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NYCLU challenges Constitutionality of NYC’s “stop-and-frisk” program

The New York Police Department’s (NYPD) controversial stop-and-frisk program, Operation Clean Halls, is once again under fire.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of residents that were subjected to questionable police frisking that oftentimes resulted in an arrest for trespassing.

Under the program, the City police patrol thousands of buildings in high-crime residential neighborhoods in an effort to prevent drug use and sales. Landlords can request that the police conduct patrols in the hallways and stairwells to remove non-residents who may be trespassing. Because the NYPD has access to the privately owned buildings through written contracts with landlords (landlords often give police officers keys to the buildings), the NYCLU says those agreements could be rescinded.

This program sets up an argument for the “Rule of Law” standard that the U.S. Constitution employs verses the “Law and Order” standard that can be the modus operandi for placing too much authority into the hands of discretionary leaders, according to the NYCLU.While many residents are grateful their buildings are safer, many civil liberty union activists say some officers have allegedly abused the law’s stop-and-frisk intention and turned it into an “arrest-and-jail” of innocent residents.

While the line between keeping the peace and maintaining civil liberties is a delicate balancing act, the NYCLU lawsuit wants the City’s stop-and-frisk program to follow a written protocol with which all parties agree.

Some judges have labeled the exercise of unlawful trespassing arrests as a “dreadful practice,” and it’s simply a trap to ensnare “innocent individuals” trying to live their normal lives.

A growing number of civil liberties organizations have voiced their concern and say the heavy-handed program violates the rights’ of residents and their guests.

“Operation Clean Halls has placed hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, mostly black and Latino, under siege in their own homes,” Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director explained. “For residents of Clean Halls buildings, taking the garbage out or checking the mail can result in being thrown against the wall and humiliated by police. Untold numbers of people have been wrongly arrested for trespassing because they had the audacity to leave their apartments without IDs or visit friends and family who live in ‘Clean Halls’ buildings. This aggressive assault on people’s constitutional rights must be stopped.”

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly couldn’t disagree more.

“I would suspect that the attorneys in this case live in buildings with doormen and they have a level of safety that people who live in tenements, which most of those buildings are, don’t have,” Kelly said. The purpose of the program is to provide Landlords and Tenants with a safe environment in some of NYC’s worst crime and drug riddled areas pursuant to a contractual relationship between the Police and Landlords.

But civil liberties groups contend that the police department continues to blur the lines of personal safety and police state tactics. The NYCLU believes that the NYPD’s enforcement of Operation Clean Halls is a violation of the U.S. Constitution, the New York State Constitution and the Federal Fair Housing regulations.

The lawsuit also alleges that the citywide practice unfairly targets lower-income minorities who tend to live in those higher risk neighborhoods.

“The NYPD uses Clean Halls as a license to stop anybody, at any time, on suspicion of trespassing,” said lead NYCLU attorney Alexis Karteron. “As a result, people who live in Clean Halls buildings are under constant threat of being stopped, frisked, harassed and even arrested by police officers. This type of activity has no place in a free society, and we’re confident the courts will put a stop to it.”

One of the plaintiffs, Jacqueline Yates, lives in a Bronx apartment complex that is enrolled in the contentious frisking program. Yates’ said NYPD officers harass her teenage sons while they socialize in the buildings’ stairwells, lobby and courtyard. She also complained that friends and family are reluctant to visit her home because they are afraid of being arrested for trespassing.

“My children shouldn’t be treated like criminal suspects in their home. They shouldn’t expect to be bothered by police officers every time they leave our apartment,” Yates said. “I believe the NYPD has a role to play in our community. But right now, they don’t make us feel safe. We feel under attack in our homes.”

In an effort to combat illegal activity in high-crime areas, the NYPD introduced the controversial stop-and-frisk program in 1991. Now, 20 years later the small program has grown into a labyrinth of 3,895 buildings that condones stop-and-frisk arrest practices.

The NYCLU criticizes the harsh tactics and says the police department does not employ any meaningful standards or oversight.

The stop-and-frisk practice even ensnares minors. Another plaintiff A.O., who cannot be identified by his full name because he is 17, says he was unlawfully stopped and arrested for trespassing last year shortly after exiting a Clean Halls building with two friends in Queens where he was visiting. Once the boy was arrested, he was taken to a local police precinct and charged with trespassing. However, the Queens County District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute the minor.

