NYPD, Stop-and-Frisk, and a Rock Star Police Chief


I've written a couple columns recently about NYPD's broken windows crime policy, which along with the statistics-driven CompStat reporting system has created some twisted incentives. The two policies seem to be driving NYPD's patrol officers to harass New Yorkers for non-crimes through an aggressive stop-and-frisk policy, while at the same time encouraging the under-reporting of actual crimes.

The Village Voice has been publishing and reporting on a series of audio recordings taken by a NYPD officer that seem to confirm both policies. Earlier this month, the Voice published an alarming interview with NYPD Detective Harold Hernandez, who says pressure the pressure to reclassify sexual assaults as misdemeanors left a rapist free to commit more assaults.

Responding to the ongoing Voice series "NYPD Tapes," Hernandez reveals publicly for the first time that the downgrading of crimes to manipulate statistics allowed a man to commit six sexual assaults in a Washington Heights neighborhood in 2002 before he was finally caught after his seventh attack.

The initial six crimes, committed over a two-month period, went unnoticed by 33rd Precinct detectives, Hernandez says, because patrol supervisors had improperly labeled most of them as misdemeanors. It was only through a lucky break—an alert neighbor spotted the suspect pushing his seventh victim into her apartment—that the rapist, Daryl Thomas, was finally captured.

After his arrest, Hernandez persuaded Thomas to detail his earlier crimes. The detective then combed through stacks of crime complaint reports to identify the pattern of violence.

Hernandez learned that most of the victims' complaints in the prior assaults had been classified as criminal trespassing, so the incidents never reached the detective squad and, in turn, were never declared a pattern, which would have triggered an intense campaign to capture the perpetrator.

In today's Voice, civil libertarian Nat Hentoff slags NYPD Chief Ray Kelly, pointing to new lawsuits estimating that more than 90 percent of the people harassed in stop-and-frisk operations are never fined or arrested. (Many of those arrested are also never charged.) Hentoff notes that Kelly is fawned over in the press as a "rock star" chief who "radiates power" (and likely running for mayor). Hentoff points to a New Yorker profile of Kelly which asks, "The long-serving NYPD Commissioner is autocratic, dismissive of civil liberties concerns—and effective. Is that a reasonable trade?"

Given mounting evidence that at least part of New York's perpetually declining crime stats may be due to underreporting, it's probably time to start asking questions about the "effective" part, too.

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  1. Hentoff points to a New Yorker profile of Kelly which asks, “The long-serving NYPD Commissioner is autocratic, dismissive of civil liberties concerns?and effective. Is that a reasonable trade?”

    It is appalling that anyone could even ask that question rhetorically.

    There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding among many people that a civilized lifestyle is somehow sustainable when civil liberties are sacrificed.

  2. “allowed a man to commit six sexual assaults in a Washington Heights neighborhood”


    1. Are you implying Washington Heights is a black neighborhood?

      Cause I mean… Maybe above 125th, but most of it seems to be filled with Columbia students.

  3. The new professionalism of the NYPD in action. Officer acquitted of assaulting Iraq Veteran. He beat the guy while he was handcuffed on the floor and it was caught on video and he somehow got acquitted. It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if I was too quick to judge the riots following Rodney King.

    1. in july of 2006, here in my upper east side of manhattan neighborhood, i was attacked from behind, the last thing of which i was conscious was being kidnapped into a waiting black van with police lights on the top. 14 hours later i woke in a hospital with an arm dotted by bad injection marks and stinking of bourbon, which i never drink. i was bruised from head to feet, ribs cracked. health will never be the same again. it led to over 3 years of chronic leg pain, labyrinthitis vertigo spins and resulting falls down stairs.

      my wife and i had just finished 6 months of working on antiwar, anti-torture and war crimes commission websites and poster design and production for the huge UN rally. it wasn’t until two years later that we learned that the fellow who supervised us in those tasks had been identically kidnapped, drugged, beaten and dumped at the same hospital right after leaving the UN protest.

      at the time, we spoke with a friend of ours, a lifelong junkie and videogame wizard who introduced me to my wife in 1983. his family is 4 generations of NYPD and his tank of a sister is a lieutenant in the police gang ‘we own the night’ that notoriously murdered diallo and scores of other mostly black men. when he told this sister of the attack on us; she told him that ‘moonlighting’ of this sort was becoming rampant in the NYPD and that also there was a study showing that there were at least 400 officers who were in such racist gangs as aryan nation. that sure makes us feel confident.

