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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Is The NYPD Really Doing Its Job?

Jamie Chapman has written an interesting report on the police activity associated with the Republican National Convention in New York City. The report is published by the World Socialist Web Site.

The Police Department is certainly taking the event seriously. Given a potential for public disorder or even a terrorist strike at the Convention they are certainly justified to do so. However, the scale of police preparations seems nothing short of mind-blowing. According to Chapman,
In all, the NYPD expects to maintain 10,000 cops 24 hours a day in the Madison Square Garden area. The entire city police force of some 36,000 is being placed on shifts of 12 hours or more for the convention. Helmeted paramilitary police armed with assault rifles have already been deployed in nearby Pennsylvania Station and subways, along with National Guard troops, NYPD canine units and regular beat cops. Other police have mounted stepped-up street patrols.
Chapman also writes about NYPD's activities conducted outside of their jurisdiction; he calls those activities "unprecedented".
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has dispatched hundreds of cops around the country to put some 56 people under 24-hour surveillance in advance of the Republican National Convention (RNC). The convention, to be held at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, opens Monday, August 30.

According to a report issued by WABC News in New York City, the subjects of this spying operation have been identified as “primary anarchists” by the NYPD. They are each being watched by teams of five detectives plus one supervisor, according to the television news report.

The surveillance teams are being sent as far away as California, North Carolina, Washington DC and Boston. Their assignment is to tail the targeted protest organizers and follow them on their trips to New York.

This mounting of a nationwide surveillance operation by a city police department is virtually unprecedented. Even in the 1950s, when the infamous Red Squads were set up in every major metropolis to spy on socialists and communists, the reach of these agencies seldom extended beyond their own city limits.

Given the WSWS's left-wing focus, one should not be surprised that the report appears to focus on the left-wing subjects of increased police attention. I could imagine that right-wing activists perceived as a threat are followed just as vigorously (though, I must say, the authorities' treatment of the recent case of William Krar makes me doubt that). But that is not what I would like to focus on here.

What I am mainly interested in is whether or not the Convention is receiving the sort of police attention which makes the police fail in its primary responsibility,- ensuring order and fighting crime across the city. I don't doubt that while the Convention is ongoing you should expect very little street crime around the Madison Square garden. But that area is safe as it is, for the most part, and I am far more concerned with the crime in South Bronx or East New York,- the areas I suspect might suffer as a result of the NYPD being stretched thin and providing close to a third of its manpower to the security needs of the Convention.

I am not an expert on the law-and-order matters hence I am not going to render judgment here. However, I would like to know whether or not a study was ever conducted as to how such lopsided police deployment is going to affect the public safety of New York City. And if so, what did that study find.

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