“They arrested me even though I was doing nothing wrong – just walking with some friends, minding our own business,” he said.

According to NYPD data, NYPD officers made 329,446 stops on suspicion of trespassing between 2006 and 2010, representing 12 percent of all stops. Civil liberties groups suggest those numbers do not represent all the stops. The statistics also show that only 7.5 percent of reported trespass stops ended in arrests. “The 10 precincts with the most trespassing stops in 2010 – at least 28,209 stops – accounted for nearly as many stops as reported in the remaining 66 precincts combined. More than 5,000 people were stopped for suspicion of trespassing in the Bronx’s 40thPrecinct alone,” according to the NYCLU.

Residents of the affected communities complain that the NYPD is dictating the rules outside the Constitution and undermining the community’s relationship with law enforcement, yet the contracting Landlords have not been named in any legal proceedings thus far.

“The NYPD’s Clean Halls program impacts the entire community – mothers, fathers, neighbors and
friends – not only those arrested,” said civil rights attorney Chris Fabricant, director of the Criminal Justice Clinic at Pace University Law School. “This practice has steadily eroded the community’s faith in the police, and undermined the legitimacy of our criminal justice system. For every one of the plaintiffs who spent months fighting their wrongful arrests, there are hundreds of others who were forced to plead guilty to crimes that they did not commit because they did not have the resources to attend countless court appearances contesting the charges. Any faith in our justice system is destroyed by this process.”

Fabricant explains that, “rookie police officers do not know who belongs in the buildings. They do not know the difference between the trouble -makers and the regular kids who live in the buildings, many of who lack government-issued identification, virtually assuring arrest if police stops them. This creates resentment and fear of the police amongst young people, which is counter-productive to effective policing.”

“These officers do not have tenant rosters; they do not know the residents. Put simply, they do not know who is trespassing and who is simply going about their life in a perfectly legally way,” according to testimony from Professor Fabricant.

He further reveals, “As recently reported by The New York Times, in one eight-block section of Brownsville, Brooklyn, police stopped-and-frisked 52,000 people in a four year period, over ninety percent of whom had committed no offense.”

“But those criticizing the policy say that this has nothing to do with the privacy of landlords — especially since landlords participating in the program are required to post information that informs tenants that the building is a part of TAP (Operation Clean Halls),” Karteron said.

The NYCLU lawsuit seeks a declaration that the NYPD’s practices are unlawful and seeks an injunction against the department that requires the NYPD and the City to:

Stop asking people inside and around Clean Halls buildings for their IDs or about their destination without suspicion that they are trespassing or engaged in other wrongdoing;
Stop arresting people for trespassing in Clean Halls buildings without establishing whether or not the person is authorized to be there;
Establish citywide standards for enrollment of buildings in Operation Clean halls;
Establish policies concerning the authority of NYPD officers to enter Clean Halls buildings;
Implement training for officers who patrol Clean Halls buildings;
Submit for review a protocol to significantly reduce the number of unjustified stops and arrests of people in Clean Halls buildings; and
Award compensatory damages to named plaintiffs.
The federal class-action lawsuit filed by the NYCLU, Latino Justice and The Bronx Defenders and names the City of New York, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as well as individual police officers as its defendants.

To watch a video of the plaintiffs, to see photos of them or to read the full complaint, visit;

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© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

Continue reading on NYCLU challenges Constitutionality of NYC’s “stop-and-frisk” program – National Homeland Security |

NYC courts continue to “shakedown” legal gun owners at airports

Only in New York City could three separate law enforcement agencies obfuscate responsibility for upholding gun laws and resort to finger pointing as their defense to shamelessly robbing the public under color of the “rule of law.” Not surprisingly, the Second Amendment receives an inordinate amount of attention, but not much legal scrutiny from self-serving New Yorkers and the entities they represent.

New York authorities rely on the honesty of air travelers transiting through the state with lawfully owned firearms, who become victims upon disclosure under Federal law of their weapon possession, to create a well-oiled, gun-eating, revenue-raising machine. New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg’s interpretation of the Second Amendment nabs unsuspecting airline passengers (hundreds have been ensnared the past few years) jails and fines them.

