A lot of NYPD computers are editing Wikipedia often

Excerpt from an investigation by Capital New York into rampant editing of Wikipedia by NYPD-based computers:

Computer users identified by Capital as working on the NYPD headquarters’ network have edited and attempted to delete Wikipedia entries for several well-known victims of police altercations, including entries for Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo. Capital identified 85 NYPD addresses that have edited Wikipedia, although it is unclear how many users were involved, as computers on the NYPD network can operate on the department’s range of IP addresses.

NYPD IP addresses have also been used to edit entries on stop-and-frisk, NYPD scandals, and prominent figures in the city’s political and police leadership.

 
The full article has some clearer statistics and figures on the edits. Unsurprisingly, some police computers were also simply being used to edit articles of personal and non-police interest to members of the NYPD, such as things related to hobbies and pop culture.

But a heck of a lot of the edits were focused on airbrushing or contesting articles related to controversial killings by the NYPD. And the fact the changes were being made right from computers owned by the NYPD and used at NYPD IP addresses is pretty bold.

It’s hard to know if the changes were essentially “vigilante” actions by frustrated cops/staffers or whether there was some kind of official policy urging them to make such changes on their down time at the office.

The pattern of edits is reminiscent of the notorious editing efforts from computers in the offices of the U.S. Congress toward pages related to members and their rivals or opponents.

Flag of the New York City Police Department

Flag of the New York City Police Department

The Guardian reveals Chicago PD “black site”

Spencer Ackerman, reporting from The Guardian, investigated a huge, secret detention facility being operated by the Chicago Police Department. Excerpt from the lengthy report:

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:
– Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
– Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
– Shackling for prolonged periods.
– Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
– Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

#ReclaimMLK: Why We Need A Bigger Picture of the Civil Rights Movement

The narrative around the Civil Rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s is very narrow. We’re taught in school that — because of racial inequality — Black people in the South staged peaceful protests to change the world for the better. The specific leaders of the civil rights movement are also treated with the same sterility. This is especially true of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday has just been honored again.

Because everything concerning civil rights is taught in terms of History, we are given the impression that the struggle for racial equality is over. By extension, those fighting today must therefore be merely causing a disturbance and not fighting for their personhood to be recognized, like the noble civil rights organizers of the past. Many using Dr. King’s legacy to shame those protesting today are doing so because of that narrow education around the civil rights movement. They do not understand that protests then — as now — were disruptive, and they do not understand that the protest leaders then — as now — were not automatically well-received, even by “moderates.”

Demonstrations are not effective if they happen at the corner of one’s eye. But in order for people to understand exactly how disruptive the Civil Rights movement was, they have to look beyond the few classroom quotes of MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech they learned in elementary school. They also need to understand that the non-violent protests of the past were deliberate acts of disruption.

From late 2014 to present, people have been taking to the streets protesting police brutality and the otherwise unjust murders of Black people across the country. Protesters have shut down freeways and train stations, disrupted brunches, and even managed to close down malls. It’s hard not to look at pictures and videos of these protests and see the similarity between them and the old black and white videos of protests in the past.

If you look specifically at the Montgomery Bus Boycott, for example, that was a deliberate attempt to disrupt the status quo fundamentally. It was about far more than just seeking justice for the initial arrests that led up to the boycott, much in the way that today’s protests have become about more than any one victim. The privately-operated transit system lost money from of the refusal of Black people to use the buses for over a year, over its mandated segregation requirements, because Black people made up 75% of the transit system’s business.

Pictured: The Montgomery bus on which Rosa Parks was arrested at the start of the boycott. Now in the Henry Ford Museum. (via Wikimedia)

Pictured: The Montgomery bus on which Rosa Parks was arrested at the start of the boycott. Now in the Henry Ford Museum. (via Wikimedia)

Although the act didn’t involve violence, they also weren’t passive. They were purposefully breaking a law by organizing a boycott of a business, which at the time was illegal under state law. Dr. King was actually brought to court for the boycott and was eventually made to pay $1000 in fines and court fees as well as spend 2 weeks in jail.

