jack booted thugs

The NYPD has gone insane. Absolutely insane.

First, we learned that the NYPD planned to monitor Shi’a mosques across the Northeast, and that they screened the virulently Islamophobic film The Third Jihad to thousands of police officers. The NYPD is even investigating using drones for surveillance.

Now, it seems that the boyos in blue have been spying on muslim students and student associations, as well as professors.

This is an absolute outrage. There’s zero justification for this. Zero.

The DATA doesn’t lie: muslims are an asset against terror. Why is the NYPD treating us as the enemy?

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Disclaimer: I have only read your articles here and here and not everything you linked in them as yet, but:

    A) There should be no question in any sane, informed mind that our best asset in the war against terrorist Muslims has been, and remains, the Muslim community itself. They are outright ignorant fools who deny this. BUT:

    B) It is not, so far as I know, a violation of anyone’s rights to follow them around, take pictures of them, or make private reports on their comings and goings. This does not equate to a “police state” (let alone the “worst nigtmare” of police states, I can put you in touch with some people from places like Communist Poland or today’s Syria to illustrate that point).

    An investigation is surely warranted, but surveillance all by itself does not equate to anything but simple surveillance. Certain things are not allowed in surveillance, but surveillance itself isn’t a violation of anyone’s rights.

    If police have reason to suspect drug dealing activity, they are perfectly allowed to go to public spaces where they think drug dealers may be active and look around, using cameras and other stuff if they want to. Similarly, if they’re worried about certain groups, they are generally free to go to public gatherings just like any other citizen and make any notes they want just like any other citizen–although even that’s not entirely true, they’re somewhat more restricted than your average citizen. I and my civilian buddies are generally more empowered to surveil any group we want to than the police are.

    The very fact that people have been watched and private reports made does not equate to a civil rights violation. This may be bad public relations, but even then, I would wait to find out a little more about what exactly they were looking for and what their motivations were before letting anger get the better of you. If there is evidence that they violated a law, then fine, let’s find that out, but if they didn’t then flying off the handle isn’t the best strategy.

    (And please–this is directed at everybody, not Aziz in particular–please do not give me the “how would you like it?” speech. I don’t particularly object to police generally watching my own comings and goings if they think I’m up to something, although they’d better get a warrant if they plan on coming into my house.)

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Just for example, I happen to know that here in Michigan (because I had reason to suspect–never mind why or when–that someone was doing this to me and I consulted the appropriate authorities), it turns out that I could if I wanted follow you around all damn day taking pictures of you, making note of everything you did in public, and you could even see me and demand that I stop and I could say “no” and ignore you and continue to follow you around taking pictures of you and making notes about you to my heart’s content, and reporting what I saw to anyone I wanted. You could even call the cops on me and the cops could ask me what I was doing but if I said “I’m spying on this person, no I will not stop please leave me alone officer” the cops would pretty much have to go away and leave me alone. (Although they could try to find reasons to harass me about it, it would indeed be harassment.)

    It would get into somewhat dicier territory if I wanted to PUBLISH whatever photos, notes, etc. I made, but even that would not be strictly prohibited.

    Following someone around, watching them, and taking notes on them is not a civil rights violation in and of itself. It may startle some to realize that. Now, breaking into your house and going through your stuff, that sort of thing, now we have a different story. But I don’t think we’re talking about that here. Not what I’ve seen so far, anyway.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    An important question that will come here by the way will be “what WAS police motivation?”

    Pure paranoia is certainly plausible. But equally plausible is they were following up on reports. Reports from whom? Well that is where you get into some of the dicier areas of police work: certain types of reports you pretty much have to take seriously until the person making the report has been proven to be a loon or otherwise unreliable person. I speculate only, but I can already see the possibility that the cops got various reports of “suspicious activities” from civvies, especially from the kind of fools who read certain web sites we all know about and take them seriously.

    So what do the police do, exactly, if they get multiple reports of “suspicious activity?” If they don’t think they have enough to get a warrant, but don’t want to be accused of being derelict in their duty, they pretty much have to at least do some surveillance. And you must admit, it would not be responsible law enforcement policy to inform someone “We have reports of suspicious activities by you so we will be watching you.” That just isn’t how it works–in fact, that would be worse in multiple ways if you think about it. (Can you imagine being approached by cops to inform you they’d be secretly watching you at all times? Talk about intimidating!)

    It strikes me as perfectly appropriate for the Muslim community in America to calmly approach the police and ask them about this. “Why were you watching us, what for, and who did you report it to?” are all perfectly rational things for community members and individuals to ask. But the first thing I would not do is go on attack. Cops are doing their jobs. If they were irresponsible or broke any laws, it’s fine to find that out, but I wouldn’t go in assuming the worst, eh?

  • Elizabeth Reid

    Interestingly, what you say holds UNLESS the person you are taking pictures of is a police officer. Police in many states, including Michigan, have used eavesdropping laws against people recording police as they performed their official duties. Which is creepy as hell and makes me want to hole up in a bunker somewhere and await the end times. And I’m an East-coast liberal weenie.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Elizabeth: I am delighted to tell you that you that all appears well. Fairly recent court decisions that you probably hadn’t heard about have resoundingly established that you have a 1st amendment right to record the cops while they’re on duty in a public place. The most important is probably this one: Glick v. Cuniffe, Savalis, Hall-Brewster, and City of Boston.

