> “Is that a Muslim or Hipster beard?” by a crew of three NYPD officers in Times Square.
I'm very curious to hear the full story behind this one.
On a separate note - I used to work in Chelsea. Two or three days of the week, as I was leaving the subway, I would see NYPD questioning and/or frisking a young, black man or women. I saw this happen for months, and never once was the person being questioned/frisked white, east Asian, or any other race.
Oh, and by the way:
> The main I didn’t file any kind of report or move forward at all was that I don’t have badge numbers.
NEVER ask a police officer for his/her badge number. Look for it and try to memorize if you want, but don't let them know you're trying to learn it. I know someone who ended up doing ~18 months in prison for doing exactly this. (The official charge was "obstruction of justice" and/or "resisting arrest", but that's basically all he actually did. Once it's clear to the cops that you're looking to report them, they'll do everything in their power to punish and discredit you).
 Affluent, primarily white, gentrified (former) gayborhood, for those unfamiliar with NYC.
 This is not the same as the NYPD standing by the tables asking people to let them look through their bags (which you can refuse, by the way!)
We really need to redesign officer uniforms so that the badge number is inconspicuous the same way numbers of football and soccer jerseys are inconspicuous. It should be possible to identify a police office by their badge number from any angle once you're within 10-20 feet (i.e. it should be on the front, back and both sleeves of their uniform). Cameras should be able to track officers the same way that officers can track the license plate numbers of cars.
Assuming you meant "conspicuous", the problem with this idea is that when such officers want to participate in less than stellar behavior, they will obscure the numbers (by putting on a jacket, etc.). This could be justified to their superiors for any number of "tactical" reasons. After all, many cops regularly go on duty in unmarked cars or in plainclothes.
Cops are supposed to cite drivers for license plate covers and I see them out in NY the time--how can we expect them to enforce the display of their own numbers?
The only part of the uniform that police can't easily modify is the badge, which is also the part that unambiguously proves that they are police when necessary. (Not that most citizens would know how to authenticate the badge of their local police, much less those of all the federal LEAs ).
IMO, raid jackets should have the police ID number written in the same font as POLICE (or other agency) on the back, and on the front in 2-3" high numbers.
The headband of a uniform cap would also work well in addition to a name tape.
There should also be a requirement that police identify themselves by name/number verbally in interactions when it is practicable to do so; e.g. "You are under arrest, I'm Officer Johnson badge #3898390 of the NYPD, ..." Coupled with audio and video recording devices, it helps create a record.
I'll add to that. Public access to the recorded video and audio via an established process managed by a third party (to prevent access to inappropriate content which would otherwise occur with unlimited public access).
I had exactly the same thought as rdl. "Inconspicuous" means "easily overlooked", but obviously "inconspicuous in the same way that football jersey numbers are inconspicuous" means "as easily overlooked as the number on a football jersey". There's no usage error there, just laudably vivid imagery.
I believe it was specifically that he responded with "you can't fucking ask me that" which sent things down the bad path. They shouldn't have asked him at all (but were probably bored?), but "you can't X" to a cop is usually going to provoke them.
Actually, that was precisely it. I was in Times Square where there were tons and tons of cops, and not all that many revelers. (It was a really cold night, IIRC.) I heard the comment, looked around, realized they were cops and completely without thinking said, "You can't fucking ask that." Next thing, they asked for ID and as I began to reach for my wallet was thrown up against something by the three officers. It happened really, really quickly--just like being mugged.
NEVER ask a police officer for his/her badge number.
I can believe that this is good advice.
But I also have to mention that "get the officer's badge number" has been the generic advise given to people protesting/aiming-to-stop police misbehavior. And back twenty years ago, it might have been good advice (for all I know).
But here we have the quandary of every legal action people to resist the system within the system.
The poor people who passively take the punishment meted out to them have learned over a long, painful period that standing out and resisting gets them problems. And the cops learn ways to teach them this if behavior X becomes a serious impediment to their standard way of operating.
I know for serious charges, where the courts feel a need to keep the "plea bargaining" racket going, pleading not guilty is an invitation to an absurdly disproportionate sentence. It may be that people could actually get a chance at fairness if many began to plead not guilty (as the article suggests) but it seems likely the courts would begin "kicking butt and naming names" if such behavior slowed it down and that pleading guilty might become a similar invitation to abuse that asking an officer for his badge number seems to be now.
Which is a long way to say we need systemic reform that individual protest isn't enough to get.
I did, didn't want to go change my flight back to France and go to court, so I plaid guilty and sent 25$ by mail. Never received an answer so I did change my flight and went to court to be told that I had already paid and didn't need to be there.
My friend who was drinking went there without paying and they told him he could spend the afternoon in a "session" with other people and not pay the 25. He did it, it was mostly people sharing their experiences about how they got there.
