Friday, February 27, 2015

Trampling on Democracy, NYPD Commissioner Bratton Supports Making Resisting Arrest a Felony

Does NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton want to head a police force or a paramilitary unit? (Photo:Policy Exchange)

New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton is a danger to the public.
A short time ago, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary, "NYPD Commissioner Backs Off Idea of Police Patrolling Protests With Machine Guns." In the column, BuzzFlash noted how the NYPD commissioner was well on his way to granting police additional brutal tactics to suppress democracy and physically harm citizens:
Consider a recent news conference given by New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton, in which he proudly announced that a new police unit would prevent terrorist attacks and patrol protests with machine guns. The NYPD commissioner went out of his way to essentially equate terrorists with protesters (implying that the latter group included the recent wave of protesters who publicly condemned the killing of Eric Garner).
Bratton, under pressure from various fronts backed down the next day from his plan to employ a new SEAL type police unit to be employed in protests. This unit - called The Strategic Response Group - will be equipped with machine guns and sniper rifles (what Bratton euphemistically called "long rifles"). A spokesperson did the walk back by "clarifying" that the unit would only be used to oppose "terrorism." That still was not entirely reassuring since Bratton had conflated hypothetical terrorist plots and advocacy protests the day before.
Around the same time last week that he made his initial dismaying announcement about The Strategic Response Group, Bratton was testifying before a New York State Senate committee and did not object to the suggestion that resisting police arrest could be re-classified as a felony. According
If the state legislators asked Bratton about this, it's possible that they're at least considering changing New York law to make it a felony to resist arrest. This could spell disaster for New Yorkers, for one big reason: resisting arrest charges are used mostly by a small share of cops, many of whom are among the most abusive.
Bratton told the State Senate (according to Buzzfeed) that "if you don't want us to enforce something, don't make it a law." But that's the opposite of how resisting-arrest cases actually work. Most cops don't bring in many, or any, people for resisting arrest. But a few cops bring in a lot.
In New York, in particular - according to a 2014 report from WNYC - 40 percent of resisting-arrest cases are brought in by 5 percent of police officers.
If "resisting arrest" charges can sometimes say more about the police officer than they do about the defendant, making the charge a felony won't discourage the phenomenon - it gives more power to the police. Residents, meanwhile, could conceivably have to deal with possible prison time and a permanent criminal record for getting on the wrong side of the wrong cop.
The Murdoch-owned New York Post headlined its February 4 story, "Bratton urges boost in penalties for resisting arrest":
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton on Wednesday urged state lawmakers to boost the punishment for resisting arrest and make it a crime to reveal personal information about cops as a means of intimidation.
Bratton said that "too many people still resist arrest" because the offense rarely gets prosecuted, and he called for it to be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony.
"I think a felony would be very helpful in terms of raising the bar significantly in the penalty for the resistance of arrest,” Mr. Bratton told reporters after speaking at the hearing in lower Manhattan, asreported on
Civil disobedience is considered "resisting arrest" by most police forces, so someone who followed the moral principles and values of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., would be a felon by law if Bratton gets his way. As the Vox article also points out, the charge of resisting arrest is often used as a cover for the use of excessive police force:
If a cop is routinely hauling people into court for resisting arrest, he might be taking an overly aggressive attitude toward civilians. A police officer might even, as police accountability expert Sam Walker told WNYC, use the criminal charge to cover up his use of excessive force:
"There's a widespread pattern in American policing where resisting arrest charges are used to sort of cover - and that phrase is used - the officer's use of force," said Walker, the accountability expert from the University of Nebraska. "Why did the officer use force? Well, the person was resisting arrest."
Commissioner Bratton's recent efforts to further insulate the NYPD from accountability, militarize its force beyond current battle-field levels, and treat protesters as criminal vermin mirror characteristics of paramilitary forces in dictatorships. Bratton, however, is a man who is heading the police force in the most iconic city in the United States.

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