Sunday, December 30, 2012

New York City Highlights Problems with Politicised Policing

English: NYPD Dodge Charger #2909 in midtown M...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A secretly-recorded audio file of New York City Police carrying out a stop-and-frisk on a seventeen-year-old illustrates the problem with NYPD's controversial policy. Among the frequent swearing by the police officers, the recording includes numerous threats by the police to physically assault the youth, who was not arrested and had not committed a crime.

A recent video based on the incident reveals that the policy of stopping and searching suspicious-looking individuals is the result of orders from New York's elected mayor. Serving and retired police officers reveal (anonymously in some cases) the pressure they are routinely put under by their superiors to complete such stops, regardless of whether such actions are warranted by any objective suspicion of crime. In the process, the rights of individuals to be unmolested by the agents of the state are routinely ignored. The policy also involves racial profiling and fulfilling quotas, both of which are outlawed under New York state law. 

These infringements are the result of political orders from an elected official, pandering to the perceived expectations of a vocal section of the electorate. The problem is that the policy is applied disproportionately to those who do not have or do not know how to use their political voice.

This perversion of public service is an unintended consequence of elected officials running the police service. This development has been enshrined in British law this year with the creation of elected police commissioners. Paradoxically, democratic norms are sometimes better upheld with high calibre unelected officials running the police service.

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