One guy got into an argument with a cop so the cop convoked him for peeing in the street, another one had a restaurant and his table was too far on the sidewalk... stuff like that.
There was no official charge in the Stop-and-Frisk incident. I'm comparing that to a very professional (almost apologetic) Central Park trespassing ticket that ended up getting thrown out, as most of them do.
I'm assuming I was not charged with anything after the stop-and-frisk because they figured out I was probably a lot more trouble for them than I was worth. In this case, appearances were deceiving...what I was wearing at that time, due to the weather, screamed "punk kid/hipster" far more than the "Privileged Accountant who passes for White" clothing I had on underneath.
I believe everyone who's saying a person of color or otherwise underprivileged person would have had a much different outcome is 100% correct.
Part of the irony here is that Nick is one of the most respectable, least threatening, most "establishment" people I know -- he's worked in banking/gov security, and his goal in life is to be a CPA for startups.
If someone like that is getting fucked with by the biggest gang in NYC, you know there's a problem.
There are already too many cops, and they have to keep going back to the same trough to feed themselves. Solving murders, rapes, and robberies doesn't pay. Ticketing people for jaywalking, curfew, and traffic violations does. Also, to further the problem, the police have cash bonuses paid to them for exceeding their quotas with these tickets.
The police are there to preserve disorder, but they have lost sight of this. Now, there are two types of cops; the protect and serve kind, and the us against them kind. Sadly, the latter seems to be taking over. I'm afraid this doesn't end well. The nightmare scenario is some kid walking up to a cop on the 4th of July and asking for baseball cards with a toy in his hand that is mistaken for a gun.
The real question here is what are we going to do about it?
It looks like NYC has ~40 police officers per 10k people(1). If you cut that by 90% to ~4 per 10k then NYC would have, by far, the smallest per capita police force for any American city. So really you're asserting that police forces are too large almost everywhere in the US?
EDIT: ~4 officers per 10k would also be lower than essentially any other country in the world(2).
Just as a comparison, Albuquerque has ~8 police per sq. mile, and Tucson has ~4.5 police per sq. mile. However, New York has ~27000 people/sq. mile, while Tucson has ~2800 and Albuquerque about ~3000. So NY has about ~9x the population density, but ~12x the police.
Now what I'm also curious about - would you expect high population density to increase or decrease the number of police needed per capita? Off hand, I would be inclined to think lower population density would need higher police per capita, but here it seems to be the reverse (possibly reflecting the coffers rather than the needs, though).
I also have your intuition but after thinking about a couple of the police's jobs I do understand how it could easily go the other way.
You have the somewhat obvious want of a visible police officer ranging an area to deter criminal activity such as shoplifting/vandalism/mugging.
But you also want the police in an area to deal with domestic dispute type crimes which you'd expect to increase at least linearly with density, possibly more so as the closer you are to your neighbors the more you may see them and the more their behavior may impact you. Which may mean that you need several more cops to respond to concurrent incidents even if the average rate of incidents is lower than what a single cop could deal with.
That's without getting in to any other issues such as bureaucracy needs/wants of larger departments. Or the odds of more dense areas being more culturally diverse/allowing higher differentials in income against distance.
So after that I think it would be quite hard to judge what would be required.
Yeah, no kidding. Also, keep your hands out of your pockets and make sure you are not holding anything lest they "mistake" it for a weapon, which would justify your death to both them Anything else and they go into a rage and you'll end up in jail.
It's especially tough because their only training is to escalate further at any provocation.
I'd like to create a mobile app where users can input a badge number.
If the number already exists, you get the existing profile, if it doesn't, a new profile is created, from which you can upvote or downvote the officer, add a name or picture, and write a review. Other users can upvote or downvote reviews as well.
The other part of the app would be a top 10 list of the best officers in NYC, and a top 10 worst officers.
I'm pretty alright at Android, but know nothing about iOS. We'd need a really great and simple design. The whole backend could be done with Parse.
i'm inclined to agree with the first comment on the article. if the author was not a privileged, professional-looking white guy, his outcome could have quite likely been much worse. i disagree with his naive conclusion (based on a sample size of one instance of getting arrested for an extremely minor infraction) that the NYPD are largely "good people charged with bad policing tactics". the treatment of minority groups such as chicanos, african-americans, and muslims by the NYPD is well documented and does not reflect a police force full of good people. :-/
I'm actually going to take you to task on this once, precisely because the NYPD is set to become a "minority majority" force if current hiring trends continue. I've had many, many more interactions with the police than these two incidents in a variety of different contexts and I believe they're decent human beings who want to do the right thing. The systematic mistreatment of all underprivileged groups (including poor whites and the mentally ill, btw.) is, when you look at it, the bad cops getting the outsized share of attention. There are lots of cops who do the right thing when they can, I see it happening all the time even beyond the patina of the blue line of intimidation.
