Recently, a friend posted on Facebook that he’s been arrested for riding his bike in a public park. Apparently he talked back to the police officer and was jailed for a weekend.
You posted this on Facebook! I thought incredulously. People like him — over-educated professionals from middle class backgrounds — should know better. I don’t know if he realizes, every time he applies for a job he’ll have to check the box saying “Yes, I’ve been arrested before.”
I also realized that I don’t know much about the police. All I know is getting arrested is really bad because, in America, companies/society/your neighbors assume you’re guilty if you’ve ever been arrested. Two books have been my guides to getting my head out of the sand:
- NYPD Confidential by Leonard Levitt
- Arrest-Proof Yourself: An Ex-Cop Reveals How Easy It Is For Anyone To Get Arrested by Dale Carson and Wes Denham.
Leonard Levitt wrote the column “One Police Plaza” (1995-2005) for the newspaper New York Newsday about the New York City police department. Levitt continues his writing on his site nypdconfidential.com. Most of the book describes the political struggles between NY’s mayors and the police commissioners. It’s an interesting read for anyone familiar with Rudy Giuliani, Bill Bratton, Raymond Kelly, David Dinkins, Michael Bloomberg, and Bernie Kerik.
Levitt also confirms that corruption within the police is not unique to Ghana. This was very disappointing. Levitt posits that corruption cases in New York burst open every 20 years that prompt outsiders to do a housecleaning. Here are some notable examples of police bad behavior:
- Dirty Thirty (1994): As described by the New York Times, “The rogue cops in the 30th called themselves “Nannery’s Raiders,” after their supervising officer, Sgt. Kevin P. Nannery. The band is charged with faking police radio and 911 emergency calls to cover up illegal raids on drug dealers’ apartments, during which they seized drugs and stole large amounts of cash. The Mollen Commission noted that supervising officers often looked the other way while street cops ran wild. But Sergeant Nannery allegedly went further and became an enthusiastic participant. In one case, investigators say, the sergeant and two of his “raiders” stopped a man in an apartment building, took his keys and then ransacked his apartment. They found several thousand dollars’ worth of drugs and cash, took the money and then let the dealer go. The officers also perjured themselves in many court cases, a development that could eventually lead to the dismissal of as many as 50 cases.” (“Corruption in the ‘Dirty 30’“, New York Times, October 1, 1994)
- Bernie Kerik, former police commissioner under Rudy Giuliani, was sentenced to four years in prison “after pleading guilty to eight felony charges, including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.” Giuliani had elevated his former bodyguard and driver to NY police commissioner. Kerik had not graduated from college and his previous rank in the NYPD was detective.
- Frank Serpico who blew the whistle on widespread corruption in the NYPD (1970). After breaking the NYPD’s “Blue Wall of Silence”, he was shot under suspicious circumstances while on duty. (He was made famous when Al Pacino portrayed him in the film “Serpico“.)
What’s most disturbing is the frequency of police doing bad. Levitt offers several accounts peppered throughout the book:
- “Nassau County police arrested Hubertus Vannes, a cop in the 110th Precinct in Queens, for allegedly dealing drugs and selling guns he had stolen from his precinct house.” (2007)
“Narcotics cop James Calderon, a thirteen-year veteran, was arrested for allegedly running a cocaine and heroin ring with his girlfriend and two Bronx drug lords that stretched as far south as Virginia.” (2007)
“Former cop Joe Torrado was sentenced to ten years for smuggling cocaine and marijuana from Mexico as part of a drug-trafficking ring.” (2008)