Taxis

The Mystery of New York City's "Cop Cabs"

Neither the taxi commission nor the NYPD wants you to know much about them.

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For the better part of a decade, stories have

NYPD Cop Cabs
Dreamstime.com/Canonman29

persisted about "cop cabs" appearing from seemingly out of nowhere, lights flashing and sirens blaring, on the streets of New York City. On occasion, clips have popped up on Youtube to provide credence to these claims. 

Though the NYPD has never publicly acknowledged the reasons for deploying undercover patrol cars meticulously disguised as the city's ubiquitous yellow cabs, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman revealed in their 2013 book, Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden's Final Plot Against America, that at least one yellow cab, "complete with an authentic taxi medallion registered under a fake name" was used to conduct surveillance on Muslims in mosques and other gathering places by the NYPD's now-disbanded "Demographics Unit."

Motherboard's Matt Guariglia filed several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the NYPD and the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to find out what's the deal with the cop cabs:

The requests were relatively simple. I asked for any manuals or procedures that dictated how and under what circumstances the fake taxis were to be used, any legal justifications acquired or written allowing for the use of these vehicles or the creation of a false medallion numbers, any invoices or bills for the cost of acquired or retrofitting a taxicab, and finally any communications between the NYPD and the Taxi and Limousine Commission concerning the use of these vehicles.

Unsurprisngly, transparency was lacking from both agencies. The release of communications between the police and the commission was rejected by the NYPD on the grounds that "non-routine techniques or procedures" would be revealed, potentially endangering "the life or safety of any person." Documents released by the TLC showed that at least five of these vehicles are still in operation, though for some reason, the name used by the police and commission to describe the "cop cabs" was redacted

Though the NYPD appears to be intent on keeping this particular law enforcement tool shrouded in secrecy, it would be interesting to find out what the official departmental policy is regarding the use of undercover taxicabs. If they were once used as a means of surveillance, why do they occasionally make traffic stops, thus blowing the cover of the tool?

In an email to Motherboard, King Downing of the National Lawyer Guild's National Police Accountability Project wrote "The police use of yellow cabs has three main problems—it expands police presence to every cab, increases stop and frisk/racial profiling, and fuels community suspicion of cabs which already have a bad reputation in the community."

Downing added, "No taxi commission in its right mind would want this. They shouldn't want an association with the police any more than a bakery would want the community to connect their business with police jumping out of their trucks."

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  1. and fuels community suspicion of cabs which already have a bad reputation in the community.”

    This is why we need to crack down on Uber & Lyft.

  2. BTW: Best comment on youtube: Finally, a cab that will stop for black people!

    1. Also:
      “What, no professional courtesy?”

  3. Downing added, “No taxi commission in its right mind would want this. They shouldn’t want an association with the police any more than a bakery would want the community to connect their business with police jumping out of their CAKES.”

    FTFY. Funnier this way.

  4. People get the government they deserve.

    1. Yeah, but the rest of us get what those people deserve.

  5. New York’s Finest Taxi Service!

    I assume it’s only a matter of time before the surveillance machine catches up to Keyser Soze.

    1. You f’d the link to death.

      1. I can’t be the only one who thought of this when the term ‘cop cabs’ was dropped.

  6. If they were once used as a means of surveillance, why do they occasionally make traffic stops, thus blowing the cover of the tool?

    Because the drivers can’t help themselves?

    1. Putting a potential victim in front of a cop is like putting a dead animal near a vulture

    2. It would be funnier if they occasionally picked up fares.

      1. If they don’t, I wonder if those are the cabs that are racing past black people?

        1. Those are the taxi drivers who pull over to frisk their fares.

  7. it would be interesting to find out what the official departmental policy is regarding the use of undercover taxicabs.

    Interesting, but useless. Cops routinely ignore policy. After all, what’s going to happen to them if they do? Exactly.

  8. If they were once used as a means of surveillance, why do they occasionally make traffic stops, thus blowing the cover of the tool?

