The far-reaching effects of police misconduct

New York Police Department Times Square NYC photo credit Meriç Dağlı

When I first heard about BuzzFeed News’s exposé of NYPD misconduct from the new owner of Bushwick Daily, I had two thoughts almost simultaneously:

  • Sounds like a scoop! Way to go, investigative reporters.
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  • But everyone knows there’s police misconduct. What are they going to reveal that’s new?

For better and worse, the answer is plenty.

Ace reporters Kendall Taggart and Mike Hayes published “Secret NYPD Files: Officers Can Lie And Brutally Beat People — And Still Keep Their Jobs” two days ago. (And I was pleased to hear them with Brian Lehrer on WNYC yesterday. My hat’s off to all of you!)

They found:

  • Some NYPD employees who have been allowed to stay on the force after repeatedly lying in court have sent innocent people to prison—and kept guilty people from doing time.
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  • New York taxpayers foot the bill to settle accusations against errant officers who continue to serve, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars per officer—on top of paying some of them six-figure salaries.
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  • The secrecy and subjectivity of NYPD misconduct trials mean life-altering case decisions can easily be made based on the simple personal prejudice of one police commissioner—and cannot be challenged.

Today, I was pleased to share a summary of Taggart and Hayes’s findings and some information about alleged misconduct in Brooklyn’s 83rd Precinct with the Bushwick Daily community. You can read the post here.

New Groundswell mural vivifies East Williamsburg; really makes ya think

Early last week, I took a short walk down Manhattan Ave to its terminus at Broadway. It was a nice walk—in part because, on a morning this hot, I found myself actually enjoying being in the shadow of those 2,700-unit Lindsay Park cooperative housing buildings. But mostly it was because I knew what awaited me at the end: not one, but two!, beautiful and moving public murals by NYC’s own Groundswell, a nonprofit that’s been bedecking the city with gorgeous, socially-conscious public art, painted by teams of professionals and city kids, for 20 years.

I’ve been admiring the first mural I passed, “I Just Want To Come Home,” since it went up in 2015. A “contemporary blues piece,” according to the organization, the painting’s moody color scheme and kaleidoscopic arrangement of faces  within the letters of its title make it at once an arresting, calming, and haunting visual experience. With the knowledge that its purpose is to illustrate the complex relationships between police, young men of color, gentrification, incarceration, and a sense of safety and belonging, that experience is enriched many-fold.

Then I turned the corner onto Broadway and joined the dedication ceremony for Groundswell’s newest art project in our ‘hood: “The Fall of Oppression” (so new, it looks like Groundswell’s yet to put it on their website!). It’s a pretty fascinating work.

You can read my write-up of the whole dedication experience—complete with tear-jerking quotes from the lead artist, Groundswell’s program director, and our city council district rep—on Bushwick Daily.

My renewed thanks to all of you for keeping Williamsburg an enjoyable and educational place to live, paint, and walk. And for continuing to fight that good fight.

Readers: Tell me about your favorite public art!

Cops, doughnuts, and the evolving streets of L.A.

If you haven’t watched Locavesting founder Amy Cortese’s 2012 TEDxMaui talk, you might want to check it out. Amy is a longtime and award-winning journalist, book author, public speaker, and all-around very cool person, these days mostly focused on the topics of crowdfunding and community.

Locavesting

In 2011, she published Locavesting: The Revolution In Local Investing And How To Profit From It, which chronicles the local investing movement and explains how even small investment shifts away from multinational companies and toward locally-owned enterprises could reap enormous economic and social benefits for individuals, their communities, and the country.

Oh, and at around the five-minute mark of her TED talk, Amy tells the story of “the cops in Clare, Michigan that saved their town’s 111-year-old bakery—and revitalized their downtown in the process.” I’ll let her deliver most of the rich details, but can’t help letting you know that these guys renamed the place “Cops & Doughnuts” and started selling “Don’t Glaze Me, Bro!” t-shirts!

All of the above made me feel honored to write a story for the Locavesting website recently, about how Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is partnering with national nonprofits like ioby and local orgs like the Ride On! Bike Coop to plan and fabricate L.A.’s next generation of more human-friendly city streets, using a fiscally-viable, community-led process. It’s inspiring stuff!

I invite you to read up, watch at your leisure, and invest locally. See you at the doughnut shop!

Cops and Donuts