What will it take to end police violence? Although there is no popular mandate for unsubstantiated and illegal arrests, discriminatory stops, frisks and searches, "flaking," murder and gun sales, these actions continue to describe the New York City Police Department.
Rather than addressing these issues with a wholesale remodeling of the NYPD, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly, his appointed commissioner, have gone on a city-wide tour lauding the organizational practices and policies that many of New Yorkers find deplorable. The pair have lied about the impact that policies like Stop and Frisk and illegal arrests have on communities throughout the city and disingenuously denied practices of racial profiling while at the same time arguing that stopping people based on race makes the city safer.
Misconduct by the police is well documented. The NYPD's own Internal Affairs Bureau reports that on average 119 officers are arrested each year, more than two every week, while citizens have captured countless additional episodes of illegal police violence on personal recording devices and security cameras. The gap between what the people want, and the direction of the mayor and commissioner on policing, has never been greater.
However, the NYPD is also currently taking direct action against those citizens who organize to protect the desires of the people, stand up to illegal and improper searches, file formal complaints against abuses and exert their right to film the police as a measure of community protection and to create accountability where the NYPD and other government offices have failed to do so. The NYPD's record of abuse provides ample evidence of why the department does not like to be held accountable by citizens or to have its activities watched and recorded.
It is not illegal to record the police from a distance that does not interfere with their work!! However the department either is not aware of this basic right, or more likely, feigns ignorance of it in order to lock up and intimidate those people who would hold them accountable.
There are organizations working in New York City -- among them Stop Stop and Frisk -- that will assist citizens in defending their rights to film the police, their rights not to be arrested for trespassing in their own homes and their rights not to be otherwise harassed by the police who are acting on an authority that no longer has the support of a large section of the city's population.
This is an essential community tool in a world where only poor people are incarcerated.