A memo from the the Sergeants Benevolent Association has revealed an initiative calling on NYPD officers to take pictures of homeless people around the city.
The campaign outlined in the memo, written by SBA President Ed Mullins, appears to be fueled by frustration over local politicians, proposed leniency on quality-of-life offenders and other police reform proposals.
Mullins requested that “as you travel about the City of New York, please utilize your smart phones to photograph 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.” Mullins asked that the photos be emailed to SBA so the union can publish them on the SBA’s Flickr account. The SBA’s “Peek A Boo” album has already published over 200 photos of homeless people.
“Today we hear the loud cries of the naysayers and critics who call for change simply for the sake of self-interest, self-promotion and self-aggrandizement,” Mullins wrote. “Yet, they offer no solutions- absolutely NONE! The naysayers are our inept and spineless public officials who sit amongst the City Council and propose legislation that can only be described as preposterously disingenuous.”
Mullins expressed frustration with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city council, who have been discussing the decriminalization of quality-of-life offenses, according to CBS New York. “I want them to stop with the phony policies that exist,” Mullins said. “What they are doing is they are jerking the public around.”
In the memo, Mullins described proposals that he appears to have identified as unfavorable to police officers, including a proposed Right to Know Act, which would require officers to identify themselves stopped suspects by showing their business card and gaining consent before searching a person without a warrant or probable cause.
Mullins wrote sternly about other proposed reform bills, including one to require reports on the location of officers who have been identified by the Civilian Complaint Review Board; one to create annual reports identifying the city’s top high-crime areas; one to require the NYPD to “issue quarterly reports on the use of force and how often it is related to quality of life offenses”; one to require the NYPD to “publish annual reports on how often officers use force”; one to allow officers the use of “injurious physical force” only when there is a need protect themselves or the public from death or threat of injury; and one that would federally ban the use of choke holds. Choke holds are currently prohibited in NYC under department policy.
Since on-duty officers are not allowed to take pictures of the public, the memo specifies that officers should take these photos in their free time or when traveling to or from work. Family members and citizens are also encouraged to take pictures in the letter.
Mayor de Blasio has expressed support for arrests stemming from quality-of-life offenses but has also expressed support for a limit to those arrests. “There’s no law in this country against sitting on a park bench. There’s no law against standing next to a store asking for spare change. But there sure as hell is a law against quality of life abuses that bother a lot of us in this city,” said de Blasio.