Similarly, in 2014 during the Ferguson demonstrations we saw an attempt by law enforcement to silence protests. Protesters were told they weren’t allowed to stay in place and would have to continue marching or leave the protest area. This was an obvious attempt to dispel the protests by tiring out the people involved. The protesters chose to march daily for more than three months. It was later ruled by a District Court Judge that forcing the protesters to continue moving was a rights violation and could not be enforced.

On Monday, January 19th, 2015 in honor of the MLK holiday, protesters decided to #ReclaimMLK. They held marches in several cities, including Ferguson, urging people to continue to speak out. On their website, they made clear demands for what they wanted to accomplish in their protest — and encouraged people to connect and take action in their own cities. Most important of all they were declaring that their demonstrations are just as valid as Civil Rights demonstrations of the past.

The Civil Right movement is far from over. As King himself suggested in his own lifetime, it’s a continual process, and despite the progress that has been made, we still have a long way to go.

“Now you will notice that the extreme optimist and the extreme pessimist have at least one thing in common: they both agree that we must sit down and do nothing in the area of race relations. The extreme optimist says do nothing because integration is inevitable. The extreme pessimist says do nothing because integration is impossible. But there is a third position, there is another attitude that can be taken, and it is what I would like to call the realistic position. The realist in the area of race relations seeks to reconcile the truths of two opposites while avoiding the extremes of both. So the realist would agree with the optimist that we have come a long, long way. But, he would go on to balance that by agreeing with the pessimist that we have a long, long way to go. And it is this basic theme that I would like to set forth this evening. We have come a long, long way but we have a long, long way to go.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

The NYPD: America’s Secret Police

Misconduct by the NYPD (with or without the apparently irrelevant backing of the law, based on their recent disrespect for their elected leader) extends from the individual level – stop-and-frisk encounters or the chokehold killing of Eric Garner – to the systemic and massive.

As a reminder: It took until April 2014 for the NYPD to shutter a terrifying surveillance program against Muslim communities, which was established after the 9/11 attacks.

That program not only sent undercover spies to Muslim neighborhoods in the city to track ordinary New Yorkers going about their daily lives, but it extended across the entire northeastern United States – well beyond the bounds of New York City.

The program was advised by the CIA (see previous link) but acted without the knowledge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In true Orwell fashion, it was named the “Demographics Unit.”

Such “secret police” behavior – down to the inscrutably euphemistic name – is like something out of Tsarist Russia.

Such programs — or indeed national security in general — are not supposed to be the role of a municipal police force. Activities by the NYPD in the past decade and a half suit the secret police forces of a 19th century reactionary monarch in Europe far more than a 21st century American liberal democracy.

Flag of the New York City Police Department

Flag of the New York City Police Department

#BlackLivesMatter means just that, not that police lives don’t

It shouldn’t need to be said that Black lives matter. If, in the US, all men (and women) are created equal, then it should be a given that Black people’s lives hold just as much value as any other life in this country. However, it seems that with each passing week it’s becoming more and more evident to the public eye that this isn’t the case.

With the murder of Mike Brown – and the subsequent actions by police after – many in Ferguson, Missouri were fed up and decided to take action. Soon after, other cities joined in protest, adding the names of those who had been killed in each location to a long list of Black and Brown people who’d been killed in recent months and years, including Eric Garner’s. All of them by the police who are supposed to serve and protect them.

Yet it seems that many people think that acknowledging the value of Black life — i.e. that #BlackLivesMatter — is in opposition to the lives of the police. That they are somehow mutually exclusive. In many places “pro-police” counter-protests have popped up with the slogan “Blue Lives Matter.”

The NYPD even went on an unofficial protest after they were upset to hear that Mayor Bill de Blasio advised his son (who is Black/biracial) to be careful in his interactions with the police. They say de Blasio teaching his son this fuels distrust in the police and could endanger their lives — and that it indirectly leads to incidents like the shooting of the two NYPD officers that happened in December.

In protest, they stopped making minor arrests, and began instead to make arrests or issue summonses only when absolutely necessary, meaning things like parking violations won’t result in confrontations with police. It also potentially means no Stop-And-Frisk, which Mayor de Blasio hadn’t ended completely, despite that being a central campaign promise.

