Police Dominate

Human language let foragers express and enforce social norms. Their most important norm was to resist domination – leaders should only advise, and not give orders. Farmers tolerated violations, at least by socially distant upper classes. But as industry’s wealth weakened the fear that kept farmers in line, we turned to democracy to reaffirm our anti-domination norm.

Except we are hypocrites – we have always accepted domination, and pretended otherwise. This can be seen in how we relate to city police. Citizens pretend they control police, by electing mayors etc., and using laws to constrain their behavior. But citizens don’t notice or care that police are put mostly in charge of measuring their own performance, and of policing their own cheating. The predictable result is that police cheat and mis-measure their performance, and stand free to punish those who challenge them.

Pretty much no one runs for mayor or city council on a platform of having independent organizations measure or police the police. Which tells you that few expect voters to support such changes. Which tells you that most folks know they are being dominated by police who can cheat with impunity, and (as voters) prefer that situation to imagined alternatives.

If you doubt me, just review the latest NYPD news:

In 2010, The Village Voice produced a five-part series, the “NYPD Tapes.” … For more than two years, Adrian Schoolcraft secretly recorded every roll call at the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn and captured his superiors urging police officers to … manipulate the “stats” that the department is under pressure to produce: Officers were … encouraged to disregard actual victims of serious crimes who wanted to file reports. … In October 2009, Schoolcraft met with NYPD investigators for three hours and detailed more than a dozen cases of crime reports being manipulated in the district. Three weeks after that meeting—which was supposed to have been kept secret from Schoolcraft’s superiors—his precinct commander and a deputy chief ordered Schoolcraft to be dragged from his apartment and forced into the Jamaica Hospital psychiatric ward for six days. … Schoolcraft has been suspended without pay for 27 months, he faces department charges, he was placed under surveillance for a time, and the city even blocked his application for unemployment benefits. …

In the wake of our series, NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly ordered an investigation into Schoolcraft’s claims. By June 2010, that investigation produced a report that the department has tried to keep secret for nearly two years. The Voice has obtained that 95-page report, and it shows that the NYPD confirmed Schoolcraft’s allegations. … Mayor Bloomberg and Kelly have gone to great lengths to insist the crime statistics are accurate. … The Voice was blocked in its efforts to obtain this report through the New York State Freedom of Information Law. … All of this suggests that Bloomberg and Kelly are simply trying to delay a full accounting until after the next mayoral election. …

A former NYPD captain says that what was happening in the 81st Precinct is no isolated case. (more)

Who expects someone to run for NYC mayor, and win, on a platform of an independent police internal affairs? An independently audit-able crime complaint system? Didn’t think so. NYC citizens don’t want objectively enforced laws constraining their police. And your city isn’t any different.

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