      more and more cities are privatizing SWAT and policing. consider this… i went to the grocery at 79th and york and found myself in checkout behind a huge, muscleman in a blackwater t-shirt, jarhead haircut with arms bigger than my waist and covered with violent tattoos. i had to hold my tongue… he was harassing the sweet short black girl at the register for taking too much time. she was allowing an elderly lady to slowly count out the exact change. then he throws his money down and huffs out.

      by the time i get out to the street, i see a group of people looking across the avenue where this blackwater thug has beaten the crap out of a small guy who looks hispanic but might be arabic, etc. he walks off as if it were the kind of thing he does every day… because it is.

      911 arrived a minute later. my thoughts were that had the cops arrived sooner, they might well have sided with the goono and beaten the guy more; then arrested the victim for anything, ‘resisting arrest’ will always suffice.

      blackwater killed people with impunity after katrina and this spring in haiti. blackwater/xe is now running 2-3 training camps for rightwing christian militias and such.

      the larger picture here is of an america inching ever closer to civil war, martial law and the finalizing of the coup which has been in the works for decades. and what i see is that while the rightwing is stupid and nuts; the leftwing lacks revolutionary guts. advice? either flee the country (especially if you have children), or, if you’re staying; arm yourselves at home, in your car and on your person. yes, public can buy tasers, even the ones with multiples. blacks should be forming community defense militias and taking out precinct houses, courts and certain officials. jefferson would agree, the 2nd amendment was written for precisely this reason.

      it looks to me like we have food riots coming very soon. the military commissions act of 2005 dismissed the constitutional provision of ‘posse comitatus’ which forbade the use of military on the citizenry. now i’m unsure whether or not soldiers would fire upon their grandmothers, but i don’t want to find out. one more blow to this frail economy and the bottom would fall out. and baby the poop is gonna hit the fan in this exploding outhouse. duck!

    2. What?? That case looked as closed as the existence of gravity!

  4. Now, I’m not looking incredibly hard but why is there not more outrage about this? At what point does it stop being about this people committing the acts and start being about the people letting them get away with it?

  5. I know Ray Kelly. He’s a man with a man’s haircut. When you sit down across from him at the Chief’s Night Dinner at the St. Regis, surrounded by the Finest, and he cuts into his rabbit roast with that rare delicacy only borne of awesome power under perfect command, the world is right. That man’s jawline is the line between culture and anarchy. I don’t understand what his critics are seeing. My assistant programmed my cellular phone to remind me of my eye exams. Today’s gadgets are amazing! Thank a teacher.

  6. Radley, thanks for your tireless, etc.

    Next to last paragraph is confusing – it refers to “NYPD Chief Ray Kelly” then later to “long-serving NYPD Commissioner” (presumably Kelly).

    Please clarify.

  7. The initial six crimes, committed over a two-month period, went unnoticed by 33rd Precinct detectives, Hernandez says, because patrol supervisors had improperly labeled most of them as misdemeanorsignored them to focus on frisking citizens engaging in non-criminal, but “suspicious” behavior….like being black.


  8. Oh BTW, RACIST!

  9. Not to diminish any of the wrongness of the stop-and-frisk, or Ray Kelly’s imperiousness, but the crime in NYC has gone down and stayed pretty low. Even with the juking of stats, the day-to-day experience (at least when I lived there and still visit) is that of a very low crime rate.

    And Ray Kelly makes even Howard Safir and Bernie Kerik seem like relatively even-handed guys. Way to go Ray!

    1. bernie’s gonna have prison tats, though. +1 kerik.

      1. I have to wonder what prison is like for a police commissioner. He probably got put in a “white collar” prison anyway, and even if not I assume the prison guards would protect him, but you’d think he’d be a big fucking target in there.

        1. …he’d be a big fucking target in there.

          In a manner of speaking, yes.


          1. Libertarians are thinking people. As such, we don’t find prison rape particularly funny.

            Today me, tomorrow you.

            1. Prison rape particularly? No. But I believe that, given the right context, anything can be funny. Where do I turn in my card?

              1. What would be funny about you, personally, being raped in prison where there’s de facto absolutely no recourse whatever?

