2007/03/26

Media? My Ass! The NYPD Is Worried About Potential Litigants

After the unjust arrests, protest zones, and detentions sans charges, you just knew that the NYPD would try something desperate in their attempts to do damage control. Because their not-so-secret activist surveillance program is blowing up in their faces, and if they don't get situation under control soon, NYC is going to face some pretty costly litigation.

Though the NYPD still claims that everything, including sharing their findings with other law enforcement agencies, was legal, Federal District Judge Charles Haight has ruled that the police must have, "...some indication of unlawful activity on the part of the individual or organization," before they can go out and monitor political groups or their activities. And herein is the problem for the NYPD. That very opinion makes the NYPD's intelligence files the most important evidence in the case. Thus, the police are trying desperately to keep them sealed, claiming that they are central to their defense. But the question here is how does unsealing the documents damage the NYPD's defense? Council for the plaintiffs are going to get at those documents anyway during discovery.

No. What the NYPD is really trying to do is to keep the documents sealed so that the pool of potential litigants doesn't explode, and their half-assed arguments are aimed at controlling the popular perception of the extent to which the NYPD abused its authority.

18 Comments:

Don't these people have real criminals to deal with? I find it hard to believe that New York is so devoid of crime that they have to go after peace activists.
I agree-don't they have anything at all better to do with their time and money?
I'm sure they can try to fit "excited delirium" somewhere into the case: Perhaps tazoring a judge or two.
Lew, Robert... What gets me is that they gave all the information away to other law enforcement agencies. That sort of fishing and innuendo should be illegal. Isn't it?

Aaron... I know some groups targeted by the NYPD that would like to use a taser on the people involved. ;-)
This brings to mind J. Edgar Hoover's infamous red files, and how long he got away with that. Imo, the key here might be that it was the RNC, not the DNC. That would mean they have a lot of "friends" on the bench. I agree with you. It's CYA all the way.
I guarantee Me, my Dad, Jessica Maxwell and the rest of the Syracuse Peace Council are in their files. I'm definitely watching this story out of the corner of my eye.
It takes about a quarter of a neuron to figure out that they know they did something illegal and are trying to cover their asses. Oh well, so much for Bloomberg's re-election. New Yorkers like a law and order mayor, but they're also pretty liberal and they like they're civil rights, too.
TFWY... Interestingly NYC cops are under special restrictions stemming from...I believe...the late 1960s that limit their ability to conduct surveillance on political activities. I'll see if I can find the name of the set of statutes.

Fred... Some of the California organizations that they went after is almost comical. So I guess the Syracuse Peace Council is made up of wild-eyed fanatics, huh?

DBK... Right now I think the trials are civil. Not sure if there are criminal charges yet.
During the Republican Convention in NY City in 2004, no one involved with the convertion or the protests was murdered.

But don't think the relative absence of serious violence resulted from the "peaceful" intentions of protesters.

I went to the convention hot-spots around the city to amuse myself.

In summary, the police, because they understood what protesters had in mind, were able to thwart or head-off troublesome confrontations.

About 500,000 people flooded NYC during the convention. About 5,000 were attending the convention itself. What were all those other people doing? Some were in town for the fun. Some were in town hoping to recreate the scene in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic Convention.

To bad for them, things didn't work out.

Were the cops rough on a few people. Probably. I didn't witness any excessive police actions. But I wasn't everywhere.

On the other hand, protesters considered attacking me when I challenged speakers who had attracted crowds in Union Square (14th Street, for those of you who know a little about NYC geography).

Managing gangs of vitriolic prostesters single-handedly is an interesting experience. If there had not been cops in uniform posted around Union Square, I'm sure I'd have been kicked around for standing firm against crowds of people who demonstrated appalling ignorance of history and current events while raging in anger.

That aside, all protesters had every opportunity to vent their rage, their views, their feelings, their contempt for everything. And they were able to vent unimpeded.

However, the police made it clear that violent protesters would face arrest.

In short, police management of the convention was a major success. Protesters tried their best to reduce the city to chaos. They failed. The worst that can be said is that some people who should not have been arrested were taken into custody. But that resulted from being too close to the action.

In the end, protesters protested freely and no one's rights were trampled upon. As loud and obnoxious as many protesters were, they failed to provoke much more than verbal retorts.
no_slappz:

Nice piece of misdirection. There are laws in this country that the police are obligated to follow. It looks like they didn't follow them. That's for a court to work out, but that's the basis of the posting: the police allegedly violated the law. Your response is that there wasn't any violence at the RNC, so...what? So what? That's supposed to mean the police did not illegally monitor private citizens?

