The NYPD’s Disdain for the Rule of Law

Posted on November 18, 2011

Longtime observers of NYPD tactics at events associated with Occupy Wall Street may recognize TARU officer Ray Rivera. Short for Technical Assistance Response Unit, TARU officers have been present at nearly every major Occupy event, wielding handheld camcorders to document all the action, and Rivera has always been at the fore.

Here he is filming the proceedings near Wall Street yesterday morning. I also saw him at Foley Square later in the day. My first Rivera sighting on Thursday, however, was actually shortly after I arrived — at 6:30 or so. He as walking hurriedly with a colleague towards a crowd of people, so I started recording:

NYPD TARU Ray Rivera

You’ll notice that upon seeing me with a flipcam, Rivera says “Get that camera the fuck out of my face.” Which is a strange thing to tell someone, especially someone filming a political demonstration of national and international interest. It’s even stranger if the individual making that injunction video records other people for a living, whether his subjects like it or not.

But such is the logic of the NYPD: it’s offensive and provocative when ordinary citizens to film officers, but just, appropriate, and necessary when officers film citizens.

In the NYPD’s world, all pretense of amenability to reason has been dropped. Officers claim ultimate authority to do and say as they please — nearly always with complete impunity. Many citizens cheer officers’ taking law into their own hands, especially if it means a few annoying reporters get beaten and arrested.

In the NYPD’s world, abiding by the law is not something they feel obligated to bother with.

On the night of the Zuccotti park paramilitary raid, I spotted three or four officers sauntering around with wooden objects that resembled oversized baseball bats. As I attempted to take a photo, officers turned away from me to conceal their weapons. One walked away. I waited till another held his in plain view, and was able to get a clear shot. “No pictures, buddy,” one said. Another eyed me sternly for a full minute as I walked off. There was no one else around, so they could’ve had done to me whatever they pleased.

Thursday, back at the PATH station, I noticed that some officers were standing guard with plastic handcuffs in tow. Thinking this notable, I went in to take a photo with my smartphone. Miliseconds after I took a shot, an officer told me, “Put the phone down, you’re not allowed in here with that.”

These two suited gentlemen told me they were with the NYPD. When I requested their names, one said, “Why do you need that?” and refused to provide it, in violation of NYPD Patrol Guide procedure 203-09.

This is only a selection of recent incidents in which NYPD officers have displayed their utter contempt for the rule of law. The same people endowed with the authority to beat, arrest, and kill others have repeatedly flouted legal directives regulating their on-duty behavior, while at the same time enforcing nuisance laws — like those against jay-walking and obstructing pedestrian traffic — with escalating aggressiveness on nonviolent demonstrators.

Let’s admit it: the NYPD is a rogue agency, filled to the top with violent, vengeful men who know they will never be held to account for their actions. It subverts the law at its own convenience. Fair-minded officers should ashamed of their affiliation with an organization that fosters such criminality.

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