    Using them as surveillance is not a big issue, I do not think. If they are actually undercover and not picking up pedestrians, then they just blend in. Pulling people over in a vehicle used for surveillance is absurd, but so is calling the NYPD New York’s “finest.”

  9. OT: Women in combat infantry roles: Thanks but no thanks.

    Sgt. Kelly Brown adjusts her helmet before a weapons check last year at the Marine Base at Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert, Calif. The Marine Corps set up a months-long training exercise to determine whether women could serve in ground combat jobs like artillery, armor and infantry. Women are now eligible to apply for these positions, but so far, none has signed up.

    […]

    Just a year ago, Marine Capt. Ray Kaster was leading his infantry company during training in the Mojave Desert. Male and female Marines ran across the sand, shooting at pop-up targets. It was part of the effort to see if women could make it in the unforgiving world of ground combat. Living in the dirt, carrying a pack weighing more than 100 pounds.

    The physical demands cost Kaster about half of the women in his company.

    “The majority of those were injuries,” he says, citing hip and leg injuries, including fractures.

    Ok then, what if we lowered standards, what say you now?

    The Marines are also coming up with better physical training for women, so they don’t wash out with shin splints or fractures.

    Kaster has some recommendations on that: pull-ups, and hiking with a 60-pound pack.

    1. The whole lowered standards thing is bullshit, but then again so are 100 pound packs in the Mojave desert.

      1. 100 pound packs in the Mojave desert

        +1 deserts of Iraq.

        1. Any desert. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to be ready to fight after carrying around 100 pounds all day in that environment. I don’t care how big a stud you are.

          1. I sure don’t want to face the soldier who can. Male or female.

    2. “The Marines are also coming up with better physical training for women, so they don’t wash out with shin splints or fractures.”

      Hopefully any potential enemy soldiers will likewise take it easy on them so that they don’t wind up with any unfortunate injuries.

      1. Rats something something vaginas. Yeah, ISIS are absolute charmers.

      2. I wonder if these women soldiers who do pass with the 60lb packs and shorter hikes will be paid the same as the male soldiers who passed it with the 100lb packs and longer hikes? ‘Cause I sure wouldn’t want to see any wage gaps popping up.

        1. I’m sure it’s on the list. Right there behind the disparate number of assaults, on-the-job mortality, and incidence of (induced?) mental illness. Accepting women into roles they don’t want to be in and don’t perform as well in means we’re making progress so… win!

      3. Grab its motherfuckin artificial knee!

    3. Lower standards for everyone! Your move ISIS!

      Navy loosens body fat rules to retain sailors

      1. Oh shit the Navy has always been struggling with its weight rules. I remember back in the 90s some Navy Chief was bitching because he was decertified from submariner duty for being overweight and a big dustup followed. He claimed he didn’t need to be below a certain wait to stand next to the captain with a coffee cup.

        1. certain wait

          Hopefully the Navy doesn’t have spelling rules.

        2. I rather like Heinlein’s setup in Starship Troopers (the book) where if you weren’t actually doing the fighting, you weren’t in the military. Even the generals jumped into combat with the grunts.

          1. That’s a great way to get your generals killed and wreck up your command structure at the worst possible time.

            1. It would be better for them to hide away from the combat then?

              That’s what the chain of command is for, and the ones that do survive are tougher for it. That was the whole point of doing it in the books.

              1. If the people tasked with the corrdination of large numbers of people are pinned down in a foxhole with poor radio communication, they’re not going to do so well at the strategic job.

                The toughness of the individual in the strategic role is irrelevent to the job they’re supposed to be doing, and that’s making sure everyone has the support they need to achieve the objectives.

                Putting them out in the firing line makes your military all the weaker and easily outmaneuvered by a better-coordinated force.

                1. Have you read the book? If not, give it a look.

                  I never said it was perfect, just that I like it. I especially like it given the number of skidmarks we have running around calling themselves generals these days.

