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It’s Official: NYPD Cops Can’t Arrest You for Drinking in Public Anymore

It’s Official: NYPD Cops Can’t Arrest You for Drinking in Public Anymore



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New York City just decriminalized public drinking in an effort to focus on eradicating more serious violent crimes

No more sneaking bottles of beer onto the subway… We all knew what you were doing anyway.

Have you ever lamented the fact that you couldn’t bring along mimosas to a Sunday picnic in Central Park? Or that you had to hide a little bit of liquid fun at a Rangers game? No more.

New York City has quietly decriminalized public drinking, according to The New York Times. Instead of getting arrested, you’ll get a court summons or a fine so that the NYPD can focus on other, more violent crimes plaguing the city.

“Whether you call it an arrest or not, you have deprived the person of his or her liberty,” Robert Gangi, the founder of the Police Reform Organizing Project. “You have put that person into custody. You have in all likelihood handcuffed that person and put them in some sort of police vehicle and drove them down to Criminal Court where they’re going to be arraigned.”

To be clear, consuming alcohol is still technically illegal in New York City. Police just won’t arrest you for the offense.

To date, only a handful of American cities have decriminalized public drinking, including parts of Las Vegas and New Orleans, where open container laws are lax or non-existent.


Here's What Happens When You Complain To Cops About Cops

Ultimately, the strength of an internal affairs process depends on the person in charge, experts say.

"It really comes down to whether a police chief wants to do the right thing. In some jurisdictions, not so much. In other jurisdictions, people are real standouts," said Jeff Noble , the former deputy chief of the Irvine Police Department in California who has written extensively on police misconduct, including the book with Alpert.

One major hurdle for police accountability is that citizens often don't bother to file complaints because they don't think their concerns would be taken seriously. There is little motivation for police departments to encourage civilians to complain, experts say, and many internal affairs officers either implicitly or explicitly make it difficult for citizens to air their grievances.

In 2013, the year before the unrest in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Bureau of Professional Standards received 69 citizen complaints, about the same number it had received in prior years. Officials reported that number as an accomplishment, citing the gap between the number of complaints and the numbers of arrests (more than 26,000) and citizen contacts (more than 1.6 million) as proof that police personnel "continue serving the community in a very professional manner" and the agency "has continued to take positive measures to reduce and eliminate citizen complaints."

By that logic, 2014 -- the year that St. Louis County Police led the initial law enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson -- was a fantastic success for the agency: Only 26 citizens filed complaints, a stunning 62 percent drop from the previous year. Given the extraordinarily controversial -- and unconstitutional -- tactics deployed by police officers during the Ferguson protests, it's unlikely those figures mean anything at all.

St. Louis County Police reported receiving just a single formal complaint about officer behavior during the protests of August 2014. An after-action report pointed to two factors for that: It was "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints," and there was "a lack of confidence" in the complaint process. But even the low number of citizen complaints received in the years before the Ferguson protests -- 64 in 2012 and 69 in 2013 -- is nothing to brag about, experts say.

"I would be suspicious of those numbers," Noble said. "That's just too many officers, 800 officers -- you're only getting 60 complaints? The first thing I would want to look at is their complaint policy. What are they required to accept as a complaint? Who is required to accept it?"

Noble said he once worked with a city police department that had close to 2,000 officers. That agency claimed it received only 30 complaints over the course of a year, less than half the number of complaints typically received in a year by his former department in Irvine, which had a force of just 200.

"I mean, that's just laughable. It's absurd. What it tells me is that they're not classifying everything as a complaint, they're not accepting, they're discouraging," Noble said.

One federal survey found that among individuals who reported having force used against them or being threatened with force in 2008, 84 percent felt that police had acted improperly, but only 14 percent of that group actually filed a complaint.

"If you don't get many complaints at a department, that might mean that, yes, the department is very good, officers are performing well," said Walker, the policing expert. "But it could also mean that trust in the complaint process is so deep that nobody bothers to complain."