i don't live in NY, so i'll concede to your actual experience with NY cops. BUT, i think your assumption that a lack of mistreatment of minorities results from a more diverse police force is naive. in my experience, i have seen abuse against ethnic minorities at the hands of police who are themselves ethnic minorities - sometimes even the same ethnicity as the victim. perhaps in many cases police brutality falls along racial lines, but only by correlation. i think it is probably more of an issue of class, and groupings like "people who look like thugs to me". either way, as a professional-looking white or asian dude, you can usually escape being classed as a "thug" sight-unseen just for your appearance.
i would also offer that due to the fact you're a successful guy, you have probably not had police interactions in, say, east new york. police attitudes and behavior are highly variable based on where they work. if you're in a shitty neighborhood, you will have much worse interactions with cops no matter your race. in nice neighborhoods, cops are nice.
I have lived in nyc for 23 years. The police used to be much cooler. The would chat with parade goers, joke around and compared to the harness bulls in Chicago they were great. After 9/11 the department changed. Meaner more suspicious and unfriendly. 10 citations a month is pretty low. One every three days. You could write that in ten minutes in the intersection outside my window. My dad was a cop. It's a hard fucking job. Keep that in mind.
I know it's a hard job...that was part of the point that I think got lost in the whole article. That being said, this intimidation strategy (along with the rampant drug war incarceration of anyone who isn't 100% clean) has "cleaned up the city". Once the crime rates start going up again, it's going to get a lot worse.
Beat cops aren't just supposed to write traffic citations. They're supposed to get a litany of these "pink ticket"s, which account for all the quality of life violations that the Broken Window theory goes after.
"The NYPD aren’t tasked with policing, the act of maintaining law and order."
Exactly. That goes for all police. Their only job duty is to make arrests. Only. It is a fallacy to think that the police are there to help. They're not even required to help by law and have no duty to do so. Once this fact is realized by someone, not interacting with police and other smart actions start to make complete sense. It's just too bad that children are wrongfully taught otherwise. It's one thing that parents can be squarely blamed for, as they usually believe the lies themselves.
This has been the third article on HN recently about the police. Historically it has been minority groups that only see this side of police activity. Now that upper middle class white individuals have experienced it though Its interesting to read the comments people are leaving.
For the record: I believe his advice is terrible for any person of lower socio economic background and especially for a person of colour. The number 1 rule when interacting with police should be you have no rights. Only when you're safely away from that policemen are your rights returned. Countless victims of police brutality can attest to that.
> The number 1 rule when interacting with police should be you have no rights.
As a former Los Angeles sheriff's deputy who agrees with the majority of sentiments in this thread, I can confidently say that your broad statement is nonsense. Everyone, not just upper middle class whites, should know and assert their rights in police encounters.
Thanks but I'll assert my rights from the safety of my home. No need to go on asserting rights to a cop with an itchy trigger finger. Or go do down the rabbit hole of asserting your rights and be degraded even more for asserting your rights. 
I'd like to believe the world works the way you think it does, experience has taught me otherwise.
A sizeable minority of officers are indeed bullies. But while I can't speak for other police agencies, even the bullies are pretty well reined in by the policies in Los Angeles. I can elaborate if you like.
If by "pretty well reined in" you mean "given 30-day paid vacations when they misbehave" then I suppose you are right.
What you won't see (or will see very, very rarely) is a cop losing his job and standing trial for assault if they wrongfully use physical force on a civilian. They can always get away with "well, I thought he was carrying a weapon" or other such flimsy excuses. Combined with the fact that cops always look after their own, it becomes very difficult to successfully and meaningfully persecute a cop for abusing their authority.
"Perhaps it's resentment of the widening income gap between 20-30 somethings in the tech industry and those in the service industry?"
Maybe. Because of the billionaire big winner image, people outside the industry see techies as very well off.
In fact, cops make a lot more on average -- benefits included -- than techies or programmers or engineers. In big American cities, cops are paid similar total compensation to doctors. The usual breakdown is 125k or so salary plus gold plated health care, various fancy bonuses and discounts and a pension plan that's worth more actuarially than all of the salary. Totals above $400k are not uncommon.
NYPD, as mentioned in op, is considered much more stingy than suburban NY departments so the cops in question may not be making quite that much.
Cops generally make a lot more than the official base pay. They get lots of routine highly compensated overtime even when working only 2000 hours a year. Published figures usually aren't representative. Seniority gives mid career cops lots of opportunities to pad overtime hours. Check the actual pay instead of salary schedules.
Also, retirement with nearly full pay at age 50 is common.
I don't have data to back up my refutes, but on the surface those numbers don't add up.
