Just Go Watch The Wire

For "the Wire" fans, here is a real life episode of a recurring theme on that show -- arrest quotas and metrics creating incentives for bad behavior by the police.

The new recordings obtained by the Village Voice reinforce both sets of allegations made last March. The implications are pretty startling: As a matter of policy, NYPD seems to be encouraging its officers to harass innocent people, even to the point of arresting and detaining them for non-crimes (the city had a record 570,000 stop-and-frisk searches last year). At the same time, the department may be pressuring some officers and citizens to downgrade actual crimes"“even serious ones"“or to not report them at all.

In short, officers are rewarded for petty harassment, but punished for documenting felonies. Here is one irritating practice among many:

About those numbers: While only about one tenth of 1 percent of the stops yielded a gun (at present it's nearly impossible to legally carry a gun in New York), the practice has helped drive up the city's marijuana arrests from 4,000 in 1997 to 40,000 in 2007. Marijuana for personal use was actually decriminalized in New York during that period. But you still can't display your pot in public. So the police simply stop people, trick them into emptying their pockets, and then arrest them for displaying marijuana in public.

Read the whole thing in Reason.


  1. CTD:

    I'd bet that the real number on incidences of "Terry searches" is much, MUCH higher than that. Maybe I'm cynical, but something tells me the vast majority are never reported or recorded in any official manner.

  2. James H:

    That trick is similar to something that happened to a roommate I had. We were having a little party, some neighbors called the police, and he and I met them outside the door. They asked us for some ID, and all he had for ID was a driver's license that was suspended. BINGO, they arrested him for displaying a suspended license to a police officer and he spent the night in jail. He talked to the prosecutor at the hearing and they agreed to some small fine.