New York City is a gun-free zone, and one requires permission from Bloomberg’s administration to carry a weapon within the city– and that permission rarely happens. For security purposes the City often relies on the service of off-duty or retired NYPD to keep the peace in the bustling metropolis of the Big Apple. However, unsuspecting travelers at area airports are apprehended for simply passing through this City to their final destination where it is lawful to have a firearm in their possession.


Combine these heavy-handed tactics with the Department of Justice (DOJ) policy of suing states for laws it favors and Americans have a new recipe for dictatorial leadership. Lately, Attorney General Eric Holder has been in the business of suing individual states for allegedly trumping federal law, most notably illegal immigration and voting laws. While the DOJ picks and chooses its causes, they have chosen to let New York’s Port Authority Police seize lawfully owned firearms from travelers at its airports.

After 9/11, the U.S. government set up a number of safety measures to protect air travelers, and as a result they created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as the federal overseer of airport security. TSA is in charge of security at most major U.S. airports—except New York, which has hijacked control from local TSA agents.

New York City’s firearms interdiction and enforcement interferes with the airport security chain of command. It is here the finger pointing starts and the doubletalk reigns supreme.

The responsibility and non- responsibility approach

This reporter’s recent visit to TSA’s Washington DC headquarters seeking a resolution of this jurisdictional conflict yielded no answers. A phone conversation in the lobby went something like this; “Hi, I’m the reporter from California who has been talking to you via the phone regarding the security measures at LaGuardia Airport and wanted to clarify a few things. Do you have a minute?”

TSA spokesperson Greg Soule then replies; “Sure.”

This reporter answers; “Great, I’m in the lobby can you come down and meet me, I only need 5 minutes?”

Mr. Soule replies; “Aaa… well… actually I can’t come down, but I can refer you to our website.”

Wow, it’s an interesting strategy the TSA employs at their DC headquarters. Another phone call to TSA spokesperson Mike McCarthy confirms TSA is indeed in charge of airport security. Great news. Finally someone can explain why New York City’s Port Authority Police shows up at the ticket counter and arrests travelers when they attempt to check in their TSA-approved locked and unloaded firearm’s cases into checked baggage. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and Mr. McCarthy says there must be a “special agreement” to supersede TSA’s authority.

A “special agreement” explanation leads to the New York Port Authority Police. A call to Port Authority’s Press Officer Al Della Fave yields a similar response, and he explains the officers at the airports are only doing what they are told. And it is Mr. Della Fave’s understanding that Port Authority Police have some sort of “special agreement” with New York’s legal community (Bloomberg and/or District Attorneys) and Port Authority officers are only following orders.

Fair enough, rank-and-file officers are pretty good about following orders, and there is no indication that this case is any different in New York.

The next phone call is to the Queen’s County District Attorneys office that prosecutes the lawful firearm owners, travelling with their guns locked up and stored as per federal law and TSA requirements.

So far, the common denominator with all the agencies is the explicit “special agreement” and if there were a document out there, surely the District Attorney’s office would have a copy of the document.

“I have checked with our executive staff and there is no Memorandum of Understanding between the District Attorney’s Office and either the TSA or Port Authority Police Department,” said Kevin R. Ryan, director of communications for the Queens County District Attorney’s office.

So, the DA admits that there is no “memo” or “special agreement” between the Queen’s County District Attorney’s office, New York Port Authority Police and the TSA that justifies Port Authority Police supersede federal law at their airports. Normally, Federal law requires some sort of Memo of Understanding (MOU) between states and municipalities as currently TSA regulates the interstate transportation of firearms.

Knowing New York City has the nation’s toughest gun laws (after a ton of research) it appears New York City is serious about keeping the city a gun-free zone. Again, fair enough, but if New Yorkers are so concerned about firearms entering their jurisdiction, then why aren’t they apprehending the lawful gun owners as they leave the airport with their firearms in their luggage? TSA keeps a record of all firearms that passengers carry in their “checked” luggage. One would assume law enforcement wouldn’t want those firearms on the city sidewalks, right?