In the US, state, counties, city and other local governments are struggling with their budgets. A police force with $400k in compensation per officer is way out of wack, and no way that tax payers would go for it.
At that level of compensation, that puts police officers in the wealthiest 1% of Americans.
I know here in Seattle (and the richer suburbs of Bellevue, Redmond, etc), it's a common complaint that police officers can't afford to live in the communities they protect.
In my case, it was a freak occurrence. I chose to wear my admittedly ratty looking but thrift-store looking hat along with a Century 21 snowboarding jacket.
Had it been a slightly warmer day, this incident would have likely never occurred.
That being said, I think what's happening on the left coast is the widening income gap coupled with a context switch that the cops are still catching up to. There are a lot of kids who bleed entitlement, some of whom are quite wealthy and some of whom are dirt poor.
Regarding the beard incident... ah yes, never go outside when there is any major event in NYC. The cops are unusually crazy. They bring in a bunch of auxiliaries who have no business doing crowd control or even wearing a badge, really.
(Regarding the park incident.. to be fair, most parks in the city close at 1AM. I've seen people asked to leave, but I've never seen anyone get a summons. I usually try to get an extra lap around Prospect Park in as it's closing, and haven't had any problems, but I do keep an eye on the time.)
Love the idea of a stop and frisk app: http://www.nyclu.org/app A more general "I'm being forced to do something against my will" app would be real handy, I think, especially on the 2nd or 3rd generation of google glass.
No, you don't offer anything. You keep your mouth shut until they tell you to hand it over.
If they seize and search your property without warrant or reasonable suspicion that you used it to commit a crime, and commit spoliation of evidence by deleting video or images from it, they can be held accountable later. If you give it up voluntarily without them even asking, you are not helping anybody.
Bear in mind, I didn't get a ticket from the Stop-And-Frisk incident, I got one for trespassing in Central Park a few months prior.
I plead not guilty because I was TOLD by the Police Officer that the ticket would get thrown out. I assumed this meant that the officer would not appear were I to appeal it, and when the officer appeals it gets thrown out.
What I didn't know is that the "ACD" option--Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal--was not offered to be at my arraignment. The first magistrate I saw wanted my $25, and didn't say a thing about throwing the ticket out. Not knowing my rights at the time (i.e. the ACD option), I plead Not Guilty.
Turns out the officer did appear and I was offered ACD. Had I continued with the trial, I would have made a point of the officer's statement saying that "this ticket would get thrown out as long as you appeared".
> In the nearly six hours I spent in court on two separate dates, I saw around a hundred people plead guilty and pay fines for a variety of different petty offenses
This is plea-bargaining in action, and related to:
Q: “How many citations have you written since you saw my client?”
A: “Maybe 40 or 50. We’re required to write 10 citations a month.”
They're "manufacturing prisoners". One reason for that is the prison-industrial complex with the for-profit prisoners demanding "customers" and bought politicians delivering them. Another might have something to do with the burgeoning police state in the US.
“On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.”
Then again; “Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, […]”
I posted it because it's Sunday and there wasn't much going on. I wouldn't put it up as one of the finest HN submissions ever, but I think there's some value in "this could happen to you" and "this is what you should do if".
The piece itself was well written and relatively apolitical and non-threatening.
The "tech" aspect is the "fsck the police" part -- I think Nick is going to go into some ways to use technology to 1) help the police do what they should be doing, better 2) help the police not do what they shouldn't be doing 3) help users/clients/customers/victims of the police. And so should other HN people. Video recording seems like the lowest hanging fruit -- figuring out how to do that both safely and reliably is a good problem to solve. If I were GoPro, I'd donate $25mm or so to developing best practices for this, and then make another $5b selling GoPro-Police cameras over the next decade.
> That being said, there's absolutely no reason that cops should not have a camera on them at all times.
True. This would be a major positive change to our system.
> It's more for their benefit than ours.
False. Everything is already all the cops' way. They have nowhere to go but down. Their court testimony is legally privileged over yours (this really galls me in the face of the idea that "all are equal before the law"). They don't like being filmed because it hurts them. In this case, what we have is a case of "good for us because it's bad for the cops".
The original poster seems to have acknowledged that he broke the curfew law, and also acknowledged that he was treated differently by the police in the other case because of his appearance, and that the police and judges treat poor people and minorities more harshly than they treat him. Is there some other kind of acknowledgement you'd like to see from him? Would you like him not to have been surprised when he saw the criminal justice system treating people badly? Or is there something else you found offensive or annoying about his approach to the situation?
As said whiny hipster, I'm actually more prone to agree with you. I had no idea this story would resonate nearly as much as it has--and my driving point was that the NYPD is being set up by their superiors to police by quota. Naturally, said policing ends up being taken out on the backs of those least able to push back.