Extremely ominous as it proliferates through the enforcement system
Natasha Lennard writes in Salon—and I am noticing more and more that I always like what she writes—a warning of sorts:
When NYPD officer Kha Dang took to the stand this week in the landmark federal trial challenging stop-and-frisk practices, he couldn’t have known how revealing his testimony would be. Indeed, based on his comments, it’s striking that that the police department would allow Dang — a so-called stop-and-frisk “all star” for the large numbers of stops he carried out — on the stand at all.
As Ryan Devereaux reported for the Guardian, in the third quarter of 2009 alone “Dang made a total of six arrests out of his 127 stops. He wrote one summons. He found contraband once. He never recovered any weapons and he only stopped people of color, primarily African Americans, 115 times to be exact. He never stopped a white person.” Dang’s record here is stunning enough alone. More telling still is the justifications he recounted to the court for making many of his stops, referring to repeated observation of individuals’ general behavioral patterns, including “furtive movements” — a vague policing phrase regularly stretched beyond the limits of all reasonableness. “We have a general idea of their behavior,” Dang testified.
The weak justification given for the regular harassment of young black men in New York is noteworthy. But waiting and watching for “weird behavior”and certain behavioral patterns is not just a flawed NYPD policy — it’s increasingly the sort of preemptive and prefiguring policing that underpins national security policy too, from how the FBI chooses sting targets to the use of drone strikes to target unidentified individuals displaying “signature” behaviors. From police stops in Brooklyn to drone strikes in Pakistan, the “disposition matrix” applies.
Devereaux’s report on Dang’s testimony reveals the sort of racial and behavioral profiling applied to police stops:
Dang told the court… he would monitor the same individuals going about their lives on a daily basis. If he noticed anything out of the ordinary, what he called “weird behavior,” he might make a stop. When asked what might count as “weird behavior”, Dang said: “Furtive movement would be one of them.” The phrase has come up repeatedly in the course of the trial. Along with high crime area, furtive movement is the justification officers most frequently check off on departmental stop forms known as UF250s. Critics say it a dangerously vague term that allows officers overly broad discretion in conducting stops.
… “Has anyone asked you why you only stopped people of color?” [plaintiff attorney Bruce] Corey asked. Nobody had, Dang replied. Corey asked Dang if his supervisors had raised concerns about the fact that he did not recover any weapons during the period in question, again he said no.
The model of officers making stops here maps neatly onto the mechanisms that go behind CIA drone strikes known as “signature strikes.” Watching and waiting using drone technology, the CIA do not launch signature strikes against identified al-Qaida suspects (just as nearly all NYPD stops are not carried out on identified crime suspects) but rather, as Pro Publica reported, “drone operators fire on people whose identities they do not know based on evidence of suspicious behavior or other ‘signatures.’”
Sarah Knuckey, NYU lawyer and special adviser to the U.N. special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, stressed at the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ hearing on lethal drone strikes last Wednesday that the reliance on “vague and expansive” legal concepts and rubric makes some nonsense of claims that strikes are precision driven and “targeted.” In her testimony to Congress, noted here, Knuckey said: . . .
Continue reading. It’s important.