How One of NYC’s Most Storied Cops Became Public Enemy No. 1
In early August, just four days after Michael Brown was gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, and just under a month after 43-year-old, father of six, Eric Garner, was killed on camera while the NYPD attempted to arrest him, retired Deputy Inspector Corey Pegues appeared on an episode of the popular hip-hop podcast, the Combat Jack Show.
What followed was a fascinating conversation in which Pegues detailed his childhood growing up as one of five kids with an alcoholic father and struggling mother in rough and tumble North Queens. The family’s dire financial straits led Corey to get involved in the street life at age 13. “The ironic thing is I think about Eric Garner getting murdered in Staten Island—for the record, you heard what I said, murdered—is at 13, I [was] selling loosies.”
After a few years as a “hobbyist” drug dealer, Pegues says he graduated from loosies to becoming a full-fledged member of Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff’s notorious Supreme Team.
Pegues operated as a loyal solider in the Supreme Team for years, engaging in various street brawls, gun fights, and robberies. But that all changed in 1988 when Corey’s first son was born. “When my son was born, I was like: ‘What kind of hero am I going to be? I’m either going to be a street legend or somebody positive,” Pegues told Combat Jack. “That was the change in my life. If you’re 25 and you’re selling drugs, you’re either going to be dead or in jail.”
Why People of Color in NYC Still Don’t Trust the Cops
On July 17, New York City police officers surrounded Eric Garner, an overweight, asthmatic black man, near his home on Staten Island. According to Garner’s neighborhood pal Ramsey Orta, the cops were hassling Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, because they thought he was involved in a street scuffle. The police’s version of the incident is that they approached Garner for selling individual cigarettes—“loosies”—which is illegal because the government doesn’t collect taxes on those sales.
As captured on video by Orta, Garner complained about routine NYPD harassment and was subsequently placed in a choke hold by a plainclothes officer named Daniel Pantaleo. With his head being smashed against the ground and the cops holding him down, Garner cried out, “I can’t breathe!” nine times—you can watch the video on YouTube yourself and count—to no avail. He was pronounced dead at a hospital an hour later, and the video quickly went viral. It bears a horrifying resemblance to the climactic scene of Radio Raheem getting murdered by the NYPD in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing—Lee even created his own mash-up of the two scenes after Garner’s death.
Almost immediately, cries rang out that Garner was a casualty of “broken windows” policing. That’s the theory that says going after minor quality-of-life offenses like graffiti, subway panhandling, and illegal cigarette sales helps discourage serious crimes like rape and murder. It’s the brainchild of criminologist George Kelling, who co-authored a 1982 Atlantic article that remains a sort of manual for modern policing in America. Broken windows was popularized by William Bratton, the NYPD commissioner in the 90s under Mayor Rudy Giuliani who has taken up his old post under the new mayor, Bill de Blasio. The mythology holds that it was the chief factor in the city’s incredible turnaround since the high-crime 70s and 80s—though many criminologists disagree.
Eric Garner and the Plague of Police Brutality Against Black Men
If you haven’t heard about Eric Garner yet, let me fill you in. He was a 43-year-old father of six who lived in Staten Island, and he died in the street on Thursday after as many as four New York police officers choked him and slammed his head on the ground. The NYPD told the Associated Press that they stopped Garner because he was selling untaxed cigarettes, something he’d been arrested for before. However, witnesses who spoke with local news website Staten Island Live have basically said that’s bullshit. Ramsey Orta, who was on the scene and shot a now infamous video that is making the rounds, can be heard in the clip saying that all Garner had done to get bothered by the police was break up a fight.
In the video, Garner denies any wrongdoing and asks why he’s being hassled. “Every time you see me you want to mess with me,” he says in an exasperated tone that most men of color across this country can relate to. Garner, who was 400 pounds and has been described by people who knew him as a “gentle giant,” suffered from chronic asthma and police claim his death was the result of a heart attack suffered during the arrest.
Police say that Garner made a “fighting stance” and resisted arrest. Which, based on the video clip, is complete nonsense, considering we can see him pleading to the officers, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!” before going completely silent as several officers pile on him.