                1. Did Kerik ever work in his official capacity to bring charges on prison rapists? Anything to end the practice, or for him was it more a feature than a bug?

                  A dirty cop – who sends people to jail for things that shouldn’t even be illegal where they will be raped and never brings charges on prison rapists – getting raped in prison ain’t exactly high on my lists of things to give a shit about.

                2. You are right that the fact that prison rape and rape in general happens is not funny at all. But there are always situations where one can find anything funny in some way. If you think rape can never be funny, try picturing Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd.

    2. The heavy lifting was done by Bill Bratton* and Howard Safir. Kelly has done jack shit except cause New Yorkers to dislike the NYPD even more than they did before. I don’t get how you can give credit to Kelly for other people’s work, especially when you take nationwide crime trends into account (down overall).

      Also, how do you know he’s kept crime down? There’s evidence he’s been manipulating the crime stats. GIGO.

      * Who has taken his show on the road and helped reduce crime in LA.

      1. Where did I give credit to Kelly? I said crime is still low, but didn’t say it was because of him. And I specifically pointed out that he’s an even huger ass than the other previous commissioners.


        1. “Not to diminish any of the wrongness of the stop-and-frisk, or Ray Kelly’s imperiousness, but the crime in NYC has gone down and stayed pretty low.”

          Sounds like you’re giving Kelly credit for national trends and fudging the numbers to me.

          Yeah crime has remained low in NY, but it’s hardly unusual. Nationwide, crime has been flat at the current low levels for a decade.

        2. “Sounds like”

          Should be, “Sounded like …” My bad for misreading.

  10. more than 90 percent of the people harassed in stop-and-frisk operations are never fined or arrested.

    It’s like they took the “probable” out of “probable cause.”

  11. “Given mounting evidence that at least part of New York’s perpetually declining crime stats may be due to underreporting, it’s probably time to start asking questions about the “effective” part, too.”

    Violent crime in NY has definitely declined. When was the last time you read about a NY cop sodomizing an innocent man with a plunger handle?

  12. more and more in america the cops are a gang of loose cannons run amok. here in new york, cops think it’s open season on young black males in particular. underadolph ghouliani, some 800 ‘suspicious’ deaths, almost entirely black with some hispanics and just a bit better under bloomberg.

    just a few of these cases achieve notoriety… the ’41 shots heard round the world’ that killed amadou diallo for the crime of having stepped out of his apartment building into a gang of pigs, the ‘we own the night’ thugs. dorismund. abe louima outside a gay latino bar tries to protect his brother from a beating, so the cops drag him to the station where they rape him in a bathroom with a plunger to laughter. sean bell, murdered by insane cops for no reason at all, defenseless, leaving a club with friends on the eve of his wedding… over 50 bullets fired by videogame idiot police. the other passengers riddled with bullets. kid shot to death in brooklyn for smoking a joint. another kid recently got raped with a baton in broad daylight on a bridge for having a joint. the honor student murdered for running and the cop says he thought the candy bar was a pistol.

    2-3 years ago, a cop in brooklyn says he was trying to arrest a teenaged black boy who grabbed his pistol and shot him in the leg. immediately, a ’roundup’ of over 200 young blacks and all those now have a ‘record.’ many were beaten in the process. then it turns out the cop shot himself in the leg…

    right after 911, NYC launched a stop&frisk; program ‘to catch terrorists.’ last year alone, over 575,000 new yorkers were stopped and frisked in a total breach of the 4th amendment. and 91% were blacks or hispanic. and the NYPD insists they don’t racially profile the victims? and having once been stopped, it never comes off the records so the next time they get picked up the goon says, “ah, i see here that you have a record…”

    the police and courts are waging war on the citizenry and must be fought tooth and nail. blacks especially should be forming community self-defense militias, armed and ready to wage war on the gestapo at the slightest annoyance. there need to be precinct houses burned to the ground and courthouses, too. take bloomberg hostage and tell the media ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists.’ and jefferson would agree. there was a good reason for the 2nd amendment.

  13. I resent the “safety checks” at the 59th Street bridge. They block the lane between 58th and 59th and pull over random drivers (such as myself on one occaision) and ask for their license and registration. I asked the purpose of this excerise was a “safety check.” After waiting 15 min for their check, they returned my license and registration. I asked if I was “safe” and thank goodness, I was SAFE! I was really pissed, but SAFE.

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