with state-sanctioned violence used to subdue marginalized populations of highly-expendable surplus humanity, a population whose labor is no longer needed, all the while blaming the individual for social conditions far out of their control.
Rather than breaking the cycle of violence and deterring crime, tactics like stop-and-frisk recreate the conditions that produce violence and criminality, thus further contributing to their existence.
From the web site, Point of View: (This is a very fine, thoughtful post.)
Predictably, most of the mayoral candidates who support stop and frisk are white. Indeed, most of the most vocal supporters of stop and frisk are white. Most of these men and women (and their sons) have never been on the business end of a police stop and even if they were the odds are that they were treated with a level of dignity and respect rarely seen by black and Latino young men.
Even more interesting are the black and Latino public figures that support stop and frisk “with modifications”. The fact is that even if a person is stopped and frisked and is not cursed at or threatened with a beat down, even if that person is not thrown against a wall or subjected to racial epithets, they are still being stopped and frisked without probable cause. That black and Latino public figures would be complicit in degradation and humiliation “with modifications” is disturbing and distressing.
Black or white or Latino, it would seem that the supporters of stop and frisk either believe that only guilty people get stopped – but the statistics overwhelmingly show that this is not true. The alternative is that these apologists for illegality somehow believe that degradation and humiliation “with modifications” is a price that some people have to pay so that crime can be reduced.
The question has to be asked of these advocates of constitutional dilution – what price would be too high?