Eye on the Courts: Police Are Not Biased, They Are Just Lazy?

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racial-profilingYou can’t really make this stuff up.  Lost in the national debate over gun control and the Boston Marathon Bombers and their post-arrest treatment is the federal trial in New York that is charging that the department’s “stop-and-frisk” practices are biased and therefore unconstitutional.

The suit contends, “These NYPD practices have led to a dramatic increase in the number of suspicion-less stop-and-frisks per year in the city, with the majority of stops in communities of color.”  And the trial made early headlines when one of the officers released his recorded meetings that purportedly showed the department advocating for the use of racial quotas.

But last week, the New York Times covered the department’s defense which, in essence, argued that officers were not biased, they are lazy.

“The picture painted in court of the New York Police Department’s officers was not pretty,” the New York Times reported last Monday.  “Ten percent of them were malcontents who worked as little as possible. Unless they are being paid overtime, officers seem to avoid writing summonses. Indeed, some police officers need to be weaned of the idea that they are paid to drive around in their patrol cars, eating doughnuts.”

“And those sentiments came not from critics of the department, but from police commanders and city lawyers,” the Times reported.  “One of the surprising developments of the trial regarding the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices is how top police officials and city lawyers have been willing to criticize some of the department’s rank-and-file officers – all in an effort to counter testimony from whistle-blower officers who say that commanders had created quotas that pressured them to make street stops without the proper grounds.”

As the blog Simple Justice noted, “If it came from anyone else, the police union would protest. But it came from the brass.”

The Times reports, “The trial’s focus on quotas and productivity goals has illuminated the labor-management tensions that run deep through the Police Department.”

Joseph J. Esposito, the department’s highest-ranking uniformed member until his retirement last month, testified in the trial, and he offered candid insight into management’s view, the Times reported.

“You have 10 percent that will work as hard as they can, whenever they can, no matter how bad we treat them, how bad the conditions are,” Mr. Esposito said. These officers “love being cops and they’re going to do it no matter what.”

On the other extreme, Mr. Esposito said, “You have 10 percent on the other side that are complete malcontents that will do as little as possible no matter how well you treat them.”

The problem, of course, with this view is in the end, racial profiling is a form of lazy-policing.  Instead of building cases, leads, etc., you see police officers in this case making use of the stop-and-frisk policy to stop and perhaps even harass members of the minority community, in the off chance they may have committed a crime or be in possession of contraband.

This trial, along with the issue of Fourth Amendment rights, has been overshadowed by the national debate over the right to bear arms, even as police are regularly ignoring the Fourth Amendment.  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

A recent column written by FAIR, a liberal organization that scrutinizes media coverage, notes, “The aggressive tactics of law enforcement, an ongoing controversy in communities of color, have recently come into the national media spotlight – if briefly – as the constitutionally dubious practice of arbitrarily stopping and frisking (mostly black and Latino) citizens by police officers was put on trial in federal court in March.”

However, the lion’s share of coverage “when it comes to conversations about citizens’ right” has “gone to perceived infringements on constitutional rights… like gun ownership.”

It is somewhat surprising the gun ownership would get so much more play than search and seizure.  While many gun enthusiasts cite the right to self-defense, others noting the “well-regulated militia” clause, believe that the right to bear arms links to the right to protect oneself, not against a criminal intruder but against the government itself.

Second Amendment supporters will erroneously note that Hitler’s first move was to ban gun ownership, as though the banning of guns or, in this case, simple background checks, is the first step toward tyranny.

And yet, when the police actually violate people’s rights to be secure in their persons and houses from the government, there is little note.

FAIR argues that the discrepancy in news coverage might be due to the audience.  They argue that, while gun ownership appeals disproportionately to white and more conservative supporters, the issue of stop and search relates more to racial profiling and people of color.

As Simple Justice notes, however, even the defense in the New York “stop-and-frisk” case rings a bit hollow.

They write, “What is happening at this trial, where the police management has now verified the accuracy of almost every negative stereotype about police there is, from donuts to laziness to greediness to caring nothing about the public to putting their own financial self-interest above that of society, in a scorched earth war to preserve their authority to toss young black men at will, is that every myth built around New York’s Finest is revealed as a sham.”

