More Power For Bad Cops: NYPD Head Supports Raising 'Resisting Arrest' To A Felony

by Tim Cushing
Feb. 12, 2015

Here's a horrifying statement:
Asked whether the penalty for resisting arrest should be increased from a misdemeanor to a felony, [NYPD Commissioner Bill] Bratton said he supported the idea.

“We need to get around this idea that you can resist arrest,” Bratton reiterated to reporters after the hearing. “One of the ways to do that is to give penalties for that.”
The most half-baked "weapon" in any policeman's arsenal should never be raised to the level of a felony. "Resisting arrest" is the charge brought when bad cops run out of better ideas. This truism runs through nearly every law enforcement agency in the country. When you take a look at videographers and photographers who have been arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights (and backed by a DOJ statement), you'll see plenty of "resisting arrest" charges.

When a San Francisco public defender tried to head off a detective who wanted to question and photograph her client without her permission, she was arrested for "resisting arrest."

When someone has been brutalized by the police, the words "resisting arrest" are repeated nearly as frequently as the mantra that accompanies every taser deployment and baton swing ("stop resisting"). Resisting arrest is a dodge that makes bad cops worse and marginal cops bad.

Turning resisting arrest into a felony shouldn't happen anywhere. But perhaps especially not in New York City. A WNYC investigation turned up these damning statistics. (via Vox)
WNYC analyzed NYPD records and found 51,503 cases with resisting arrest charges since 2009. Just five percent of officers who made arrests during that period account for 40% of resisting arrest cases — and 15% account for almost 3/4 of such cases.

If resisting arrest was a legitimate charge, the distribution would be much more even. But it isn't. It's a charge that's used most by abusive cops -- and law enforcement agencies know it.
Many policing experts consider charges of resisting arrest to be the best broad measure of use of force in arrests. The department has tracked charges of resisting arrest as a way of identifying officers who may use excessive force, said a former senior department official who insisted on anonymity because he still works in law enforcement.
To turn this into a felony is to grant bad cops a longer leash -- and allows them to do much more damage. Not only will the victims of excessive force have to deal with injuries and psychological trauma, they may also find their futures severely disrupted by a felony charge that will follow them around for years.

The protests following the clearing of the officer involved in Eric Garner's death, followed shortly thereafter by the murder of two NYPD officers by a civilian, have turned the NYPD against the public. Bratton's support of this abhorrent idea makes it clear he's willing to put more power in the hands of his worst officers. However bad he feels the situation is now, this action will only make things worse. The answer lies in greater accountability from the NYPD, not additional punishments for members of the public.

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