Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
NYPD Commissioner Orders Reviews of Street Narcotics Teams in Wake of Bronx Shooting
Thursday, February 09, 2012
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has ordered a citywide audit of all street-level narcotics teams after investigators discovered the cop who shot an unarmed Bronx man was not qualified for the detail he was assigned to the day of the incident.
Officer Richard Haste, who shot Ramarley Graham in his bathroom last Thursday, had been part of a street-level narcotics enforcement (SNEU) team, but had not yet received SNEU training or plainclothes training before the assignment, according to police spokesman Paul Browne.
Since the discovery, supervising officers told WNYC that all precinct commanders were ordered, to give the Internal Affairs Bureau, which investigates misconduct and corruption within the department, the names of all members of their street-level narcotics teams. Internal Affairs is checking which officers have not received the required training.
Graham, 18, was followed on foot by Officer Richard Haste and Sgt. Scott Morris into his home after officers reported seeing what might have been a gun protruding from his waistband. No weapon was found after Haste shot Graham. Instead, police discovered a bag of marijuana in the toilet.
Both Haste, who has been on the force for three years, and his supervisor, Sgt. Morris, have been stripped of their guns and badges and placed on administrative duty.
Supervising officers and patrol cops said the department is cracking down on training requirements now because of Graham's death, but they added it has been common practice for years to assign officers to plain clothes teams and street-level narcotics units before the officers receive proper training.
SNEU training is offered regularly within the department, and officers said they see their supervisors assign colleagues to SNEU units, with the understanding that the officer will eventually complete the required training.
But members of the department also said sometimes an officer will be in a SNEU unit or plainclothes team for months before he ever receives that training.
Police officers said plainclothes training takes about three to four days and involves instruction about street confrontations, such as tactics to use during hand-to-hand combat. SNEU training takes about a week and teaches officers how to recognize various drugs, what a hand-to-hand drug transaction can look like and relevant search and seizure law.