The video of Garner’s death is disgusting, but I can’t say I was shocked or even outraged the first time I watched it. At this point, as someone who’s read and written about some of these stories time and time again—and who’s had firsthand experiences with the way cops treat black males—this kind of reprehensible shit is not surprising at all. After so many cases like Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell, you start to feel desensitized by the seemingly insurmountable injustice that plagues communities of color.
Everyone’s Tweeting Photos of Police Brutality Thanks to the NYPD’s Failed Hashtag
Twitter is a cool website where you can type any old thing into a box and senpecid it out into the ether for the entire internet to read. Some people use it to joke around, some people use it to be like, “HEY INJUSTICE IS HAPPENING, WHOA #GETINVOLVED” and some people use it in order to roleplay as characters from Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s a lot of fun, especially if you like heated arguments with total strangers.
Large institutions like corporations and government agencies use Twitter too, usually pretty badly. “Hey, we’re a pizza company, send us pictures of you eating our pizza and hashtag them #pizzapics” is an example of a typical lousy tweet from one of these accounts. Generally institutions try to drum up something vague called “social engagement”—basically they want to get people tweeting good stuff about them so other people see those tweets and, I guess, come to think good thoughts about the institution who started the engagement campaign. The New York Police Department was probably thinking they could do one of those social engagement thingies when they launched the hashtag #MyNYPD with this tweet:
What the person running the Twitter account probably failed to realize is that most people’s interactions with the cops fall into a few categories:
1. You are talking to them to get help after you or someone you knew was robbed, beaten, murdered, or sexually assaulted.
2. You are getting arrested.
3. You are getting beaten by the police.
2013: The Year in Bad Cops
Most Racist Police Department: New York City
The country’s biggest police force would be hard-pressed not to wind up with some very awkward incidents—when you have 34,000 officers, some of them are going to mess up. But a few bad apples can’t be blamed for the NYPD’s stop and frisk program or its CIA-style monitoring of Muslims. For all the cops’ spying on mosques, they produced no useful tips, and stop and frisk didn’t lead to many arrests either. Between January 2002 and June 2012, nearly 4.5 million New Yorkers were stopped on the street and searched for drugs or weapons, and nearly 90 percent weren’t doing anything illegal. The majority of these searches were performed on black or hispanic individuals, giving the whole thing a strong stink of prejudice. Though the policy’s supporters—including lame-duck Mayor Mike Bloomberg—claim this makes the city safer and that minorities aren’t singled out because of their skin color, civil liberties activists begged to differ and sued in 2010. In August, a federal judge ordered reforms and oversight to the officially racist policy, but two months later she was dismissed from the case for being biased against the city. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has pledged to reform the practice once he takes office in January, even if some cops oppose his efforts.
Most Kafkaesque Definition of “Assault”: New York City, Again
A Manhattan grand jury, faced with the case of officers who shot two bystanders during an effort to apprehend an unarmed mentally unstable man in October, have decided assault charges are warranted, which makes sense given that, well, two people were shot. Except they have declined to charge the officers who shot the women, instead blaming the unstable man who had been darting in between cars and causing a bit of a scene on the day in question. He forced the cops to pull out their weapons and fire, apparently, and also made them miss. (By the way, he was eventually brought down by a Taser.)
Reverend Billy Talen Faces a Year in Prison for Protesting in a Chase Bank
At 1 PM on September 12, performance artist Reverend Billy Talen and his Stop Shopping Choir walked into a JP Morgan Chase asset management bank on 52nd Street. and Park Avenue in Manhattan. Forty-five minutes later Bill and his musical director, Nehemiah Luckett, were getting handcuffed on an F-train subway platform by the NYPD with charges of rioting, menacing, and disorderly conduct. Now, Billy and Nehemiah are facing a year in prison.
In the complaint filed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the bank’s manager, Robert Bongiorno, said he saw “the defendants, along with approximately eight other people, [were] running about the bank while wearing frog masks.” The frog people jumped on furniture and “repeatedly ran up to the faces of the bank’s employees and customers while screaming, in sum and substance, ‘WE ARE COMING FOR YOU!’”
Robert—who was reached by phone but refused to comment for this article—thought the bank was being robbed and, according to the DA, feared for his safety. He also told authorities that he “observed at least one customer or employee inside of the bank break into tears.”
What Happens After Police Shoot Innocent Bystanders?
