Crime, Police

What It’s Like to Be a Cop

The Village Voice has an explosive exposé today. The publication exclusively obtained hundreds of hours of tape recordings of cops being cops. The Voice explains:

Two years ago, a police officer in a Brooklyn precinct became gravely concerned about how the public was being served. To document his concerns, he began carrying around a digital sound recorder, secretly recording his colleagues and superiors…

In all, he surreptitiously collected hundreds of hours of cops talking about their jobs.

Made without the knowledge or approval of the NYPD, the tapes—made between June 1, 2008, and October 31, 2009, in the 81st Precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant and obtained exclusively by the Voice—provide an unprecedented portrait of what it’s like to work as a cop in this city.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a police officer (or have never watched The Wire) you’ve got to listen to the tapes

When dealing with cops, it’s important to understand that they are under ridiculous pressure … to hassle people:

They reveal that precinct bosses threaten street cops if they don’t make their quotas of arrests and stop-and-frisks, but also tell them not to take certain robbery reports in order to manipulate crime statistics. The tapes also refer to command officers calling crime victims directly to intimidate them about their complaints.

As a result, the tapes show, the rank-and-file NYPD street cop experiences enormous pressure in a strange catch-22: He or she is expected to maintain high “activity”—including stop-and-frisks—but, paradoxically, to record fewer actual crimes.

I’ve already said that the most important lesson I learned in law school was to not talk to police officers. Since graduation, I’ve learned another important lesson: don’t get into the system. A friend of mine who clerked for judges in big city, urban environments, put it to me simply: “If you have an opportunity to run, run.”

Based on these tapes, you can see why a person would say that. Cops are looking for easy busts. Don’t make it easy for them — especially if you have done nothing wrong in the first place. Running makes you look guilty? Whatever. Cops looking to make their quotas also make you look guilty.

Of course, there is humor in these tapes as well:

The tapes also reveal the locker-room environment at the precinct. On a recording made in September, the subject being discussed at roll call is stationhouse graffiti (done by the cops themselves) and something called “cocking the memo book,” a practical joke in which officers draw penises in each other’s daily notebooks.

Wasn’t this the go to move for the fat kid in Superbad?

In any event, check out the tapes and learn more about our system of criminal justice.

The NYPD Tapes: Inside Bed-Stuy’s 81st Precinct [Village Voice]

Earlier: How Lawyers Should Handle Traffic Stops

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