Street Arrests in America, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

In the wake of the death of Eric Garner, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said that New Yorkers need to learn to not resist arrest. With violence in St Louis over another police stop, we assess the state of street arrests with Eugene O'Donnell, a former police officer, former prosecutor, and professor of law and police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.


Eugene O'Donnell

Comments [18]

Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Custody Averse from Brooklyn

Your points are well taken but the problem of arrest records (as opposed to conviction records)is probably insoluble. In a digital age where an arrest is recorded (often with details) and published in online newspapers there is not much the state can do to keep that info out of the public space. The companies that provide b.g. services are often based offshore in any case. Public records are public records and freedom of the Press is not going away.... companies that hire and fire based on arrest records are most likely going to get away with it until we get a law banning b.g. checks prior to extending an offer of employment.

Aug. 18 2014 11:22 AM

Really, Eliza from Clinton Hill, you were afraid that gunfire would breakout!?

Don't you feel that this situation is dramatic enough?

Police Officers have an EXTREMELY DIFFICULT JOB, how can people overlook that? They put their life on the line daily. Yes, a lot needs to change but our life would be a lot more challenging than having to put up with some pot smokers if Police weren't around.


Aug. 18 2014 10:56 AM
Custody Averse from Brooklyn

Prof. O'Donnell is right to acknowledge the arrest itself is essentially a punishment, and is not abrogated by the "due process". But the segment has not sufficiently acknowledged that the arrest itself also condemns. Employers in particular systematically judge arrest records negatively -regardless of the arrest's disposition. I have socially met many many managers who confide that they (illegally) jettison any applications where an arrest turns up in a background search. Not long ago, a friend with a stellar work and academic record who had a minor, childish (and dismissed) infraction was confidently informed from an HR person they had grown friendly with that their 5 year old arrest (that did not result in a conviction) would preclude their getting hired at that company. There was even a class action case against the US Census in 2010 for engaging in setting aside applicants with merely arrest records. Once a person is arrested, not only are you finding yourself in the casino of the court system, but you are being condemned to a level of un-hireability (rightly or wrongly, legally or not) indefinitely in many many positions. In that sense, the arrest is itself a conviction that results in a lifelong stigma. Expungements and record sealings are not a guarantee that such a record will not appear, and mar one's eligibility to be hired regardless of one's innocence or its innocuousness. There is no presumption of innocence in front of a hiring manager. (And if that is illegal, who is arresting and prosecuting hiring managers for that serial infraction?)

Aug. 18 2014 10:55 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Imagine how much differently Eric Garner's arrest might have gone if the Police had the ability to say this to him:

"The bad news is you're going to be arrested whether you like it or not because we have convincing evidence you've committed a crime. I have to do it. It's my job. But the good news is that we'll take you back to the station and book you (fingerprint/b.g. warrant check) and have you out in about 3 hours with a PTA and you can sleep at home tonight. Fight this in court if you're innocent but don't fight me on the street because you will lose."

Most people will act in their own best interests. Will that sort of thing work for a guy who just beat up his wife or a guy with felony warrants? Nope. They know they're going to be in jail for awhile and they probably should be as they are presumably a danger to others and at the very least they need to see the judge. But those are by far the minority of cases... it's mostly just piddling BS.

Aug. 18 2014 10:47 AM

What do you think the cops are going to say? That resisting arrest is ok and if you can overpower the officer then you are free to go? Maybe before an arrest can be made the officer and suspect should submit to a MMA match officiated by a judge and if the suspect can knockout out or choke the cop unconscious he is free to go? Good plan! But wait, wouldn't that be sexist since men are more likely to be able to successfully resist arrest? Check your male privilege bro! Liberalism has won all its non-economic battles and has to go to more and more ridiculous lengths to find new issues, but anything to avoid dealing with the third world level income inequality...

Aug. 18 2014 10:30 AM
Andrea from NYC

Mr. O'Donnell observed that just walking down the street at night attracts police attention in some localities. I briefly lived in an almost all white town in Orange County CA. Being a New Yorker, I would walk (on the sidewalk) the 4 blocks to Vons if I needed beer, milk,etc. at night. Why drive 4 blocks?
More often than not, I would be stopped and questioned by a cop in a passing patrol car. I am white and then forty. I can just imagine if I were a black teenager. This happened to be the same year as rhe Rodney King incident and riots.

Aug. 18 2014 10:29 AM
Eve S. from NYC

What's missing from O'Donnell's discussion is that the whole concept of "resisting arrest" is deeply tainted. The police routinely use "resisting arrest" to harass or silence people. During protests, people are arrested with the only charge as "resisting arrest." This has been a sleazy police tactic for decades. In the case of young black men, the purpose is to let them know who's boss.

The police have always had certain common tactics to deal with their own errors (e.g., panicking and shooting a firearm). People are arrested to prevent them from filing a charge or a lawsuit against the cops or the city.