“While I cannot speak on behalf of the TSA, I can tell you that we have never been notified by the TSA of somebody traveling to New York with a weapon. The most likely reason is that the TSA would not be aware of the person’s licensing status in New York,” Ryan went on to explain.

However, TSA confirms they keep a record of all firearms and haven’t been asked by the DA’s office for notification.

The frustration continues, and nobody is taking responsibility or providing constructive answers for those who travel through New York.

Determined to get to the bottom of this issue this reporter called the airline ticket counter at LaGuardia Airport to set the record straight. The call goes something like; “Hi there I’m calling to find out what process I can expect when I get to the airport today. I left California and traveled to New Jersey through LaGuardia with my firearm, which I’m licensed to carry and is stored in the TSA-approved case. I’m headed back later today and wanted to know if there was anything I should be aware of or if I need extra time at the ticket counter?” The American Airline representative, Ty (no last name, security she says), replies; “Nope, it’s the same process in all airports.”

Except it’s not. Had a lawful gun owner followed that due diligence they’d be facing felony gun charges in the City of New York. It seems odd that the airline employees don’t know the rules because once a traveler presents a locked-up firearm at an airport ticket counter in New York for check in, as required by TSA, LaGuardia airline personnel call Port Authority NOT TSA, who immediately arrests the unsuspecting traveler.

Ryan explains that his boss, District Attorney Richard Brown; “has called upon the airlines to warn travelers of their responsibility to check local gun laws. Many airlines when asked by a passenger about transporting a weapon will only inform them of federal regulations with no mention of the need to check local laws. It is therefore incumbent upon passengers to acquaint themselves with the weapon laws of the jurisdiction that they are visiting and to comply with any and all legal requirements if they choose to travel with a weapon.”

Yet, nobody this reporter called mentioned anything about arresting travelers as they try to leave from a New York airport. It’s also worth noting that there is nothing mentioned on the airlines’ or TSA’s websites indicating that if travelers pass through New York they need to make alternate plans for checking in a firearm upon departure.

Consequences of due diligence

For the hundreds of passengers ensnared in New York City’s harsh firearm rules, there is little recourse for an individual. However, several attorneys, including Dick Heller (who was successful in taking on the Washington DC politicos and eventually won a Supreme Court case regarding the right to own a firearm) said at a Washington DC dinner that a class-action lawsuit might be in order to reign in New York’s firearm laws.

As far as the New York legal community is concerned, the law is the law, and until somebody challenges the legal standing, the arrests will continue to take place at the airports.

Ryan explained the law in a matter-of-fact tone that “when a visitor to our city is arrested, particularly at our airports, for possessing a weapon, there are several factors we consider in fashioning an appropriate disposition — including, but not limited to, was the weapon legally obtained, does the individual possess a valid permit in their home state, the duration of their stay in our city and, in airport cases, whether the individual voluntarily disclosed the weapon to authorities. In adjudicating such cases, there must be a balance between our obligation to protect our citizens and an individual’s error in judgment. Over the years, we have struck that balance well in ensuring that justice is served and maintaining our state’s tough, successful gun laws.”

Fairness in New York requires the defendant to pay a fine, court fees and let authorities destroy their legally owned firearm. If defendants follow this sage advice, the judge’s gavel will fall, and they will not serve any jail time. For the court’s trouble, the defendants will pay approximately $10-15 thousand in fees/fines.

One last fact for New Yorkers to consider with their so-called successful “tough gun laws.” is that while New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his District Attorney offices praise their “toughest in the nation” firearm laws, firearm crime statistics portray a different picture.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the most recent handgun crime statistics indicates New York has witnessed an increase of firearm related crimes despite the state’s tougher laws.

Keeping this in mind 2nd Amendment groups, like Calguns, say New York may be infringing on gun rights. “Look if you are staying in New York City, gun owners must comply with the City’s gun laws, but if you are simply passing through it would seem NYC is over-stepping the Second Amendment,” Jason Davis an attorney for Calguns said.

Davis along with other citizens who have been charged with felonies, suffered the wrath of New York’s tough gun laws, contend the entire process is nothing more than a money-making business for the Port Authority Police, New York courts and area lawyers that represent those ensnared at airport ticket counters.

