- Dear Molly Crabapple:
- I'm a sociologist at Emminent University, author of several books on urban poverty and penal policy. I share your activist and policy goals, this is why I am sending a copy of this exchange (with colleagues in the UK and Portugal) about your recent cartoon video on policing in NYC.
- I generally admire your work but I find this video very problematic. It is misleading and swims with the tide of preconceptions instead of helping people get beyond them. I hope that you can amend it.
- I hope this is useful feedback for you.
- Noted Sociologist
- Shock full with factual inaccuracies, wrong turnings, or loose illustrations that really don't fit the facts.
- This is a terrible video, it plays to people's preconceptions, it deserves a D minus if not an F (failing) grade.
- It's very disappointing because I think Molly Crapapple is a great artist.
- -a "grandfather" conjures image of an old and vulnerable man: Garner was 44 and a giant, and father of a three month old. It's irrelevant at best and misleading at worst.
- -when Kelly and Wilson introduced BK, the drawing is of an urban NYC neighborhood (stoops and brimstone buildings whose windows are broken and then catch fire), but the initial study was done in a quasibucolic environment, Stanford CA, and the broken window was that of a luxury car parked in an isolated spot!
- -Garner was arrested constantly, but that's because he was doing something illegal constantly. We may find that this law is unfair, I do, but it's unclear that this policing was not legitimate and adequate.
- -Bratton introduced a "zero tolerance" policy: actually not, that's what outsiders called it later but it was called "quality of life" policy; the NYPD was quite adamant that they did not practice ZT. And they never did, it was always selective enforcement of selected statutes in selected neighborhoods.
- -BW policing "only focuses on crimes done by the powerless" but that's ALL policing in general, not BW policing specifically. So this is no way a critique of ZTP.
- -what does "controlling communities of color" mean? Controlling them from what, to what? CofC meaning what? This is the most absurd claim, playing to the crowd, echoing calls of demonstrators who misdiagnose the issue.
- -then we jump from BW policing to "Stop and Frisk" which is one element but is not BWP: you can do S&F under any police strategy. And there is the question of the principle versus its implementation. Differential use by area is what the problem is (or rather was) as established by the NY and federal courts over ten years ago.
- -Then to put the beating of a 80-year old for "crossing the street too slowly" as representative of BWP is totally absurb. There were 40,000 cops in NYC in the late 90s, carrying out nearly 400.000 arrests a year (see chapter 8 in PUNISHING THE POOR), you can always pick 1, 10, 100 extreme situations and present them as emblematic of the policy. Jaywalking was a sideshow, more arrests were for drugs and weapons, and warrants, when there were arrests, and most police contact led to no arrest (and not beatings). And that was the main problem.
- -then we zoom to 2014 when Roseanne Miller was choked, but by that date NYDP has explicitly renounced and stopped stop and frisk!
- -Akai Gurley was walking down the stairwells, "without warning a cop shot him dead." But it was an accident, a stupid and tragic accident during a routine "vertical patrol" where the gun of the police discharged accidentally as he opened the door holding his gun in the same hand, aiming at no one, and due to bad luck hit Gurley who was entering the corridor on the floor below, and walking UP (not down) to his girlfriend's apartment. The cop didn't even see Gurley, he was not aware his accidental discharge of the gun had hit anyone. To present this tragic freak accident as the cop "without wraning shot him dead" is dishonest. "vertical patrolling" by NYC is very badly done and generates lots of incidents and excessive use of guns/force, but this wasn't one of them.
- -the cop "texted his union": that's what all cops in NYC are entitled to, to talk to their union before they're interrogated by police. There was nothing improper or illegal in doing so. The city negotiated that with the union; that's wrong, but that's the law at this point.
- -DiBlasio "reappointed Bratton" as if to revive ZT policing. But meanwhile Bratton has changed his tune and, after his LA stint, made affirming ties to residents of "communities of color" his mantra.
- -"still harass communites of color, they still kill people": what a simplification! the NYPD has stopped S&F, the number of arrests has dropped 70% in three years. The number of deaths by cops is at an all-time historic low in in NYC. Come on, you can do better than this rant not supported by any fact.
Email from a Noted Sociologist
a guest Feb 10th, 2015 7,290 Never
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