    You can come out of the bunker and give the canned goods to the local food bank. Absent an unlikely overturning by the Supreme Court, you can tape the police now. You still run the risk of a rogue cop grabbing your camera and smashing it, but she’d better be sure no one else catches her doing it if she does. ;-)

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla

    If you can’t see this evil for what it is, then we just have to disagree, Dean. I see your argument but you just aren’t seeing it the way I do. Maybe this might give you an idea of my perspective:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/02/nypds-religious-profiling/253461/

    Anyway, we liberals disagree, that’s nothing new. Color me unsurprised that most of our conservative commentariat around here are likewise unconcerned.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    I’m tempted to put this on the front page but I don’t want to attract the flies to the dung heap. So I’ll leave it here.

    Part of my point of view comes from having family and friends and even people I’ve dated in law enforcement.

    Let me give you a real-life scenario that depicts law-enforcement professionals in a concrete way. Then I’ll give you a fictional scenario.

    Real life story I know about personally: police get a call from a person who says he overheard a child being horrendously beaten and screamed at and begging for mercy, and gives the cops the address.

    First question you should ask yourself: what do you personally think police should have done with that report? Ignore it? Or investigate? If they investigate, how do they investigate, given that this is not enough to justify a search warrant.

    I can tell you what they would normally do: unless they’d already gotten multiple reports that turned out to be bogus from this source, they would investigate. Depending on the case, they might send a squad car or they might send someone plainclothes. In this case, probably plainclothes is best as it’s less ostentatious. Detective looks around outside in a perfectly legal way, listens in a perfectly legal way, and if she hears nothing, knocks the door (which, point of information, is one of the most dangerous things any cop ever does).

    If the fools inside keep quiet and refuse to answer, the surveillance is over. If they open the door but keep it mostly shut and keep anything weird out of line of sight and quiet, refuse to cooperate and ask the cop to leave, again, it’s pretty much over.

    In this particular case I know of, what actually happened is police immediately noticed strong evidence a child was being held captive and entered the home, found a child who was listed as missing and possibly kidnapped, made arrests, and returned the child safely home. High fives all around, and a neat story on the nightly news.

    An equally possible outcome, however could have been that this was a bogus report, there was no child even present, or the child was there but nothing wrong was being done to the child. Bullshit reports happen all the time. So what? So cops look like assholes who are harassing people who haven’t done anything. So maybe better not to have gone to that house in the first place? But wait a minute, what if the report was legitimate, as it was in this case? They just fracked up by not investigating, and if that child turned up later dead, you know what you’d probably say about the police?

    Scratch what you’d say. Here’s what you know would be said by many: “Bumblefuck cops not doing their jobs and sitting around donut shops and writing speeding tickets while a little kid gets killed! What do we pay these people for god damn it?!”

    Cops are often in a no-win situation when they get reports. They get a report and if they don’t investigate they’re bad, and if they do investigate they may still be bad. This is part of why when they do investigate and they do uncover bad things, they aren’t just happy that they stopped some bad people: they’re also happy because they have proven they jobs that matter and make a positive difference.

    Now let me work on a fictional scenario that goes to this story, and why I am hesitant to jump on the anger-bandwagon just yet.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Possibly fictional but entirely plausible scenario:

    Psueodo-literate fan of certain well-known “anti-Jihad” sites which shall remain nameless works in a clerical position at the University of Wisconson. A Professor Poonawalla works there and is also an occasional faculty advisor to the Muslim Students Association. Psueodo-literate “anti-jihadist” bravely makes efforts to furtively observe and listen to some of these meetings, and to make a special effort to keep an eye on Professor Poonawalla. One day, she finally calls the police–the first time she has ever done such a thing–and reports that she has overheard Professor Poonawalla talking angrily about recent events involving Palestine, expressing some sympathy for the cause of Palestinian liberation, and making irate comments–and that the word “bomb” was mentioned, and furthermore, they stated they were clearly planning something at an outing they’re planning off-campus next week.

    She tells the police this is far from the first time she’s heard something like this but this time she definitely heard “bomb” and definitely heard “right on” and other language that sounded nasty. She even says one of the students outright stated that Al Qaeda is a bunch of heroes.

    Now: what, are you, as a police officer, to do with this report? You do not know this woman. She is not listed in your crank file (and most police departments have one or some equivalent of one). She called you from a U of W phone# and she offers to come in and even gives you ID so you can verify she is who she says she is, she just asks you not to approach her at work so “they don’t come after me.”

    So now you’re the cop. What do you think your job is? You do not know this woman, you do not know Professor Poonawalla, and you do not know these students.

    What do you do?

    Followup question: regardless of what you do with this first contact with civilians, you get two or three other reports alleging similar things.

    You’re still the cop. Now what do you do?

    I’m intentionally making this personal to force you to answer: you aren’t you. You’re the cop. What. Do. You. Do?

    I know what my answer is. I know what most cops’ answer would be. I’m curious what you think the right cop-response to this is, including what followup you think should be made after .

    Now, regardless of what your personal view is of all this precisely, I hope it illustrates why the first response of the individuals or groups profiled should probably be calm interrogatories to the authorities, rather than rage. Rage makes the police and everyone involved defensive. A polite, “who, what, where, when, and why?” is a good starting place. If you start getting stonewalled or get answers that make the police look like they really did something wrong, proceed. Otherwise, you may find that you are getting mad at the wrong people, and need to look at who made the police think they needed to do this in the first place.