On Wednesday, a judge ordered the city of Torrance, California, to release the name of the police officer who shot at surfer David Perdue during the February manhunt for former LAPD cop Christopher Dorner, who at the time was out to murder as many of his ex-colleagues as he could. At the time the officer came after Perdue, Dorner had already shot two sheriff’s deputies, killing one, and gunned down the daughter of a LAPD officer and her boyfriend.
Fearful that Dorner might go after a local LA police official next, Torrance cops pulled over Perdue on February 7, asked him a few questions, then let him drive away. A few seconds later a second cop car rammed his truck, and an unnamed officer fired three shots, all of which (thankfully) missed. Perdue’s attorney also alleges that he was dragged from his vehicle afterwards. Dorner, by the way, was black and Perdue is white.
Perdue wasn’t the only victim of the police and their sudden inability to see color during this manhunt. A pair of newspaper carriers—47-year-old Margie Carranza and her 71-year-old mother, Emma Hernandez—were fired on by LAPD officers that same day because their pickup truck apparently looked like vaguely like Dorner’s. That incident provoked a backlash against the LAPD after Hernandez was hit in the back twice and her daughter suffered a hand injury. In fact, Torrance police said they were responding to the report of these mistaken shots when they fired on Perdue. The mother and daughter received a combined $4.2 million from the LAPD for their troubles, while Perdue has refused to settle with the city for the $500,000 they offered him.
We Spoke to Innocent Men Who Were Stopped-and-Frisked
Recently, Steve Ferdman commented on a Reddit thread about stop-and-frisk. We emailed him, and he agreed to tell us more about what had happened to him.
When were you stopped-and-frisked?
Steve Ferdman: Last summer.
What happened when the police approached you?
A plain-clothes cop tapped me on the shoulder from behind and said, “Hi.” Three other plain-clothes cops surrounded me and pulled their badges over their shirts—they were tucked away as they initially approached. One reached into my pocket grabbing my Leatherman pocket tool. They then asked me where I was from, if I had ID, and why I had or needed a Leatherman pocket tool. Bewildered, I explained that I often use the tools to tune the carburetor on my motorbike and to take the seat off my bicycle when I park outside. Then, I asked for clarification as to why he was reaching into my pockets without my consent for something that is readily available at 100 percent of hardware stores in America. Rather than answering, they quickly finished running my ID, handed it back to me along with my multi-tool, and said, “Have a nice day.” They then all stood there mean-mugging me as I walked away.
Do you think stop-and-frisk is racial profiling?
With regards to stop-and-frisk, it’s obviously a racial profiling issue. I think people would be less offended by stop-and-frisk if it were enforced in all areas equally—I’d actually have a blast watching tourists and wealthy folks get stopped-and-frisked. If you can arrest a black teenager for a dime bag of weed, why not stop an investment banker and lock him up for the bag of cocaine in his pocket? Sadly, you’ll never see random searches on Madison Avenue. It’s an uptown and outer-boroughs thing—which is why it’s deplorable.
Read the whole article
Ray Kelly’s Path to Becoming America’s Next Big Brother
On Friday, Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who’s been in the Senate for 15 years and in Congress for 32, recommended the appointment of Ray Kelly, the longest-serving police commissioner in New York City history, to take over the US Department of Homeland Security after the just-resigned Janet Napolitano leaves. Pretty much immediately a chorus went up praising the idea of NYC’s top cop taking the reins of the country’s most dystopian-sounding agency. “Kelly should have been Obama’s pick the first time around—a confidence-inspiring law-enforcement leader with federal experience,” wrote John Avlon in the Daily Beast, a sentiment that’s been more or less echoed by a host of prominent officials. “He’s so professional and so dogged,” Juan Zarate, who was a top national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration, told me. “In some ways he’s the perfect choice.”
In other ways, he sounds like a nightmare.
Why would we want the country’s top security post to be filled by the guy who organized a sprawling, illegal program to spy on New York City’s Muslim community and who has overseen the emergence of a stop-and-frisk regime whose blatant racial bias is a national embarrassment and potential propaganda tool for our enemies? Whether it’s directing the Transportation Security Agency and our airports, managing immigration and border enforcement, or just generally having his way with a multi-billion dollar budget, the opportunities for abuse in a Kelly-run DHS are terrifying to contemplate.