“Whether they win or lose, there is no denying the perception of police from their own that contradicts the carefully crafted image of police developed over the past 100 years,” the blog continues. “Are there great cops? Sure, but only 10%.  Good cops, yes, but they aren’t nearly as honorable, honest or motivated as they would have us believe?  Bad cops? Yup, we’ve got them too.  And which cop arrested the defendant? Which cop is on the stand? Which cop is telling the truth?

“And it’s only because there were enough lousy, lazy, worthless cops that they were forced to set ‘goals,’ which are quotas with fewer letters.”

Locally, last Tuesday we had the fourth anniversary of the shooting death of farm worker Luis Gutierrez.  The Vanguard covered the federal trial where the three officers were acquitted of the shooting.

Despite the acquittal, the Luis Gutierrez case was, at its core, a racial profiling case.  In broad daylight, the officers saw a man that they thought they knew.  The officers admitted that they had no reason to suspect Mr. Gutierrez of a crime.  The only reason they ended up pursuing him is that, upon their approach, where the identification of the officers was at the very least questionable, Mr. Gutierrez took off running.

Having no criminal record to speak of, having no evidence that he had committed a crime, the authorities claim that Mr. Gutierrez had taken large illicit doses of meth, and therefore behaved erratically and violently toward the police.

However, there is a good chance that had Mr. Gutierrez not been Latino, not been walking alone in the middle of the day, he would never have been stopped.  And this was not the first time he was stopped by police – despite the fact that they never charged him with a crime more serious than driving on a suspended license, a license he was in the process of reinstating when he went to the DMV that fateful day four years ago.

As former Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso noted, “During his life he had been stopped somewhere between 10 and 15 times by the police for traffic stops for one reason or another, including one time because he was riding a bicycle on the wrong side of the street.”

“Why’s that important?” he asked.  “Because the police have discretion very often when they stop somebody to then search.  When they search and they find something illegal they can then arrest the person.  If they never stop, of course they’ll never find anything.”

“Disproportionately, minorities like that young farmworker get stopped so often,” he said, arguing that this plays into the discrepancy of incarceration rates.

Ask yourself, were the police biased in singling out Mr. Gutierrez for questioning, or just lazy?  And really, at the end of the day, does it even matter?

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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31 thoughts on “Eye on the Courts: Police Are Not Biased, They Are Just Lazy?”

  1. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > As former Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso noted,
    > “During his life he had been stopped somewhere between
    > 10 and 15 times by the police for traffic stops for
    > one reason or another, including one time because he
    > was riding a bicycle on the wrong side of the street.”

    Justice Reynoso is an older guy so if he started driving at 16 and has been pulled over 10 times (the low end of his own estimate) that means that he has been pulled over once every 6.5 years. I’ve never gone 6 years without getting pulled over at least once (neither has any other white guy I know)…

    It is against the law to ride on the wrong side of the street (I know white guy in his 40’s that got a ticket/actual moving violation for riding on the wrong side of the street in Sausalito a few years back. I’m not clear if Reynoso thinks that it is OK to break the law or that people of color should be able to ride on the wrong side of the street?

  2. Frankly

    Effing unions strike again. When will more people get it through their thick skull that ALL public employee unions should be banded, outlawed, disallowed, shut down, removed, etc.? The unneeded layer of union control between employees and management creates a general hostile work environment between management and labor. “Lazy union employees?” Ha!, that is news?

    Unions were a great idea 60+ years ago. Now they are not needed. Labor law has devolved far enough that non-union employees have all the protections and remedies they need. Today unions are the source of a tremendous number of problems. They create crony union-Democrat Party relationships that end up costing taxpayers FAR more than we would otherwise have to pay. They block reforms and protect low and non-performing union employees… thus reducing the service levels of the entire public organization.

    Personally, when I meet someone working a job or profession covered by a public-sector union, my first-impression opinion of them drops a bit. The words, “entitled”, “lazy”, “pampered”, etc. race through my mind. My initial reaction is to assess some level of un-earned economic self-confidence… and a tendency for a lack of appropriate humility for what amounts to mostly luck for getting the cushy union job… and not justified reward for any level of REAL professional achievement. I know this is just blind bias, and certainly as I get to know a person, all those initial reactions can melt away. But, since I have few friends that work for public-sector unions… my sense is that much of this is prevalent.

    Some might say “sour grapes”. For example, I wasn’t smart enough to recognize how wonderful a firefighter or police job would be, so I should just blame myself for not pursuing one. After all, there are other non-union jobs that pay more than others, and I don’t assess all the same negative personal attributes for people lucky enough to have selected those. But in reality, there are few non-union jobs that pay compensation out of sync with the level of achievement required. The free market makes the adjustments based on supply and demand.

