Digest : Ongoing NYPD Controversies ; Senator Malcolm Smith trial update ; Assembly speaker race update


New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton announced on Thursday a plan to create and deploy a militarized regimen of 350 police officers armed with machine guns.

Amongst the specific targets of that the militarised police officers will focus are police reform activists, Commissioner Bratton said, telling WCBS Channel 2 News that the force "is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai, or what just happened in Paris."

Commissioner Bratton's escalated use of deadly military weaponry against protesters flies in the face of promises by Congress to stop the distribution to and use by police departments of military weapons against citizens.  

At a hearing last autumn by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) blasted the program in the wake of police use of military weaponry against protesters in Ferguson, in her home state, saying, in part, "We are, in fact, underlining a militarisation of our domestic police departments." 

The controversial deployment of the militarised force will first be rolled out to two precincts in Manhattan and two precincts in Queens.

Commissioner Bratton's flagrant embrace of military force comes after last week's promise by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to investigate the NYPD, if circumstances warranted it, saying, in part, "And if there ever comes a time, as I've said before, we're not scared of anybody, and, you know, we look at our partners as partners.  But when they cross the line, we take appropriate actions there also."

As reported by Progress Queens, the NYPD under Commissioner Bratton may be violating the terms of the Handschu Agreement, a consent decree in a continuing court case, that forbids the NYPD from monitoring on the political activities of citizens.

The overreach by Commissioner Bratton in respect of military weaponry and the Handschu Agreement come against a backdrop in which citizens resoundingly criticize the NYPD for fostering a culture where police officers are allowed to kill innocent citizens with impunity.  Over a 15 year period, the NYPD have engaged in violent encounters with citizens that resulted in 179 fatalities, according to an analysis conducted by The New York Daily News

In spite of a lack of any mechanism that holds NYPD officers accountable for corruption, crimes, and other misconduct, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York) publicly demanded that two public defenders associated with a nonprofit group, The Bronx Defendersbe disciplined for appearing in a controversial rap video.

Immediately after the Parisian weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo was the setting for an unprovoked shooting attack in an act against freedom of the press, Mayor de Blasio expressly defended freedom of speech.  Since then, however, the mayor has duplicitously denounced some protest chants used by some police reform activists, and, now, the mayor has damned citizens, who have appeared in a music video.  

Request for comment about all this duplicity was sent to the press office for City Hall.  If a response is received, then that information shall appear in a future update.

Former State Senator Malcolm Smith's criminal trial set to end, soon

A jury was expected to begin their deliberations Thursday following the conclusion of closing arguments on Wednesday in the federal trial against former State Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) and former Republican Party operative Vincent Tabone, according to a report broadcast on NY1.

Former State Senator Smith was arrested almost two years ago with a group of individuals, who were participating in a scheme to conduct election fraud in the 2013 mayoral race.

The individuals, who were arrested, revealed that Queens County Republican Party was willing to essentially sell a Wilson-Pakula certificate to allow a non-Republcian candidate to run on its political party line on the mayoral ballot. 

Spiting U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's calls for reform, State Assembly Speaker race will be conducted in back rooms.  No surprise. 

Appearing on NY1's Inside City Hall news program Thursday night, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) said that Assemblymembers entered into a pact to ensure that the process to select a permanent speaker would be "open."  However, she qualified her description of "open" to mean that the press would not be allowed to have access to the conferences held by elected Assemblymembers, ensuring that there would be no public transparency. 

Councilmember Nolan is one of the declared candidates campaigning to permanently replace Assemblymember Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) as speaker of the State Assembly.  Speaker Silver was arrested one week ago on five counts of corruption charges, inciting once again greater demands for ethics reforms in Albany.

In a public address made Friday, the corruption-fighting U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was critical of public officials cloaking the conduct of official business in secrecy, saying, in part, "… if you are one of the three men in the room, you keep people in the dark, because you can."

In other remarks during Assemblymember Nolan's interview on Inside City Hall, she downplayed calls for reform in the Assembly's speakership by saying that anytime a woman or a minority is set to climb into a higher position of power, such ascendant office holder always faces calls to cede power.

Assemblymember Nolan most fordable opponent in the speakership race is Assemblymember Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx), who has solidifying support amongst the Democratic Party county organisations in The Bronx and Manhattan.  

Late Thursday, The New York Post reported that the Democratic Party county organisation in Brooklyn was expected to throw its support behind Assemblymember Heastie, adding that even Assemblymember Nolan's own organisation in Queens may end up supporting Assemblymember Heastie, as well.