Privacy SOS

NYPD sergeants’ union crowdsources broken windows by asking off-duty officers to submit photos of homeless

NYPD officers aren't allowed to take photos of the public while on the job, so a union representing 12,000 NYPD sergeants has instructed them to do so while commuting to and from work. The president of the union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, asked officers in a recent memo to submit photos of "the homeless lying in our streets, aggressive panhandlers, people urinating in public or engaging in open-air drug activity, and quality of life offenses of every type" to its office. The union says it will post those photographs to a public portal called "Peek-A-Boo."

New York local 11 news reports:

By midday Monday, the union posted 17 pictures in its Flickr album titled “Peek-A-Boo.” One shows a man sleeping on top of pizza boxes outside a park. Several pictures show men and women sitting on the sidewalk next to illegible signs, presumably that plead with readers for money.

The union appears to think it is providing a public service by performing this photo-laundering, enabling heightened surveillance of New York's poor. In the same memo, the union president slams proposed legislation to require police to identify themselves and obtain consent before conducting searches absent a warrant or probable cause.

Last year, after two police officers were killed on the job, the NYPD temporarily stopped making "unnecessary" arrests, many of them related to so-called "quality of life" offenses like sleeping in parks. It appears as if the broken windows pendulum is swinging all the way back in the other direction again.

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