Oh, and you didn't see anything bad happen and admit that means nothing. Again, so what?
What DBK said...

Moreover, the Federal judge was quite explicit in his rejection of the indiscriminate use of surveillance. And as if that weren't enough--as I mentioned before--the NYPD is under special restrictions about whom they surveil and how they go about it, the so-called 'Handschu guidelines'.

no_slappz, that you have all this acectodal evidence that what the police did was legal, restrained, and in the best interest of NYC is great...though off topic. But there is substantial evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the NYPD, from lengthy detentions without access to legal resources to indiscriminate arrests of bystanders, much of which is thoroughly documented by the NYCLU and the media.
dbk, you wrote:

"There are laws in this country that the police are obligated to follow."

There are laws in this country CITIZENS are supposed to follow. I can assure you that THOUSANDS of protesters traveled to NY City for the purpose of causing chaos. In fact, it was estimated 500,000 people came to NY City during the convention. There are 40,000 cops on the force. There are about 8 million residents of the city.

Long story short, I have no problem with preventive police work that involves monitoring groups, organizations and individuals who have acknowledged plans to cause disturbances in high-density public areas.

New York City is full of people who are ready to share opinions on anything, whether you like them in your face or not. That's life in NYC.

But when groups plan actions that will cause police to run hither and yon in the city, leaving one site to race to another, thereby leaving people and places unguarded from those protestoers hoping to spread chaos, I say the right to keep public order trumps the individual right to create havoc.

YOu said:

"It looks like they didn't follow them."

There probably were some violations by the police. But it matters that NYC did not look like Chicago in 1968.

YOu wrote:

"That's for a court to work out, but that's the basis of the posting: the police allegedly violated the law."

Well, you've got the Ninth Circuit court in California, and we have the misfortune to have some wacky activist judges on the bench here. Furthermore, we have the NY Times, which never misses an opportunity to bash the cops.

You wrote:

"Your response is that there wasn't any violence at the RNC, so...what? So what? That's supposed to mean the police did not illegally monitor private citizens?"

It means that police achieved the goal stated by Commissioner Kelly. He said he supported the right of protesters to protest as long as the protesting was conducted without creating unnecessarily dangerous situations in the city.

By knowing what the protesters had in mind, the police department was able to achieve its goal.

YOu seem to believe people have the capacity for infallibility. YOu can be sure a few cops were tough on a few people. It happens. You can be sure some of the people who were locked up in the special detention center on the Hudson River should not have been there.

But they weren't beaten by cops. Or shot by anyone. Or harmed in any meaningful way. Yeah, some sacrificed a little dignity because they were locked up where there were not enough toilets, but, lots of people came to New York City to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested. They achieved their goal in many cases.

Meanwhile, you seem ready to overlook the magnitude of the situation. FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND people came to NY City for five days. Of the total, there were enough people bent on causing chaos and mayhem that the police had to work smart. That means knowing what' likely to happen.

Tell me why the citizens of NY City should have to spend five days at the mercy of protesters who were aiming to upset the local applecart. Are citizens of NY City pawns of visiting prostesters?

Few local residents wanted wholesale violence to break out. That's when people get killed. Illegal weapons appear, people get trampled, run over by cars. You name it.

But it didn't happen because the police did their job about as well as it could have been done. Huge success. Huge, Even if it took a little excessive snooping to keep the lid on things.
Here. Go argue about it with Glenn Greenwald. He covers what is clearly your ideology and adoration for an authoritarian, nanny-state.
You know, the more I read your position, the stupider it is. Basically, your position is, "The police broke the law and the protesters didn't, so the police were great." (Gee, and I did that without having to write an eight thousand word essay that was pure speculation and horse manure from start to end. Concise is better.)

The logical flaws, not to mention the dependence on leaps of faith in your own assumptions as well as the rich, crunchy goodness of the NYPD, in your apologia for criminal behavior by the police are ridiculous.
dbk, you wrote:

""The police broke the law and the protesters didn't, so the police were great.""

Who said the protesters broke no laws? Not me.

Who said the cops broke laws? You, and of course the increasingly irrelevant NY Times.

I said that protesters were unable to incite widespread chaos and violence, which was clearly on their agenda. I did not say they broke no laws. But their grandest ambitions were thwarted.