The idea is that people who are arrested will be too burdened with trying to clear their name to take any other action. The judges and district attorneys are complicit in what they must know is a common and dishonest stratagem.

Similarly, the claim that someone was reaching for a cop's gun is a standard trick--so common that you will find it in almost every incident where an innocent black male person was injured during a scuffle.

Cops must learn to say this when they're still at the police academy, they use it so often and so glibly. And they are believed - especially, no doubt, when the victim is black.

It's one thing for jurors to believe them, but what about the courts? Well, something like 80% of judges are former prosecutors - not former defense attorneys. So there you go.

Aug. 18 2014 10:28 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

It's also true that the cops are basically the face of a corrupt criminal justice system and they get that heat too. As others have noted the most damaging part of an arrest happens after the person is booked into the system by a cop. They are subject to ridiculous bond requirements, inefficient processing, disgusting and dehumanizing jails... all before they are found "guilty" of anything. We need to reform the way we handle defendants - unless their is evidence that they are a threat to themselves or others they need not be immediately jailed or arraigned, just booked and released with a PTA.

Aug. 18 2014 10:26 AM

@john from office

Except the arresting officer had NO IDEA that Brown has just committed a felony.

The media has done a very bad job of telling the law officer's side of the story. Six shots to take down an unarmed man seems excessive but *could* reasonably be justified. We just don't know.

However, your presumption that Brown somehow deserved what he got is bigoted. You need more facts.

Aug. 18 2014 10:21 AM
Nick from UWS

A citizen is not permitted to defend themselves against police brutality during an arrest? So what this guy is saying is that fascism is legally permitted from the police department and citizens have to passively submit to it?. What kind of utter crap is this? The mayor says "citizens should not resist arrest"? What's the next sentence? "Resistance is futile"? What is this, the SS? What kind of bullshit is this?

Aug. 18 2014 10:19 AM
Lost a Job from Queens

It is not just the humiliation.
People lose jobs when hauled to central booking for 24 hours for the most minor offences.

Aug. 18 2014 10:19 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The criminal element took over the housing projects when I was a kid in the '50s and '60s and I lived through many riots. The criminal element will ALWAYS seek to take advantage of a situation to cause chaos and mayhem so that they can loot under the cover of "resistance." It's true everywhere in the world.

I'm not saying that some police don't abuse their power, and power always corrupts no matter who has it. But the police and criminals understand each other very well.

Aug. 18 2014 10:16 AM
Eliza from Clinton Hill

Do you know what is a sad state of affairs? Yesterday, I was at the playground with my 3-year old daughter, and there was a young black man defiantly sitting and smoking a joint in the middle of the playground on the jungle gym. I considered calling the cops on him, but honestly, I don't want to subject all those kids on the playground to possible gunfire from the police! This is the point we have gotten to??

Aug. 18 2014 10:15 AM
john from office

Here we go, looting the mini Mart is a rebellion. Liberating that can of beer.

Aug. 18 2014 10:14 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

It's true that this situation is out of control but it's not as simple as "the criminal element" has taken over the protests. This sort of community based rebellion against LE doesn't just materialize out of nothing. It's been percolating for some time. It's not about Michael Brown so much as the culture of LE in this country and their utter disregard for the rights of the citizens they police. They wear their disdain as a badge of honor and we all know the "thin blue line" remains unbroken even when the outrageous and criminal behavior of a police officer is witnessed by another. The shooting of Michael Brown may very well be justified by there are countless cases of shootings that clearly weren't and went unpunished and covered up until IRREFUTABLE video evidence of criminality turns up...

It has to stop. LE culture in this country has to change.

Aug. 18 2014 10:09 AM

Google Glass on every NPYD officer! Record every interaction. It will improve behavior on both sides and be a good record when things get out of control.

Aug. 18 2014 10:06 AM

I can't help but notice that WNYC's headlines focus on the 6 shots reported in the autopsy - not that " . . . all the bullets were fired into his front" of this supposedly fleeing "victim".

Perhaps this account describing Mr. Brown as "coming at" the police officer

Here we go again:

" . . . Tawana Brawley, Duke Lacrosse, Jena Six and recently Trayvon Martin just to name a few.

It is profoundly ironic, and actually a sad reflection on both society and the media, we find ourselves in 2014 with yet another replay only two years distant from the Trayvon Martin fiasco. . . ."

How many progressives are out demanding arrests and convictions for what happened in NYC over the weekend?

How come Mayoy DeFargio's police are not releasing the names or pictures of the perpetrators?

Aug. 18 2014 09:36 AM
john from office

Here we go again. The Black community is outraged that a common criminal is killed while assaulting a police officer.

The video of Mr. Brown manhandling the mini mart owner was telling, he was a common thug. Of course the agents of mischief, Sharpton and Jackson smell money and are there to stir the pot.

I predict that like Newark and Detroit, Ferguson will see a flight of respectable families and businesses will close. Resulting in another black neigborhood that will be forever blighted.

Aug. 18 2014 09:12 AM

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