    Unions provide protection from the free market adjustments, and hence distort the compensation of union employees relative to the market. That is where we are today… union compensation that is significantly distorted from the realities of the free labor market. Then, pouring salt in our wounds, the Democrat politicians enriched by their union benefactors, keep increasing taxes on the rest of us so they can continue protecting all these over-paid, under-worked union members from facing the realities of the real market.

    Banning public-sector unions should be the required first step to fixing a great number of social problems we face.

  3. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > Cruz Reynoso was referring to Luis Gutierrez who I
    > believe was 25 at the time he was killed, not himself.

    My mistake, the first time I read David’s post I thought the judge was talking about his own life.

    David also wrote:

    > Disproportionately, minorities like that young farmworker
    > get stopped so often,” he said, arguing that this plays
    > into the discrepancy of incarceration rates.

    We all know that there is “some” racism out there, but I don’t get why many on the left want to try and blame “most” of the discrepancy in incarceration rates on racism. In San Francisco over the last 20 years about half the murders (and most of the drive by shootings) have been in the mostly black Hunters Point area. The mostly white Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights area has about as many people but has less than 1% of the murders (and not a single “drive by shooting”). I’m wondering if David thinks that more black people from Hunters Point are in jail than white people from Pacific Heights due to “profiling” and “racism” or maybe it is because most (but not all) the people in jail from Hunters Point were actually breaking the law (including killing or tying to kill other people)…

  4. David M. Greenwald

    I’m not sure I blame most of the discrepency on racism – or at least directly on racism. But you do seem to conflate the issue of police encounters with convictions.

    That said, look at the vastly different sentencing protocols for crack cocaine versus powdered cocaine even after the reform reduced the ratio.

  5. Don Shor

    Interesting. I just re-read the article in case I had missed something. It literally has nothing whatsoever to do with unions. Not even tangentially. I was wondering if Frankly posted on the wrong thread?

  6. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > you do seem to conflate the issue of police
    > encounters with convictions.

    My point is that EVERY poor neighborhood in America with mostly people of color has a much higher crime rate than EVERY rich neighborhood in America with mostly white people.

    With that said, doesn’t it make sense that the police “encounter” more people of color in high crime areas than white people in low crime areas?

  7. Frankly

    Don: [i]Interesting. I just re-read the article in case I had missed something. It literally has nothing whatsoever to do with unions. Not even tangentially. I was wondering if Frankly posted on the wrong thread?[/i]

    Union foment laziness and low performance of the uninized labor force. They do it directly, by bargaining for greater and greater job security for their members and preventing personnel actions against their members. They do it indirectly by making the job of management and leadership that much more difficult (e.g., leadership says performance must improve, and unionized labor force tells leadership to go pound sand).

    That fact that neither you or David connected the dots with the claims of a lazy workforce and unions indicates that neither of you have much experiece leading a large workforce toward excellence in service. It can be done with union labor only if the union cooperates. Even then, the job of management is made much more difficult to motivate the workforce to change and to get rid of those malcontents stiring up the shit and making the work environment toxic.

  8. Don Shor

    So stop-and-frisk leads to racial profiling because police officers are lazy because they’re in unions?
    No, I’m pretty sure it’s because there’s fluoride in their water.
    This article has literally absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with unions. Nothing. Yet somehow you see the connection.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    SOD: Let’s assume that comment is accurate for the sake of discussion. I think that’s precisely why you want to avoid practices like stop and frisk, because it undermines trust in the police department when one group feels singled out. If you have suspicion that someone committed a crime, that’s one thing. But simply pulling people aside because they fit the profile of people more likely to commit a crime, I think hurts more than helps.

  10. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > simply pulling people aside because they fit
    > the profile of people more likely to commit a
    > crime, I think hurts more than helps.

    In NYC before stop and frisk in 2000 over 900 people were killed. Last year after stop and frisk has been up and running just over 400 people were killed (I also just read on line that NYC cops took more than 8,000 weapons from people that were not supposed to have them in just the last year). You might think it “hurts more than it helps” but there are probably about 500 families that didn’t bury a loved one last year that disagree…

  11. Frankly

    Stop and Frisk Facts

    1. It reduces the number of guns on the streets.

    2. It reduces the number of people on the streets that would carry a concealed gun illegally.

    3. It reduces the amount of gun crime.

    4. It reduces the general crime rate in cities where it is practiced.

    5. It encourages others not to carry guns for defense because it is less likely that bad people will be carrying.

    6. It is not a practice of racism or racial profiling. That is a separate issue and it should not be conflated with Stop and Frisk.