Criminal-defense lawyer Martin D. Kane points out on; “What New York does is not helping matters. It’s pretty unreasonable, and it’s great fuel.” He goes on to explain that attorneys should not try to ‘defend’ these cases and claims there is a legal process in place.

Nevertheless, Kane claims the specific law is clear and there is no room for negotiation (18 USC §926A Interstate Transportation of Firearms, notwithstanding the clear conflict between NYC and TSA regulations regarding the transportation of weapons.

Other NYC gun-related cases

Two more NYC gun cases settled this week involving a medical student, Meredith Graves of Tennessee and a retired U.S. Marine Ryan Jerome of Indiana.

Graves attorney, Daniel Horwitz spoke to media after he successfully reduced the felony gun charge to a misdemeanor. “She’s happy that this ordeal is over, and she’s looking forward to getting on with her life and her career as a doctor,” he told The New York Post.

The former Marine, Jerome’s case also settled this week. After his arrest, Jerome decided to fight the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and beat the felony gun charge, but changed his mind midway through the battle and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor weapons-possession charge in an effort to avoid a three and a half year jail sentence, according to a New York Times story.

While New York City continues to enforce its over-reaching gun laws, it’s up to gun owners to follow the rules, recognize a problem exists in NYC and use legal channels afforded to them to change the Big Apple’s anti-Second Amendment seizures. When a state impedes on Constitutional rights, it has a chilling effect on law-abiding citizens and the last resort necessary is for Lady Justice (Supreme Court) to return the rights’ to the people, just as the founders intended.

To read three other NYC gun-related stories link here;

And here;

And here;

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© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

Continue reading on NYC courts continue to “shakedown” legal gun owners at airports – National Homeland Security |

NYPD frisks, searches and violates civil liberties daily

A troubling new trend has taken hold in New York City; frisking, searching and scanning takes place on a daily basis by the New York Police Department.

Reports made by the New York Civil Liberties Union concluded that 684,330 people in the city were searched by police officers in 2011. The NYCLU says this is 603 percent increase since the troubled stop-and frisk program started in 2002 under the Bloomberg Administration.

The civil liberties union points out that nine out of 10 of the searches result in innocent people being hassled by the police and do not result in a ticket or summons. A report conducted by the NYCLU determined that those frisked, 87 percent were black or Latino.

“Last year alone, the NYPD stopped enough totally innocent New Yorkers to fill Madison Square Garden more than 30 times over,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “It is not a crime to walk down the street in New York City, yet every day innocent black and brown New Yorkers are turned into suspects for doing just that. It is a stunning abuse of power that undermines trust between police and the community.”


“These numbers make clear that illegal stops-and-frisks have become an epidemic in New York City,” according to Darius Charney, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is currently litigating Floyd v. City of New York, a federal class action lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices. “And the only antidote is meaningful, independent oversight of the Department.”The NYCLU contends, that under Mayor Bloomberg, the NYPD targets specific minorities groups for random searches daily.

“I have been stopped, questioned and frisked four times,” said Joseph Midgley, with a picture the Homeless civil rights leader. “Each time I was standing in a public place, committing no crime. Each time, I was asked for an ID, my pockets were searched and I was asked if I had anything illegal on me, which I did not. Each time, the police found nothing illegal, and I was not charged, nor given a ticket. Now that I am homeless, the police harassment has only gotten worse.”

According to the NYCLU’s analysis of NYPD stop-and-frisk statistics, four out of the five precincts with the highest frisks are located in predominantly black or Latino communities. The white or Asian communities have a much lower stop and frisk incident rate.

The dramatic increase in officer frisking has met with considerable anger within New York City. “These new numbers about the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy confirm that the program has not met its objectives and sparks distrust of law enforcement in communities of color,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. “If the goal is to get guns off the street, the program’s failure to find guns in 99.9 percent of all cases speaks for itself. If the goal is to make arrests, the lack of an arrest in 94 percent of all cases is equally troubling. Last year nearly 700,000 stops were conducted, the most ever, and 85 percent of those were black or Latino (race) New Yorkers. It’s time for us to work with communities to get guns off the street, not against them. The NYPD can’t hope to build bridges if it keeps burning them.”

While the NYPD’s new frisking policy may be legal, it has met with strong disapproval from the city council.

