With New York City crime down, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is pushing new anticrime and antiterror initiatives. Yet the department still has problems. The New York Times notes that last month, the Brooklyn district attorney obtained an indictment of an officer accused of using his baton to sodomize a man. A little over two years ago, undercover officers fired a hail of 50 bullets outside a nightclub, killing Sean Bell only hours before he was to be married. Police officers frisked more than 500,000 people in 2008, more than 80 percent of them young black or Latino men. The police arrest only 4 percent of those whom they frisk.
Since 2002, federal judges have suppressed guns as evidence in more than 20 cases after finding officers' testimony to be unreliable, inconsistent or false; last year the department declined to pursue 42 percent of the cases in which the independent Civilian Complaint Review Board issued a finding of police misconduct. Why are there not more outcries about police failings? Part of the answer is that Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have worked hard to explain themselves to the public and disarm their critics. “There is a post-traumatic dynamic,” said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former police officer. “Once you've seen what the city was 20 years ago, or the terror attacks, you're not cavalier about going back.”