The State's Petty Law Enforcement, Messing Up the Lives of the Least Well Off

Great first person narrative from Bill Bradley at Next City dramatizing a point I wrote about last month, on "Petty Law Enforcement vs. The Poor," as a guy is taken to jail for jogging in a park at night when it turns out a bill he paid to the state years ago wasn't processed properly.

Excerpts:

There were 11, myself included, from the 72nd precinct and a scattering of other perps from precincts across Brooklyn [in the system that morning]. Only three of us were white. Everyone was in for various petty and pointless crimes: Unpaid speeding tickets, hopping a turnstile, outstanding summons. New York’s misdemeanor courts are essentially debtor’s courts. Keep a dude out of work for the day so he’ll pay his tickets.....

StockMonkeys.com / Foter / CC BYStockMonkeys.com / Foter / CC BY

All of the people in my holding cell awaiting a hearing were “little fish.” One, a 28-year-old who grew up in various Brooklyn housing projects (Red Hook, Gowanus), “got out of the hustle” and landed a job as a courier for a corporate building on Madison Avenue. “I don’t have to think about cops no more,” he told me. “I got my 9-to-5, my steady check and my girl at home.” He was worried that his morning in jail, after he’d been arrested for trespassing in his girlfriend’s friend’s apartment building (which he had been invited to, but the cops were having none of that), might jeopardize his job. Another man was concerned that if he didn’t see the judge before the court adjourned for lunch at 1pm he, too, might lose his job.

“The court system reveals its true class hatred by the fact that it’s scheduled to fuck mostly with working class people,” [Legal Aid Society lawyer Danny] Ashworth said. “The people who are trying to scrape together some lawful existence.”

Ashworth said the majority of the offenders he sees are low-income residents and young men of color....

Ashworth did not mince words with his assessment of the police department’s bias. “There’s so many ways to get snagged,” he said. “And what that means is, the officers can pick and choose who is going to pay. They can look at a guy’s car. They can size up who’s inside the car. They make these implicit class and race judgments. And who winds up getting tagged most of the time? Police want a certain class and group of people walking around in a constant state of fear. Always looking over their shoulder. They want, basically, a state of terror instilled in the mindset of certain classes and races and groups of people.”.....

Young black and Latino men account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population. In 2011, they accounted for 41.6 percent of all stop-and-frisks....

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  • sarcasmic||

    He was worried that his morning in jail, after he’d been arrested for trespassing in his girlfriend’s friend’s apartment building (which he had been invited to, but the cops were having none of that), might jeopardize his job. Another man was concerned that if he didn’t see the judge before the court adjourned for lunch at 1pm he, too, might lose his job.

    I lost a job once thanks to having to go to court over petty bullshit.

  • playa manhattan||

    Story?

  • sarcasmic||

    Part time job with a set schedule. Court date was on one of the days that I always worked. Manager refused to give me the day off. The end.

  • John||

    Every person in America, especially anyone in the media or politics, should have to go down to the local criminal court and watch it for a week. Those courts are filled with people being victimized because they are poor and can't pay the state this or that fee. People would would be amazed at the number of people who end up in jail basically because they can't pay a fine. What starts as an unpaid traffic ticket or registration fee turns into a bench warrant which then turns into driving without a license or something else and then ends in what amounts to debtors prison. Most localities make people stay in jail to pay off fines they can't pay reducing the fine by a given amount for each day served. Meanwhile people lose their jobs and homes while in jail and are released and even more unable to pay what the state wants starting the process all over again.

    The various progs and conservative do gooders who created this system had better hope there really isn't a hell. There is most certainly a special ring waiting for them if there is.

  • ||

    Government, the cause of and solution to all of life's problems!

    I do find it odd that folks that want to ban things they don't like for all our own good, like the e-cig thing, don't realize, or believe, that they are condoning violence from the state to enforce thier petty whims. Can't pay the fine, do the time, don't want to do the time and resist? well then officers follow their lawful violent procedures.

    But I'm just a slippery slope extremist I guess. I don't hit people though.

  • Invisible Finger||

    People would would be amazed at the number of people who end up in jail basically because they can't pay a fine.

    Then they should be breaking into cars and houses at night and stealing stuff to cover the fines.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I got pulled over several times a month driving my GTO, almost always to end up receiving a warning for insufficiently bright license plate illumination or an illegal lane change or some such.

    I got pulled over several times a month riding my motorcycle when my hair was in a ponytail and showed outside my helmet. I never got pulled over, not once, when I started putting my hair up inside my helmet.

    Probably just coincidence.

  • sarcasmic||

    I never got pulled over, not once, when I started putting my hair up inside my helmet.

    When I lived in Boulder and had long hair, the cops would harass me every time they saw me. I mean, it was ridiculous. They'd make up some excuse like my un-tucked shirt could be hiding a weapon, a discarded cigarette was littering, or stopping for a moment on the sidewalk was loitering. Then they'd use that as an excuse to demand ID to run for warrants, assuring me that they'd charge me for whatever petty crap they stopped me for in addition to taking me to jail if any warrants existed. Of course I never had any.

    Cut my hair short and the harassment stopped. In fact, shortly after cutting my hair I was walking home in a snow storm and a cop pulled up next to me. I heard myself mutter "Not again." The guy gave me a ride home after patting me down for weapons. Didn't even demand my ID so he could run me for warrants. I was so shocked I just stood there dumbfounded after he drove away, trying to figure out what happened.

  • Mainer2||

    Young black and Latino men account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population. In 2011, they accounted for 41.6 percent of all stop-and-frisks....

    Do you think enlightened white progressives realize that their partners in the democrat party spend their days harassing the niggers and the spics ?

  • Invisible Finger||

    yes.

  • JD the elder||

    "Enlightened"? Eh, maybe, probably not. Most progressives I talk to really do not seem to understand why minorities might not put as much blind faith in the government as the progressive does.

  • Robert||

    If it can happen to "Dollar" Bill Bradley, it can happen to anyone!

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