“It has become an unacceptable policing policy,” said New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams. “It interferes with the good work displayed by many of the department’s officers and puts innocent New Yorkers at risk.”

Mobile scanning on the horizon

Just as controversial as the NYPD’s random frisking policy is the new portable device that is mounted on police vehicles that can detect any weapons or explosive devices anyone may be carrying as they walk down the sidewalk.

Experts describe the high-tech gadget will use infrared rays to scan a metal form, similar to radiation, and alert law enforcement to anyone carrying a concealed weapon.

“If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation — for example, a weapon — the device will highlight that object,” NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at the Police Foundation’s State of the NYPD breakfast, according to the New York Times. “This technology has shown a great deal of promise as a way of detecting weapons without a physical search.”

The move to develop high-tech gadgetry is a sign of the times. Large metropolitan cities throughout the U.S. are arming their police departments with more military-like weaponry, in an effort to fight all forms of terrorism or citizen uprisings.

The NYPD spokesperson, Paul Browne, said the portable scanner, currently under development with the Pentagon, will have the ability to allow officers 80 feet away in their squad car see any potential hidden weapons.

However, the new technology isn’t without its critics. Many legal experts say there is a real privacy issued being violated as the portable scanners show the outline of a person’s body, similar to the airport scanners already operational.

Also, when citizens travel to the airport and pass through security, they presumably give up their right to privacy to clear a security checkpoint. The same would not be the case for those casually walking down the sidewalk in NYC to grab some food or get some exercise.

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© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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NYPD to stop arrests for small amounts of marijuana.

With seizures of marijuana along the southern border reaching record levels, a memo from the New York Police Department commissioner’s office said it will end arrests for the procession of small portions of pot.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an internal memo to officers informing them not to report or charge offenders who happen to have small amounts of marijuana.

Kelly’s directive orders officers to overlook misdemeanor marijuana possession when the pot becomes ‘public’ after a person is asked to empty their pockets.

“As arrests for possession of minor amounts of marijuana have exploded over the last 10 years, the NYCLU has been working to protect New Yorkers from these senseless and illegal arrests,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “Today’s disclosure implicitly recognizes that police officers have gone too far. This comes as no surprise to the more than 100,000 people, predominantly black and Latino, who have been arrested over just the last two years.”

New York has already decriminalized the possession of marijuana, but the NYCLU contends police officers target minorities, require them to empty their pockets and then charge them with possession of an illegal substance. The NYCLU also says police officers are suppose to issue a ticket rather than put them in jail and force them to appear before a judge.

“In addition to this new order, however, the NYPD must now commit resources to training and monitoring officers to put an end to its decade-long marijuana arrest program and start complying with the Constitution and New York law. If it does so, we should see a huge drop in the number of marijuana arrests,” Lieberman finished.

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© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

Continue reading on NYPD to stop arrests for small amounts of marijuana – National Homeland Security |

Frank Serpico of NYPD fame carries the torch for lamplighters

The younger generation may not remember the movie Serpico, but for those who do Frank “Paco” Serpico is the original super star when it comes to lamplighting. What in the heck is lamplighting? It is the term Serpico coined to replace the term whistle-blowing.

Lamplighting dates back to the days of Paul Revere when the lamps were lit in the tower warning all the British are coming. It is in that spirit that Serpico renamed whistle blowers to a more positive tone. “Lamplighters are individuals who seek truth and justice, even when confronted with the prospect of great personal loss,” explains a passionate Serpico who took on NYPD corruption.

Nothing fires up the original lamplighter more than talking about the perils those who step up and “do the right thing.” Serpico likens lamplighting to entering the tenements in the Bronx, slipping into a room; turning on the lights and watching the cockroaches scamper into the wood works.

Speaking out against titans in the private industry, like big tobacco, or calling uncle when it comes to wartime government contracts or simply trying to protect the borders from terrorists wishing to do harm to American citizens often means stepping outside the comfort zone.

For Serpico, becoming a law enforcement officer was all he wanted to do. To him
a police officer meant respecting the law and doing what was right. You could say his Italian immigrant family values instilled in him the most important trait for a cop- integrity.

“Given the current situation in America and the world, we are at a unique time in history where it is of paramount importance, perhaps more than ever, to ‘do the right thing,’” Serpico explains.

