When Stephen Anderson testified in early October that planting drugs on people had become regular practice in the New York Police Department, the news validated what many NYC residents and victims of abusive police practices have long known. When officers face pressure to increase arrests, communities -- especially communities of color and low-income communities -- suffer. As ColorofChange celebrates a campaign victory in the fight to end discriminatory marijuana arrests in NYC, Anderson's story reminds us just how entrenched corruption is in our criminal justice system.
Anderson is just the latest member of the NYPD to break the blue code of silence. A recent episode of the radio program This American Life tells the story of Adrian Schoolcraft, an officer in a Brooklyn precinct who faced serious consequences after he exposed misconduct that stretched to the highest echelons of the NYPD more than a decade ago. Schoolcraft’s tribulations with the department began with his decision to tape record fellow officers, supervisors, and senior officials as they gave officers instructions to make phony arrests in order to distort crime statistics in the neighborhood. Using an array of unethical methods, including stop and frisk, officers preyed on community residents in order to reach quotas. When it became clear that Schoolcraft was on his way to exposing this behavior, they subjected him to the worst types of terror and harassment.
While whistleblowing officers who break ranks tend to get the media's attention (think: Serpico), communities primarily affected by unethical and racist police practices are often overlooked. But there seems to be a new wave of organizing energy on this front. Earlier this month, prominent scholar and activist Cornel West was arrested for participating in a demonstration that called attention to stop and frisk policies. Hopefully between the groundswell of protest and the whistleblowers, we'll continue to draw attention to these discriminatory, flawed practices.