Saturday, August 1, 2020

Body Snatching

There was a lot of noise this week about the police in New York "kidnapping" people off the streets and stuffing them into unmarked vans. I decided I ought to look into this. 

What I learned is that the police were arresting people for whom there were outstanding warrants. Each police precinct in New York has a special squad of plainclothes detectives who do this; the point of not wearing uniforms or driving police cruisers is so they can get closer to their targets before they are recognized. (Although you have to wonder about the savvy of criminals who can't spot a vanful of plainclothes cops coming a mile away.)

So that's at least defensible. But who, exactly, have they been arresting out of peaceful protests? People who have pissed them off:
The men in the van, it turns out, were plainclothes officers from the New York Police Department’s Warrant Squad, and they were detaining a young woman who was later identified as Nikki Stone, an 18-year-old homeless trans girl. An NYPD spokesperson, Sergeant Jessica McRorie, told Vox, “The NYPD had probable cause to arrest her for five previous crimes,” which included allegations of vandalizing police cameras with stickers and paint around City Hall Park in Manhattan.
I mean, I have no problem with the police arresting criminals. But these Warrant Squads were set up to arrest the most violent and dangerous crooks, and these days they spend their time hunting down people who put stickers on police cameras.

When there are what, fifty unsolved murders in New York already this year? No wonder crime has gone up.

Not only that, but their spokesman insisted to reporters that the officers were pelted with rocks and bottles while they made this arrest, when there were like twenty people filming the whole thing, including the complete absence of flying rocks and bottles.

Every time I want to defend the police as people trying to do a hard job they pull another stupid stunt like this.


G. Verloren said...

"Every time I want to defend the police as people trying to do a hard job they pull another stupid stunt like this."

You know who works just as hard and harder, but never pulls stupid stunts like these? Social workers. They routinely put their own lives in danger to help people with severe problems like mental illness, domestic abuse, drug addiction, and more, and they do it unarmed, and they rely on de-escalation to ensure at the end of the day, everyone goes home alive, innocent and guilty alike.

When people say "Defund The Police", what they actually mean is "Stop spending so much money on the people who carry guns and solve hard problems through violence and force, and instead give that money to the people who solve hard oroblems through words, and hot meals, and safe places to sleep, and therapy and counseling, and basic fundamental empathy, decency, and caring.

Every time I hear a police officer whine about how hard their job is and how they were forced to resort to brutal methods or lethal force to obtain compliance, I want to slap them and then sit them down with a social worker so they can hear the skin-crawling nightmare stories of people who ACTUALLY have unbelievably hard jobs, and yet never somehow manage to never kill the people they are paid to protect and serve.

Spend a week trying to help a suicidal teenaged rape victim, or an elderly veteran with chronic PTSD and paranoid delusions, or a six year old orphan whose father is in jail because he murdered their mother, or a devoutly religious old widow dying of cancer who refuses medicine and doctors because she desperately believes in faith healing, or a drug addict who overdoses so often they're on a first name basis with the Emergency Medical Technicians, and do it with next to know funding and the reality that the people you try to help might be extreme threats to your safety, and then come back and tell me how hard it is being a police officer.

The problem with the police is that the only tool they have is a hammer, and so they think every problem is a nail. Their training is too limited, and anything they can't fix through intimidation and the presentation of authority, they reflexively escalate to violence and lethal force. Any time they encounter someone who CANNOT comply (mentally ill, intoxicated, deaf, disabled, maybe even just having an incredibly bad day, et cetera) they almost always have no recourse but to resort to hurting that person to force compliance. And that is a critical flaw that is destroying lives needlessly on a constant basis.

We need more tools in our toolbox than just hammers, and we need to take a lot of the money we overspend on hammers, and instead use it to upgrade and maintain our other implemented suited to different problems, and train society on knowing which tool to use for a given job. Yes, you can stop a mugging with a loaded gun - but you can also stop it with unexpected kindness and an offer to help. People don't go out mugging because they want to - they do it because they are desperate and scared and need help. Give them help, and they have no reason to mug people, and no one has to die over petty cash in a wallet or a fancy wristwatch.

David said...


I think it's quite possible that, in this instance, the squad took this person because she had pissed them off. But the article makes clear that, in most cases, the squad is out simply to pick people up in order to cross off outstanding warrants and reduce the department's numbers in that category. Their performance is assessed, according to the article, based on the quantity of arrests. And so mostly what they do is drive around poor neighborhoods and pick up people for misdemeanors, failure to appear in court, etc. They've been doing this for years, so that residents of such neighborhoods have a nickname for them: the "jump-out boys."

The tactic is scarily reminiscent of tactics used by dictators (of both the left and the right) and criminals the world over. Yes, I can see a place for the police to have a unit like this for a small number of very violent cases; use of such tactics should be governed by a FISA-like court on a case-by-case basis, and be restricted to felonies.

The article also points out that those rapid releases practiced by the Portland federales after they disappear people in their vans are contingent upon the arrestees signing a statement that they will not participate in any more protests.

David said...

FWIW, I predict that some elements of the left are going to fall in love with this arrestee, and elevate the person into some sort of cool, paradigm-shifting queer-bandit guerrilla artist. The right, meanwhile, will watch and rewatch the video and cackle with glee at this particular owning of the libtards. The positions would, of course, be exactly reversed if the police target were, say, some white anti-government type living in a cabin in Idaho, being sought for refusing to pay their taxes or register their vehicle, or some such.

Shadow said...

"Their performance is assessed, according to the article, based on the quantity of arrests. And so mostly what they do is drive around poor neighborhoods and pick up people for misdemeanors, failure to appear in court, etc."

Then the street cops are doing their job and performing well. Perhaps it's the higher-ups who decide what the performance criteria shall be who are the problem?

David said...


Yes, of course. Obviously the criteria need to be changed.

Kpgoog said...

Police without uniforms are a threat. How is one to know who is coming after them? How is one to assume good intentions, especially when the are armed and indistinguishable from right wing gun nut militias? Democracy depends on trusting law enforcement.

G. Verloren said...


That explains why democracy in America is struggling. The people protest to tell the police that they can't trust them, and the police respond with tear gas, beatings, and roaming squads of anonymous thugs abducting people in unmarked vehicles.

It's like someone telling you that your aggressive dog terrifies them, so you respond by saying if they don't get a hold of themselves, you'll take the dog off its leash and command it to attack them.