Speaking about America’s living breathing document, the Constitution, former NYPD tough guy explains that it is the job of each citizen is to distrust government and keep those in power, “in check.”

Shining the spotlight on wrongdoing isn’t just ‘the right thing’ but it must be a mantra. According to Serpico, spending one’s life in the grey-zone of morality is simply unacceptable.

Taking a trip down memory lane, Serpico describes some of the toughest moments he faced was the feeling of isolation, loneliness and the knowing that it’s him against the world. For these reasons and others it is important for lamplighters to seek support from groups like the Government Accountability Organization (GAO), Project On Government Oversight (POGO) as well as Serpico’s new website.

“I get many letters from people all over the country and I can’t read them all, but having a support group with other lamplighter organizations can lend a sounding -board environment to drive away the notion you are alone,” Serpico says.

One of the toughest aspects for those who buck the norm and take on corruption first hand is the fact that management is a big part of the problem. Most lamplighters don’t just make the decision to expose co-worker misdeeds; they really weigh all the pros and cons before walking into the bosses’ office.

Once inside the office, behind closed doors the uncomfortable conversation unfolds, believing that shedding the light on inappropriate actions will eventually lead to changes. However, in most cases it is the lamplighter themselves who is shown the door.

The process then moves along to investigation into the lamplighter’s job performance or results in a transfer to another less important post within the company. Altruistic motives, turn to tampered feelings of discontent- management already knows.

Disappointed doesn’t even describe the feeling I had for police chiefs they just “want you to fade into obscurity,” says Serpico.

Today’s new world order

The conversation with Americas top cop diverts to what America faces today in a world of global politics, domestic issues and war.

“I expected Obama would do ‘the right thing’ and end the war (in the Middle East) instead he escalated it,” Serpico tersely says. “It is clear D.C. is broken and Americans can take a page from the people in Iran.”

Yes, he said Iran and he is referring to the recent uprising in the streets by the young Iranians seeking a new government and who seek equality. “They (politicians) treat us like we don’t have a voice – single we don’t, but together we do.”

Since Serpico is an old law enforcement dog naturally he talks about the Patriot Act. Does is support it, no. Why? “Former Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff wrote the bill before 9/11 and the program is capable of amassing information about Americans and they have no intentions to do the right thing,” Serpico explained.

For example, most Americans believe that the Christmas Day bomber spurred the idea the world needs to place full-body scans in every airport. What they don’t tell you, Serpico points out, “is Chertoff owns the company that manufactures the full body scans. On top of that the scanners will not detect the powder the Christmas Day bomber had in his pants.” Serpico insists it’s all about the almighty dollar.

The big brother status in America riles Serpico to the point where he claims his blog is being monitored and he is unable to practice his first Amendment right without content being taken down. “World domination is in full swing,” he said.

Once the book and movie about his life were finished, Serpico chose to leave America. During Serpico’s decade-long stint in Europe he recalls the FBI seeking to apprehend him in Switzerland. “The FBI and CIA are embedded everywhere.” Like many other Americans, Serpico believes the government’s reach is much too wide.

Through his kaleidoscope vision the Medal of Honor recipient explains people need to wake up to the fact they are being mesmerized by television (this explains the fact he has no TV) and stand up for their God given rights. “If we are all brothers and sisters why are we fighting each other instead of the government.”

Politicians don’t hold too high of esteem in Serpico’s eyes. “Politicians are blood-sucking parasites. It’s all about ego and power, the end result is corruption.”

Cases in point, Serpico writes, “Never before have we, as a nation, stood in greater danger of losing our individual liberties as we are today. We the people of this great nation are being punished for the transgressions of our leaders and their consorts. The leaders, who we have elected or not elected, as the case may be, to safeguard and protect our inalienable rights.”

Can anyone of sound mind dispute these facts? Quoting Michael Parenti, he continued, “Here at home and throughout the world, people are fighting back against the forces of wealth, privilege, and militarism—some because they have no choice, others because they would choose no other course but the one that leads to peace and justice.”

Lamplighting and the future

The conversation eventually circles around to the lamplighting topic where he holds many opinions about the future generations attempt to regain control of their country.

