Privacy SOS

Rogue NYPD hunkers down in New Jersey “safe house”

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Around the country there is mounting evidence of increasingly militarized police forces adopting a military mindset and engaging with protestors as if they were “the enemy” – rather than members of the public whose constitutional rights they are supposed to protect. See here, here and here

There is has long been ample evidence that constitutional rights do not figure prominently in the New York Police Department’s outlook. Its “stop and frisk” exercise in racial profiling is at last generating some public outrage. The botched raids and other transgressions of its SWAT team are prominently featured in Radley Balko’s Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America

Combine this “anything goes” behavior with CIA training and a total sense of impunity and you get the latest NYPD exposé by the Associated Press’ Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, “’What?’ Confused 911 caller outs NYPD spying in NJ.”

Here we get a snapshot of a domestic police force aping the CIA in a ‘foreign’ jurisdiction – in this case the foreign jurisdiction is not overseas, but over the New York line in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

After the AP sued the New Brunswick Police Department which was under heavy NYPD pressure to stay mum, the news organization obtained a copy of a June 2009 911 call made to the police by a building superintendent near the Rutgers University campus. He was calling to report something “suspicious” – an apartment that “has no furniture except two beds, has no clothing, has New York City Police Department radios…There’s computer hardware, software, you know just laying around…There’s pictures of terrorists. There’s pictures of our neighboring building that they have.”

The alarmed (and confused) New Brunswick police and FBI rushed to the scene. There they discovered a secret NYPD lair, a monitoring base to keep track of Muslims staffed by NYPD detectives who (in the words of the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for legal matters) “can operate outside New York because they aren’t conducting official police duties.”

Oh. They aren’t conducting FBI business either, as the Bureau reportedly had no idea that the NYPD, its upstart rival in the intelligence-gathering business, was in town. 

The CIA, of course, is not supposed to do domestic spying, but that prohibition has been crumbling. And anyway, why worry about such restrictions with a sidekick like the NYPD, which Mayor Bloomberg maintains has a “right to go anywhere in the country in search of terrorists without telling local police”? 

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.