Given that he has already worked closely with the CIA on controversial programs in New York and plenty of cities abroad, it’s hard to imagine Kelly being a force for restraint at a time when the Feds’ surveillance powers are under scrutiny from the public and the media. His returning to DC, where in the Clinton years he served as US Customs commissioner (among other posts), would reinforce the already widespread perception that the Obama administration is indifferent to civil libertarian criticism of its national security policy. In many ways, Kelly is even more authoritarian than the Obama Justice Department—when Attorney General Eric Holder recommended that the NYPD have an outside authority monitor the stop-and-frisk program, Kelly publicly “blasted” (to use the New York Post’s phrasing) his old buddy Holder.
I Got Raped, Then My Problems Started
Above: One of my cartoons that, apparently, make me a less credible witness to my own rape.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one out of six American women have been the victims of rape or attempted rape. I am one of those women. I don’t think my story is particularly rare or special. It happens all the time—again according to RAINN, a rape occurs in the US every two minutes in this country—and just like 97 percent of rapists, my attacker walked free. I would like to share my personal account of what it is like to file a rape accusation though, so if you haven’t gone through the process you can learn about all the fun that comes with it. (I’m sure a lot of people, unfortunately, already have a pretty good idea of what it’s like.)
I’ll start at the very beginning: In early October of 2010, I went to meet my friends at a bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It was around 10 PM. There was a guy hanging out in my little cluster of people who I wrongly assumed was a friend of my friends. He was socializing pretty well with the group, as if he knew a few of us, and I didn’t give it a second thought. I was drunk. There was some cocaine use going on. While I was outside smoking a cigarette, the guy came out for a smoke too, so we talked. I didn’t flirt with him—I don’t really know how to flirt, and anyway, I wasn’t attracted to this guy in the slightest. He was about five-foot-nine with a thin yet muscular build and looked like he might be of Hispanic or Italian descent. Later, I’d describe him to the cops that way.
There was a disconnected look in his eyes, and at first I figured he was just shy and trying to connect desperately to others through drugs, as many people do. He didn’t flirt with me either, nor did he show any romantic or sexual interest in me. He did ask me if I wanted to do a bump of coke in his car, rather than waiting in line for the bathroom inside. His car was right in front of us, and even though I was nervous, I climbed in. As soon as the doors were shut, he locked the doors and started the car. I demanded to be let out, and as he started driving I told him to turn back and that my friends were waiting for me. He said, “Don’t worry. I’m turning back,” with a stoic expression carved into his face. He didn’t turn back. I kept asking where he was taking me, and soon he stopped responding.
He brought me into his spotlessly clean and creepy apartment where porn was already playing on multiple monitors placed around the room. I told him repeatedly that I didn’t want to have sex with him and that I wanted to go back to my friends. There was no ambiguity about the situation at all. I spent a lot of time pushing him off me. He threatened to kill me. He punched me. He pulled my hair when I tried to get away. Every time I told him to stop he slapped me in the face. He repeatedly called me a bitch and a whore. He ordered me to shut the fuck up. I ended up begging for my life. I even offered him money if he would just please not hurt me. The worst part of the ordeal was having to look at the massive “666” tattoo on his lower abdomen. I ran away as soon as I felt I had the opportunity to do so. He chased after me.
I didn’t really know what to do about the whole thing. I was scared to go to the police because it’s common knowledge that rape victims are often treated like shit, especially if they aren’t as virtuous as the Virgin Mary. I knew I’d be made to feel guilty about my intoxication, I knew I’d be asked about my misguided decision to willingly get into the car, and I already felt guilty and stupid about those things. A friend of mine convinced me that reporting it would be the right thing to do anyway. Her advice was to look “as broken as possible. Don’t wear black eye makeup and dress stylish like you usually do.”
Now, I think I look like I’m about 12 years old without makeup, and it makes me feel naked, but I went to the police station looking sad and makeup-less about 24 hours later. The cops were nice and cool about the whole thing as I filed a report, then I went to the hospital and got a rape kit. Afterward, I was interviewed by a detective who kept asking me about what I was wearing at the time and who told me that this case would probably never make it anywhere because I was intoxicated. Instead of focusing on what was done to me, most of his questions focused on why I didn’t fight back harder and run away sooner. The answer to both was because I was afraid and operating on a kind of autopilot—I never imagined anyone would accuse me of failing to get away.