“If this country wants more accountability then they need to honor and praise those who come forward to do the right thing,” Serpico quips. Sensing a pattern, “do the right thing” is a major mantra in Serpico’s life. “Politicians don’t like lamplighters because they are a part of the ‘old boys club.’ They don’t want any changes.”

Serpico was never heralded with a ceremony for his Medal of Honor; he simply picked up the piece of metal and threw it into a drawer. In fact Serpico blames his NYPD Police Commissioner Murphy for putting him into harms way. “He got promoted because of me,” Serpico said.

However, he was asked by Bernie Kerik, former NYPD Commissioner, to attend a ceremony. It is here a story is repeated regarding three cadets who came to Serpico and shook his hand. “The first walks up and says ‘you’re the reason I became a police officer. The second says something similar. And the third shakes his hand, and whispers in Frank’s ear, we need to talk after the ceremony.” This is successful in getting a good chuckle.

Another ardent admirer of Serpico is former NYPD officer Charles Houser. “He was the reason I became a NYPD officer. I even served at the exact precinct and worked in the narcotics division. We share the same opinions because higher ups try to stop others for doing the right thing.”

“When I was an officer at NYPD I went to a disco after work with a fellow officer. However, my co-worker went outside and was snorting cocaine, much to my dismay. He offered some to me and I was shocked. Girls who were in the alley way with him said, ‘Wow, we are snorting cocaine with NYPD.’ I turned him in the next day, but he had a relative working in internal affairs and was eventually promoted instead of reprimanded. My career suffered as a result of the whistle-blowing,” Houser says. Complaints like these often fall on deaf ears.

Serpico is proud to learn about Houser and sends his best to an honest cop he has never met. After years of employment, letters of accommodations for integrity and serving honorably is easy to see why Serpico is quick to support a fellow officer. “Not all the NYPD cops are corrupt, but in my opinion they still have a lot of work to do,” Serpico critically states.

Serpico-the untold stories

Another aspect to Serpico’s new found activism is constantly pushing forward. He currently has a television series in development called “Serpico– The Untold Stories.”

The producer of the series is excited and honored to work with a true American hero. “Frank ‘Paco’ Serpico, a NYPD Medal of Honor recipient represents the finest in humanity as a dedicated police officer that forever changed New York politics and the NYPD,” explains BJ Davis a veteran Hollywood producer and director of the Serpico the Untold Stories.

“Today, he is just as committed to insuring the rights and equal protection of U.S. citizens as well as the rank-and-file law enforcement officers. It is an honor to partner with him to bring, “Serpico – The Untold Stories”, hosted by Frank Serpico to the American public and giving a voice to Lamplighters (whistleblowers) who have been retaliated against for doing their job. ‘Serpico’ will be previewed at the 2010 NATPE convention in Las Vegas to buyers, written by Frank Serpico and National Whistleblower, VP of LEOAC, former CBP Officer Julia Davis as production begins.”

In an effort to place the spotlight on the unsung heroes who place their lives on the line only to be retaliated against for doing the right thing, the television series will look at different lamplighters every week. “We hope to shine a positive light onto those who come forward,” Serpico said.

The former NYPD tough guy has many admirers around the country. “Frank Serpico was brave, courageous and bold. Long live his name, long live his glory and long may his story be told,” says John Herbert a Serpico fan.

Bottom line for Serpico remains, “We (officers) need to remember the oath we took and not betray it. However, that becomes difficult as police departments are like a fraternity, just as the medical profession and government agencies. It’s a club and they expect you to play by their rules.”

However, the public is not privy to their rules according to Serpico. There is a certain trust between law enforcement officers because they are placed in many life-threatening instances where one needs to place ultimate trust with partners.

This is where it went terribly wrong for Serpico, he placed his trust in fellow officers and they nearly let him die in the line of duty. He explains that it is hard to talk about the last moments of his NYPD career, because it led to being shot in the face by a criminal and his fellow partners did nothing to back him up, not even call for an ambulance.

“It was a pretty low moment and I have nightmares to this day,” Serpico says. “God made heaven and man made hell.”

Like most lamplighters, Serpico would do it again. “But I’m lucky I don’t have to because there are a lot of great people out there to pass the torch to.”

This is part four in a series.

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