As my writings on this blog will show, I am not terribly fond of the New York City Police Department. Among other things, it is excessively militarized and has a very poor record on civil liberties. (I am not going to go into an exhaustive listing here, but a quick perusal of the link above should help the curious reader.) New York City residents are by now used to opening the morning newspaper and reading of yet another shenanigan, another abuse, another report on operational incompetence. Sometimes these are deadly, as today’s story about a bodega worker being shot dead by the Finest indicates. What is truly bizarre about this appalling record of general malfeasance is the contrast with the NYPD’s self-image: strutting, cock of the walk swaggering international terrorist fighters, keepers of the peace. For one of the worst things about the aftermath of 9/11 has been the elevation of the NYPD to a fleet of Batmans in Blue. (And like Batman, they often find themselves ranged against those that might disturb the tranquility of the city’s banking operations.) As such, the NYPD thinks a great deal of itself. It aspires to be more than just a silly city police force; that’s for folks who aim low. No, it aspires to be an Interpol, FBI and Mossad rolled into one.
The latest story then, about the NYPD opening a ‘branch’ in Israel should come as no surprise, but it still manages to evoke wonder. Why is a ‘branch’ of a city’s local police force being opened in another part of the world? I think of banks, department stores, gyms and fast-food chains opening branches, but a police force? How does this improve New York City’s policing?
Unfortunately, I know the NYPD’s answer to that last question and it terrifies me. Presumably, they are there to ‘learn’, to ‘study local tactics,’ to share ‘methods and techniques for enforcing law and order.’ Unfortunately, their choice of locale and their partners in this enterprise are precisely the wrong ones for us citizens who will soon have to bear the brunt of this wondrous exchange of knowledge. Because if you want to co-operate with a police force, you might want to find one that is not associated with a nation that is engaged in illegal occupation, a business that, as an Israeli friend of mine once remarked, ‘is a national sickness, one that renders every national institution corrupt and complicit.’
Perhaps the NYPD will learn how to put up checkpoints, conduct grossly invasive searches–sorry, on that one, they will presumably teach the Israeli police a thing or two or three–and send themselves even further down the path of the militarization that they so obviously adore. Perhaps they will learn new interrogation techniques, especially refined and honed for dealing with a population viewed as the Other. The Black and Latino population of New York City trembles in anticipation; it’s bad enough to be Walking While Black in this city, but imagine what would happen if policing in this city induced a wholly new sensation for a select portion of this city’s population: What it feels like to be a Palestinian at a West Bank roadblock.