April 16, 2014

New York City Minutes: Bratton Disbands Muslim Spy Unit, Reins in Collars for Dollars in Internal Affairs

Two stories in the news today highlight NYPD Commissioner William Bratton's remaking of the police department. In his most recent high profile act, he has disbanded the Demographics Unit, a group formed in 2003 whose sole purpose was to infiltrate local Muslim organizations and spy throughout Muslim communities to gather intelligence. According to the New York Times today, the NYPD has acknowledged that its years of activity did not generate any leads. The unit did, however, antagonize and alienate large groups of New Yorkers, who resented being profiled and spied upon. The FBI, which is the organization primarily responsible for such national policing, had criticized the unit. In any event, the Demographics Unit is no more, and not a moment too soon.

(New York Times)

Inspector Joseph Reznick
New York Daily News
In another example of wasted NYPD resources, it appears that the Internal Affairs bureau's investigative methodology rested in no small part on making minor arrests and then trying to flip the arrestees for information on bigger fish. This approach, according to the New York Daily News, was an utter failure as a law enforcement device. It was, however, quite lucrative for the arresting officers, who often receive overtime (known colloquially as collars for dollars) for sitting around generating paperwork for these useless, minor arrests. The new NYPD Chief of Internal Affairs, Joseph Reznick, recently issued a memo that bluntly assailed the practice, acknowledging, “The reasons for enforcement were nonsense,” and, “Most arrests lacked quality and the end result was the same (no intelligence).”

Reznick also described some of the overtime as “borderline abuse” and pointed out that often IAB's own paperwork was incomplete, which is the same sort of offense for which they would write up other officers.

Such honesty is a welcome breath of fresh air in a division that seemed far more concerned with appearances than real misconduct. Now, if this renewed energy could be brought to bear on identifying and prosecuting recidivist wrongdoers, that would be real progress.

(New York Daily News)

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