    So, all of you people against Stop and Frisk… in light of these facts, you are basically agreeing to allow more crime, more guns, more gun violence, more death… for what reason?

    Let’s argue keeping fluoride in the water to prevent a few cavities, but God forbid we do anything in our police protocol that keeps people from serious injury or death by gun.

    To really test this racism theory, one would have to calculate the probability of people of different race/age/gender, etc.. carrying a concealed gun illegally, and then calculate the percentage of people stopped and frisked to identify the difference. I read one report that cops would pay more attention to young males in gangsta clothing because it is baggy and easily conceals a weapon. So, maybe there is a clothing-bias we should address.

  12. David M. Greenwald

    You should rename that list, Stop and Frisk Assertions.

    “1. It reduces the number of guns on the streets.

    2. It reduces the number of people on the streets that would carry a concealed gun illegally.

    3. It reduces the amount of gun crime.

    4. It reduces the general crime rate in cities where it is practiced.”

    Evidence? Remember crime rate has fallen across the nation and it fell in NY York for two decades prior to the implementation.

    “5. It encourages others not to carry guns for defense because it is less likely that bad people will be carrying.”

    Is there evidence of this?

    “6. It is not a practice of racism or racial profiling. That is a separate issue and it should not be conflated with Stop and Frisk.”

    How do you explain the recordings coming out of NY?

  13. Don Shor

    [i]”It is not a practice of racism or racial profiling. That is a separate issue and it should not be conflated with Stop and Frisk.” [/i]

    As implemented, it seems to be based on racial profiling. Are there police agencies that have successful stop-and-frisk programs that don’t use racial profiling? Where it has been implemented without causing the kind of antagonism that we see in New York?
    Frankly’s points 1 and 2 seem pretty inarguable. Those are also the goals of people who advocate gun control. Point 3 can probably at least be correlated. So there are trade-offs with stop-and-frisk.

  14. medwoman

    [quote]My point is that EVERY poor neighborhood in America with mostly people of color has a much higher crime rate than EVERY rich neighborhood in America with mostly white people. [/quote]

    And a point that could also be made is that EVERY rich neighborhood in America with mostly white people has a much higher “white collar crime” rate than EVERY poor neighborhood in America with mostly people of color. When seen in this light, since “white collar crime”, such as money laundering through major banks frequently involves much more financial impact to our society, perhaps would should be implementing some analogous strategy for monitoring our bankers, inside traders, corporate executives…… oh wait, I forgot…. one can’t get anyone to prosecute them for their crimes or assess meaningful penalties even if they did…. so never mind.

  15. Don Shor

    So banking regulators should have the ability to just access and review bank and investment accounts based on the race, occupation, and income level of an individual?

  16. medwoman

    Don Shor

    [quote]So banking regulators should have the ability to just access and review bank and investment accounts based on the race, occupation, and income level of an individual?[/quote]

    Exactly as defensible as “stop and frisk” ; )

  17. Frankly

    [i]So banking regulators should have the ability to just access and review bank and investment accounts based on the race, occupation, and income level of an individual?[/i]

    More white people get accused of white collar crime. Must be racial profiling.

  18. Frankly

    Anti Stop and Frisk advocates will have blood on their hands… [url]http://www.officer.com/news/10931679/nyc-mayor-slams-critics-of-stop-and-frisk[/url]
    [quote]Mayor Bloomberg yesterday cited the senseless murder of an innocent Bronx teen in launching his fiercest attack yet on the Democrats seeking to succeed him who refuse to admit that stop-and-frisk works.

    Hizzoner also lashed out at The New York Times and civil-rights groups during an emotional, 22-minute address to NYPD brass at Police Headquarters.

    “Last week, a Bronx resident named Alphonza Bryant was shot and killed while standing with friends near his home. He was 17. Like most murder victims in our city, he was a minority,” a frustrated Bloomberg told the crowd, which included Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

    “He was just a victim of too many guns on our streets. After his murder, there was no outrage from the Center for Constitutional Rights or the NYCLU.