I said that cops preserved order, which, under the circumstances, carried a huge priority over the personal aims of individual protesters.

You seem to favor anarchy and calamity in New York City over keeping order when 500,000 people with varied agendas suddenly clog streets and public areas. Given the size of crowds and the possibility for mayhem, the risk of trampling was historically high.

Massive crowds of visitors jamming subway platforms is always a formula for disaster. Fortunately no one was shoved off any platforms in front of on-coming trains during the convention.

The nature of their confrontations with police made it quite clear they had hoped to bait cops into some Chicago '68 anti-protest violence. But due to the establishment of protest zones and the constant presence of both uniformed and undercover cops, the protesters failed to achieve the violent arrests they sought.

By your logic the NYPD has no right to investigate suspected terrorists operating in other parts of the world despite the reality of 9/11. You're suggesting we New Yorkers just have to take our lumps.

Anyway, as I've said, the worst suffering endured by protesters occurred when those who were incarcerated in some temporary lock-ups were deprived of adequate bathroom facilities.

That hardly meets the definition of government persecution.

At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, a bomb was detonated in a crowd. A person was killed. Richard Jewell was wrongly accused of the crime. It wasn't till several years later -- after 9/11 -- that Eric Rudolph, a known domestic terrorist, was identified as the actual culprit.

With Oklahoma City, the Atlanta Bombing and 9/11 behind us, there's no basis for ignoring the likelihood that another terrorist, whether an Eric Rudolph, anti-abortionist cracked-pot, or an anti-American muslim would choose the Republican convention for some fatal theatrics.

Those in charge of security for the Republican Convention were right. You are wrong.
"I said that protesters were unable to incite widespread chaos and violence, which was clearly on their agenda."

Make it up as you go along. Go ahead. Tell me about the yellowcake uranium next.

Did the protesters break any laws? Apparently not most of the people who were arrested, detained for half a day at a time in dreadful conditions, and then let go without any charges.

Did the police break any laws? Earlier I said that was to be determined, but it looks like they certainly did since they monitored, by their own admission, individuals when they had no notion that there was any crime in the offing.

It's a lot simpler than your prolix habits would make it. but keep throwing more and more words out there. You migth say something that is relevant or meaningful sometime instead of piling bullshit on top of horseshit.

Again, all you can do is offer that, if the police broke the law and the protesters didn't, then the police did a great job.

That other stuff you came up with is crap and you don't know it, which is sadder than if you did. All you can come back with ultimately is "Run! Fear! Duh Terrists!" You clearly have no affection for law, just order. You'd have made a good soldier in a lot of regimes.
dbk, you wrote:

"It's a lot simpler than your prolix habits would make it. but keep throwing more and more words out there."

In a city of 8 million, I'll take civil order over extreme demonstrations of individual freedom.

NY City has seen no shortage of street-side theatrics. People regularly travel to NYC to get arrested. At times the police oblige.

In any case, I enjoy attending protests, rants, raves and general displays of public misconduct in NYC, where I live. The police do their work well. Nevertheless, I've run into plenty of rude cops and dealt with a lot of dopes on the police force. What of it?

As a resident of this city, I don't fear the ocps. But I've never tested their restraint by screaming curses and insults at them to see how long it takes to get under the skin of one or more of them.

However, I happened to have a chance to witness a protest on Wall Street several weeks ago when protesters congregated near the NY Stock Exchange to scream at cops about the Sean Bell killing last November. The protesters really blasted the nearby cops with insults and vitriol. The most vocal protesters would have enjoyed nothing more than fighting with the cops, if you were to take the protesters at their word.

Criminals concern me, though. Despite the huge drop in NYC crime, we've still got them.
"protests, rants, raves and general displays of public misconduct"

You lump perfectly legal and American acts in with "misconduct". Your love of authoritarianism over freedom is apparent so please stop the pretense.

By the way, my interactions with the police, even when I was participating in protests, have always been civil and pleasant. The only cop I ever had a hard time with was some John Wayne in Ithaca, New York many long years ago. But then we were discussing the police breaking the law and violating civil rights, not personal experiences.

"The most vocal protesters would have enjoyed nothing more than fighting with the cops, if you were to take the protesters at their word."
What word was that?

You offer plenty of your personal assumptions and pretend to know what is in the minds of others. That is pretty worthless stuff. The only thing your arguments have amounted to are a statement of your faith in authority and the belief that the police broke the law and the protesters didn't, so the police did their jobs well.

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