Thursday, October 23, 2014

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Police Watchdog Group Set to Release Findings on NYPD Cases

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TWC News: Police Watchdog Group Set to Release Findings on NYPD Cases
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A police watchdog group is monitoring the NYPD by tracking cases through the court system. It plans to release its findings later this week. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

The head of the Police Reform Organizing Project, also know as PROP, isn't giving the mayor and the NYPD any props.

"People are getting arrested for walking between subway cars, for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, for holding an open alcohol container, for occupying two seats on the subway even if there is nobody else on the subway. People are getting arrested for jaywalking," says Robert Gangi of PROP.

PROP is conducting what it calls the "court monitoring project," just as the police department is under scrutiny for its Broken Windows policy.

So far this summer, PROP has sat in on more than 700 cases in every borough except Staten Island.

Gangi says he is disappointed in the findings.

"What we see often is that 95 percent to 100 percent of the people being arraigned are people of color and the vast majority of cases are for low level infractions," Gangi says.

Gangi says with most of the low level offenses, the cases are tossed out by a judge or a person is released without bail.

He says blacks and Latinos continue to be put in handcuffs when a verbal warning or a ticket would be enough.

"A white couple drinking wine or champagne in Central Park are not going to be arrested or ticketed by police. A young black man sitting on the stoop in Harlem is ticketed and arrested for having an open alcohol container," Gangi says.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton say they are satisfied with officers' handling of quality-of-life issues so far this year.

"Officer discretion means attempting to maximize dialogue, attempting to resolve situations as effectively as possible. That doesn't always require arrests. But, breaking a law is breaking a law and it has to be addressed in one form or the other," the mayor says.

"But we need the public's help also to appreciate that when an officer does approach you to correct a behavior that you respond," says Bratton.

Gangi says he respects the mayor and commissioner, but thinks they may not know what's really happening on the street with officers dealings with people of color.

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