    “There was not even a mention of his murder in our paper of record, The New York Times. ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print’ did not include the murder of 17-year-old Alphonza Bryant.”

    The teen, who was preparing for his prom and his graduation from the Urban Assembly Bronx Studio for Writers and Artists, was gunned down near his home in Foxhurst at 8:15 p.m. on April 22. A thug fired nine shots into the crowd. Police believe Bryant was not the intended target.

    Bloomberg said it was exactly the kind of violent crime that stop-and-frisk prevents.

    “If the NYPD conducted stops and intelligence gathering based on demographic data rather than real leads, guns would be everywhere in our city, thousands of New Yorkers who are alive today would be dead and terrorists may well have succeeded in attacking us again,” Bloomberg said.

    “And yet some in the City Council and some mayoral candidates are supporting legislation that would push the NYPD in that direction.”

    Bryant’s shattered mother said Bloomberg was absolutely right, and believes her son would be alive if the gunmen had been searched by police.

    “If they would have stopped and frisked the guys who shot my son, maybe he would be alive today. We need stop-and-frisk. We need it to save our children’s lives,” a tearful Jenaii Van Doten, 46, told The Post after getting a tattoo of her son’s face on her right arm.

    Van Doten, 46, said Alphonza himself had been recently stopped.[/quote]

  19. Frankly

    Yes, but…
    [quote]The judge made it clear that she was

    not ordering the abolition or even a reduction of TAP, which appears to be a valuable way of using the NYPD’s resources to enhance the security in voluntarily enrolled private buildings. My ruling today is directed squarely at a category of stops lacking reasonable suspicion.

    Precisely because these stops lack rational justification, they are presumably of less value to public safety than would be the stops of individuals who displayed objectively suspicious behavior.

    But she did rule that the “NYPD is ordered immediately to cease performing trespass stops outside TAP buildings in the Bronx without reasonable suspicion of trespass.” Judge Scheindlin also ordered consolidation of the hearing on some other remedies with the remedies hearing in Floyd v. City of New York, a stop and frisk challenge involving the entire city and not only the borough of the Bronx.[/quote]

    The end result has been about a 50% reduction in the number of SAF stops over the first three months of the practice being enjoined. Gun crime has not increased (has continued on the same downward trend). However, it is WAY too soon to make a case that the reduction of the number of SAF has had no impact on gun crime rates. Many of the criminals had already been snared by the more aggressive SAF practice. The likelihood is that more deaths like Alphonza Bryant will occur because of the activist judge’s decision.

  20. Davis Progressive

    “More white people get accused of white collar crime. Must be racial profiling.”

    i see why the police have such problems with this issue. you have no clue what profiling is.

  21. Frankly

    [i]i see why the police have such problems with this issue. you have no clue what profiling is.[/i]

    Sure I do. But you just ignore the obvious and valid comparison that demonstrates the absurdity of the claim that under-representation and over-representation is PROOF of racial profiling.

    The police do not have much of a problem with racial profiling. It is those that have a worldview twisted into some narrow focus and definition of social justice that have a problem with it. The rest of us can live with different strokes for different folks as justified by their individual behavior.

  22. Davis Progressive

    I disagree with you that the police don’t have a huge problem with racial profiling. In fact, they have a far worse problem, they have diminished confidence in the minority community to the point where many are reluctant to come forward.

    you didn’t answer David’s question, is stop and frisk enjoined?

  23. Frankly

    [i]you didn’t answer David’s question, is stop and frisk enjoined[/i]

    Yes I did. You are not reading all the posts apparently.

    See post at 1:32

    The police do not have a problem with racial profiling. But some minority groups have a problem being more likely to be involved in crime. That is not the cop’s fault.

    Was Shockley on to something? We should be trying to understand why some minority groups are more likely to commit crimes and work at solving that problem instead of punishing those dealing with the symptoms.

  24. Frankly

    3D Printer Guns are Happening…

    [url]http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57583039-1/3d-printed-liberator-gun-fires-first-successful-shot/?tag=nl.e497&s_cid=e497&ttag=e497[/url]

  25. jimt

    Might be useful to other readers of this forum (like me) just what the stated official police criteria are for stop-and-frisk in New York; and the differences between the stated criteria and the criteria actually used.

    Also I would appreciate a concise definition of racial-profiling; and how it is distinguished from non-racial profiling to go after a specific suspect who has been described by witnesses to be of a particular race.

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