Part Four: Is Campaign Finance Driven By Cops, Courts, and Corrections?

English: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg...

Billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Stop-and-Frisk’s most vocal champion, leaves office in 2013.

Mayor Bloomberg is term-limited, thus the city will lose its primary supporter of the Stop & Frisk policy in 2013.  Whereas many Democrats participated in the Silent March of over 10,000 people last summer, some Republicans have suggested that NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly should run for mayor.  Such a mayoral race could easily become a referendum on police policy.

What is lesser known in politics is the increasing role of campaign dollars coming from “Cops, Courts, and Corrections (CCC).”  In New York state, seventy-three separate entities accounted for nearly half of all Public Sector donors, and provided 37% of sector dollars in 2012.  Yet this number is actually low, as it does not include the many CCC employees who are actually represented by AFSCME and other unions.  Other than political committees, the Public Sector unions are the third largest donor sector, behind Real Estate and Trial Lawyers.

Perhaps it is time to consider if CCC employees have the same economic and political interests as other members of the public sector, such as teachers.  As CCC comes to dominate this industry, it makes more sense to track them as a distinct group.  A group with an economic interest in more crimes, arrests, cases, and prisons.  The position of a union, and union solidarity, is clear where there is a product and an income.  In this situation, however, social costs and economic benefits typically support one group at the expense of others.Cops Courts Corrections Graph

Creating Safe Communities

If we set racial targeting and constitutional protections aside, the ultimate social questions are: Whether it is acceptable for nine innocent people to be harassed for every one person caught doing some form of misconduct?  Is it acceptable for twenty innocent people to be harassed for every one person caught doing something reasonably serious? Is it acceptable for ninety innocent people to be harassed for every one person caught doing something dangerous?

The answer to these questions may be “yes” for some people.  But it is an answer that should apply to one’s own community, and not be imposed on others.  For example, would the same supporters of Stop and Frisk feel the same if college dorms were targeted… especially if the “hit rate” were higher?  The current state of affairs appears to many as a massive campaign to erode stability in Communities of Color.  Distrust, despair, and hate compounds the dilemma of labeling young men with criminal records.  Families lose income, lose parents, and lose the ability to live in public housing.  One person’s plight provides little insight- we need to look at the collective impact upon millions.

This case has allowed some long-excluded voices to finally be heard, but are the police listening?  Considering one of the shooters of Amadou Diallo has been working with a badge but no gun ever since, and earned over a million dollars from the NYPD, it is challenging for urban residents to feel protected and served.  To know you are a “suspect” for simply walking down the street, the feeling is closer to being under occupation.

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About Bruce Reilly

Bruce Reilly is the Deputy Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School and author of NewJack's Guide to the Big House. Much of his writing can be found on www.Unprison.org.
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