It seems odd (read: racist) that the idea of valuing Black life is automatically thought of as devaluing the lives of police officers. It seems odder still that while police counter the main protests with the contention that “Blue Lives Matter,” they ignore the fact that many Black police officers – who should also count as “Blue” lives – often feel the brunt of racial profiling done by their own co-workers.

In an additional irony, in their counter-protest, the NYPD seems to have forgotten that Eric Garner’s death resulted from an unnecessary arrest for a minor purported violation. Garner was approached by the NYPD for allegedly selling loose cigarettes, which certainly didn’t warrant the use of force in the attempted arrest. So perhaps this unofficial protest has done more good than the harm they expected. Either way, when people say “Black Lives Matter” what they mean is Black lives matter. They don’t mean that anyone else’s lives matter less. Hopefully soon police forces across the country will realize this too.

Police Chiefs in at least two cities seem to recognize the meaning behind these protests. In Nashville, Police Chief Steve Anderson responded to a message left on the police departments website challenging the commenter’s idea of what constitutes a the city being safe, and expressing respect for the rights of the protesters in Nashville. In Pittsburgh, Police Chief Cameron McLay showed his support for protesters with a sign pledging to “challenge racism at work.” Both are White.

In the latter case, the response to this chief’s display of solidarity with the community has gotten negative attention from the president of the police union in Pittsburgh who says the chief’s stance makes the police force look “corrupt and racist.” Chief McLay stood by the message on the sign.

Whether they realize it or not, some police seem to have stumbled onto the solution to their constant and fatal confrontations with Black people. When people are treated as people and not criminals, crime rates don’t increase, even as the people are policed less. When protesters are treated with respect, there is less likely to be a violent confrontation between them and the police. When Black lives are given the value they deserve, the relationship between them and the police improves.

The value of outrage

Noah Berlatsky published a piece in The Atlantic on the pernicious (and recurring) trend of policing strong emotions — primarily “outrage” — as “unserious” in favor of “respectability” and “civility.” He looks at some historical examples of amped-up political and cultural outrage from well before the internet age and muses on its role in moving democracy forward. Here’s just a tiny taste:

The Ferguson and Eric Garner protests have been heavily promoted, organized, and in some cases funded on social media. Setting online outrage against “real” organizing neatly sidesteps the knottier truth—which is that outrage and organizing, online and off, are intertwined. The challenge is not to separate out the outrage, but to figure out a way to harness it to meaningful causes.
[…]
Outrage will never create perfect justice, because nothing will create perfect justice. It has undoubtedly been and is still used for trivialities, and not infrequently for evil. But the difficult truth of democracy is that without the logic of outrage, it’s hard to strive for a better world.

 
It’s also a bit frustrating to watch people try to curb or dismiss outrage that comes from a very real place and life experience. What if there aren’t two sides to be heard? (Or at least not two legitimate sides.) What if it’s actually valid to have and express strong emotions? What if being calm, cool, and collected is actually the inappropriate response? The cool cucumbers don’t seem to consider those possibilities.

Which isn’t to say everyone should be outraged, or has reason to be outraged, or should be outraged all the time. But it is to say that it has its place and isn’t automatically unjustified. It also doesn’t make someone automatically less intelligent or less qualified to speak. The content of people’s complaints is probably far more important than the tone.

Reuters: NYPD targets even its own Black officers

A Reuters investigation finds NYPD is even attacking its own Black officers when they’re out of uniform. Here’s just a small excerpt from their interviews with two dozen current and retired Black, male NYPD officers:

The officers said this included being pulled over for no reason, having their heads slammed against their cars, getting guns brandished in their faces, being thrown into prison vans and experiencing stop and frisks while shopping. The majority of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times while driving. Five had had guns pulled on them.

 
Beyond anecdotes, Black officers are also more likely to be killed in friendly fire incidents:

John Jay professor Delores Jones-Brown cited a 2010 New York State Task Force report on police-on-police shootings – the first such inquiry of its kind – that found that in the previous 15 years, officers of color had suffered the highest fatalities in encounters with police officers who mistook them for criminals.