                  1. Have you read the book?

                    Yes. I recall going “That is really a stupid reason” and “How moronic” at several of this type of point.

                2. pinned down in a foxhole with poor radio communication

                  Sergeant Zim seemed to manage.

                  On the bounce!

              2. It would be better for them to hide away from the combat then?

                uh, yes. When the person most responsible for directing the strategic battle plan takes a stray bullet, it would leave the battle plan in chaos. It’s great for movies to see tough generals in the line of fire, not afraid to get his hands dirty– and also great for Civil-war era drama– which even then Generals stayed to the rear with a telescope ordering semaphores to be waved at the precise time.

                1. King Karl Gustav something of Sweden was killed by a stray shot and his army folded up and abandoned half of Germany.

                  Seems like something to avoid.

                2. Or died at inopportune times like Stonewall Jackson.

      2. We’re going to need a bigger boat.

      3. Sailors age 40 and older were allotted one additional [fat] percentage point

        Wow – are they aware what happens to most people after 40?

  10. The New York City Police Department has taxis, and the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has police cars. It’s all so confusing.

    I’m going to watch this video instead.

    1. Almost certain I saw them the other day.

      1. I hope you gave them some spare change. If not, you suck.

    2. Hey, FB is good for something!

  11. 100 pound packs in the Mojave desert.

    “I just don’t want to get killed for lack of shooting back.”

  12. First you can’t telll SWAT teams from terrorists, now you can’t tell cops from taxi drivers!

    1. Sure you can. The cops are the ones with the really fake accents.

      1. And the fake courtesy.

    2. perhaps the cop’s car smells a little less like BO

  13. Huh. The police chief in some small town near me (I forget which one) about ten years ago pulled someone over with his personal vehicle when he was not in uniform. He was also out of the town’s city limits. Apparently he had a habit of doing that. He was aggressive and mouthy and refused to call a uniform in a marked car. The person he pulled over promptly shot the king-shit SOB.

    I distinctly remember that it was a .45 auto and the bullet went through his abdomen side to side, perforating his liver, pancreas, stomach, and one kidney. That stuck i n my mind because I was amazed that he survived.

    No charges were ever filed in that case. I wish I could remember more about it.

    1. The feel good story of the week. That could be the basis of a Hallmark channel movie.

    2. No one got tased til they shit themselves?

      – I call bullshit.

    3. I enjoyed that story immensely.
      Except for the unhappy ending.
      I was hoping for a fatality.

  14. NYPD used to employ undercover officers to be taxi drivers, picking up fares. The idea was to make the other taxi drivers safer by making it less attractive for people to stick up the drivers by posing as passengers. That was when passengers paid in cash.

  15. I don’t understand why this is a problem. If we are going to have undercover cops, then this seems to make sense.

  16. I’ve definitely seen the taxi police cars make traffic stops.

  17. I’ve definitely seen the taxi police cars make traffic stops.

  18. “If they were once used as a means of surveillance, why do they occasionally make traffic stops, thus blowing the cover of the tool?”

    – Because these are the same idiots that just figured out how to delete the videos of them breaking the law.

  19. Not to mention that no one knew where the cop car was. Everyone did nothing so obviously not an effective emergency response vehicle.

    Genius. What will these meatheads come up with next.

  20. So every time I use Lyft or Uber I am helping dismantle DemoGOP police state surveillance?

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  25. Assuming all the usual rules and regs were followed and the appropriate license fees paid, I don’t have a problem with cops operating a taxi for surveillance work.

    What I think is stupid is their futile effort to keep it a secret. I’d take the opposite approach and make it broadly known that some cabs are really undercover cops. Lots of them… and they pick up fares… in fact… you have no idea how many times your supposed cabbie was really an undercover cop.

    That way, every single would-be criminal will be worried whenever a yellow car approaches, and real cabbies will be much less likely to be robbed.

    Once this public knowledge became well established, I’d then secretly take the cars out of service, and let the legend live on.

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