NYPD’s snooze police on patrol
Messrs. Kander and Ebb wrote that they wanted to wake up in a city that never sleeps, as Mr Sinatra crooned into history. Incidentally, waking from sleep in a city where no one sleeps always seemed a tad ironic.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced recently that the NYPD will wake up sleeping subway riders because it’s been shown time and time again that slumbering straphangers have become easy prey during these times of rising rail crime. They’re easy pickings for the opportunistic miscreant and something needs to be done. What exactly? Increase police presence to nab these nasties targeting nappers? Set up decoys and stings to catch these miscreants in the act? Nope. Even better.
“In the subway situation, we need to have the public’s help with shared responsibility,” Bratton said at a press conference announcing January’s crime statistics. “We think almost 50 percent of reported crimes in the subway involve sleeping passengers.”
The good Commissioner said he understands fully that many subway patrons and straphangers are often exhausted, but he said his officers will still be instructed to wake up anyone who is asleep. You heard me. New York’s finest now dispatched to wakeup details.
Now, let’s stop for a moment and let me address the first question that is sure to be advanced. What’s wrong with waking up people on subways, especially if it’s for their own good? What could possibly go wrong?
I’m glad you asked. Let’s start first with the definition of “sleeping.” Does it mean dozing, nodding off? Does it include a catnap, resting one’s eyes, drifting off, or meditation? And those definitions mean a lot. And what if a citizen refuses to comply? That is, refuses to awaken? Beware heavy sleepers. This could be most problematic, as often refusal to awaken means coma or worse, but the point is simply this: by what authority do police have to order one not to doze? Or to cease slumber. And with each new introduction of police and citizen exchange and encounter comes the chance for escalation and misunderstood interaction. After all, while it’s often forgotten, there’s an implicit right to be left alone. The right to not be bothered, stopped, questioned, annoyed and/or pestered. And note in particular that the bases for the encounter are in the best interests of the citizen, viz. to make sure that they are awake as slumbering patrons are more prone to crime and victimization. A noble effort if ever I’ve heard one.
Now, let’s take that further. I think it’s rather axiomatic that the level of problems that are attendant to and associated with citizens not paying attention are a concern to all. It makes sense. Society has a vested interest in its citizens being aware and alert. Especially with the introduction of cellphones, smartphones and electronic miscellany and folks walking the streets whilst composing texts and emails, listening to music when they should be attending to traffic. So, let’s introduce the police to folks. The police who will then instruct them to lose the phones and earbuds and pay attention. After all, it’s for their own good, right? And if you think this is farfetched, you’re simply not paying attention.
And with the introduction and insinuation of the police into the mix come confrontation, misunderstanding, resentment and the like. Remember, for the most part, especially in New York, police and civilians go to great lengths to avoid each other. It’s never the case where new ways of interaction are concocted by the bored citizens looking to make a friend. This is not intended in any wise as a slam against the cops – or John Q. Citizen for that matter – but it’s the truth.
The idea of police injecting themselves into citizen lives “for their own good” may have worked for Sheriff Andy, but this is the age of RoboCop and 1033 hypermilitarized police, my friends. The times they have a-changed, to quote Mr Dylan.
On a similar note, with creative means and methods to redefine criminality and participate in creative legislation, various institutions have over the years come up with a host of laws and ordinances for the good and benefit of citizens, cities and God-fearing Americans in general. Throughout my career as a prosecutor I’d often shake my head in utter and absolute disbelief at what was presented to me for possible prosecution. And, in keeping with his theme, I was once given a sleeping-in public case to handle. I can still hear the judge ask me – as though I was the author of this unconstitutional monstrosity – what exactly constitutes sleeping, asking me virtually the same list of hypotheticals I provided initially. The statute was passed obviously to address and combat those pesky homeless types, taking up valuable real estate, strewn about the city much to the dismay, embarrassment and discomfort of those who would rather not see them. Needless to say, this statute was tossed. Found unconstitutional for a host of reasons, I’m sorry to say that it wasn’t the last time a less than rational legislation piece was passed.
Next, I have encountered statutes that sought to proscribe being nude or appearing to be nude. Appearing?! Resembling? Favoring? Looking like? What does and did that even entail? Good question. This statute was passed to address public nudity and methinks someone was a tad careless with the statutory surplus and threw in the gratuitous “appearing” aspect.
What about this beaut that’s in virtually every justification in the country – loitering and prowling. Usually the statute’s in combination with “for the purposes of _____”, but that pesky loitering and prowling aspect is always included. Not individually ever, but always in tandem. As if one can never loiter without the attendant and obligatory prowl.
Quick, show me a loiter. What does that even mean. Loiter? Hang around? Hang out? It’s been defined as remaining in a particular public place for a protracted time without any apparent lawful purpose. And how can you tell what someone’s up to by virtue of the protracted time they’ve been hanging out? Prowling is considered lurking in an area with an intent to commit a crime. Again, how can you even begin to enforce that? Besides, I trust you can see immediately the goal of these statutes. To keep certain people out of certain areas for less than certain reasons. Dig?
Please think not that I’m being priggish or cheeky with this wordplay. Statutory construction is critical and one of the definitions of a constitutional law is one that can be readily understood and followed, the theory being it’s most difficult to comply with the ambiguous.
The bottom line is this: we, you and the masses are being habituated and conditioned to a more and more confrontational and intermeddling police force that is insinuating itself into every conceivable aspect of our lives. Throw into the mix legislatures and tribunals, who think nothing of involving themselves in our lives by drafting the most patently absurd prohibitions and restrictions on liberty that one could possible conceive of. And all at the insistence and applause and encouragement of a more and more dependent and pliant public, who views this nonsense as restraining dangerous miscreants and those who dare to defy the law and obliterate public order.
Simply put, when you read story after story of dozing commuters being roused by the cops, folks stopped and questioned for being in parts of the city they shouldn’t be, not to mention the horrible stories of Amish arrested for selling raw milk or growing vegetables in your own front yard, you become used to them. The stories are countless, the frequency alarming, yet the reaction is as usual muted and, frankly, nonexistent. This is by design. Designed to enslave you via conditioning.
And that, simply put, is the goal and the end result of this constant and unrelenting barrage of intimidation, insinuation and intrusion.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.