The first sign that my complaint to the St. Louis County Police Department might not be taken seriously came just after I'd finished filling out the complaint form. I told the official who accepted my complaint at the Office of Professional Standards that while the officer in question had refused to identify himself, I had photos of him on my iPhone. I had already tweeted the photos, but I assumed they would want to pull the images from my device or have me send the original files via email. But the office wasn't going to make it easy. Instead, I was told I'd have to turn in printed copies. So I pulled out my phone, mapped the route to the nearest copy center, walked there to print out the photos and then walked back to drop them off.

An initial letter acknowledging my complaint was followed by months of silence. The department failed to meet its goal of responding within 90 days. Six months passed, then eight, then 10. In the meantime, several public records requests failed to unearth the name of the officer who arrested me.

A few months ago, I confirmed his name -- Michael McCann -- after it came up in a lawsuit filed against the police by other people he'd arrested. With a bit of digging, I learned that McCann had previously been suspended without pay by the St. Louis County Police after he allegedly crashed his patrol car through a fence in a residential neighborhood and fled the scene.

In June, more than 10 months after my arrest, I received a letter from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. In the letter, which was carefully vetted by St. Louis County lawyers, Belmar wrote that a "very thorough investigation" had produced "conflicting versions of what occurred."

McCann had denied slamming my head against the door, and Belmar's internal affairs team claimed that the McDonald's security footage did not definitively show what had happened. So Belmar -- "based on the absence of conclusive facts" -- had ordered the investigation closed.

"I would, however, like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he wrote. A recent independent assessment of Belmar's department found a "pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness."

In August, a few weeks after I was charged, the St. Louis County Police Department promoted Michael McCann to sergeant.

Based upon the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis County Counselor's Office filed charges against Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly in August 2015 for allegedly "trespassing" and "interfering" with police officers nearly a year earlier. Lowery and Reilly have said they were wrongfully arrested since the day they were taken into custody, and are fighting the charges.


Here's What Happens When You Complain To Cops About Cops

Ultimately, the strength of an internal affairs process depends on the person in charge, experts say.

"It really comes down to whether a police chief wants to do the right thing. In some jurisdictions, not so much. In other jurisdictions, people are real standouts," said Jeff Noble , the former deputy chief of the Irvine Police Department in California who has written extensively on police misconduct, including the book with Alpert.

One major hurdle for police accountability is that citizens often don't bother to file complaints because they don't think their concerns would be taken seriously. There is little motivation for police departments to encourage civilians to complain, experts say, and many internal affairs officers either implicitly or explicitly make it difficult for citizens to air their grievances.

In 2013, the year before the unrest in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Bureau of Professional Standards received 69 citizen complaints, about the same number it had received in prior years. Officials reported that number as an accomplishment, citing the gap between the number of complaints and the numbers of arrests (more than 26,000) and citizen contacts (more than 1.6 million) as proof that police personnel "continue serving the community in a very professional manner" and the agency "has continued to take positive measures to reduce and eliminate citizen complaints."

By that logic, 2014 -- the year that St. Louis County Police led the initial law enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson -- was a fantastic success for the agency: Only 26 citizens filed complaints, a stunning 62 percent drop from the previous year. Given the extraordinarily controversial -- and unconstitutional -- tactics deployed by police officers during the Ferguson protests, it's unlikely those figures mean anything at all.

St. Louis County Police reported receiving just a single formal complaint about officer behavior during the protests of August 2014. An after-action report pointed to two factors for that: It was "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints," and there was "a lack of confidence" in the complaint process. But even the low number of citizen complaints received in the years before the Ferguson protests -- 64 in 2012 and 69 in 2013 -- is nothing to brag about, experts say.

"I would be suspicious of those numbers," Noble said. "That's just too many officers, 800 officers -- you're only getting 60 complaints? The first thing I would want to look at is their complaint policy. What are they required to accept as a complaint? Who is required to accept it?"

Noble said he once worked with a city police department that had close to 2,000 officers. That agency claimed it received only 30 complaints over the course of a year, less than half the number of complaints typically received in a year by his former department in Irvine, which had a force of just 200.

"I mean, that's just laughable. It's absurd. What it tells me is that they're not classifying everything as a complaint, they're not accepting, they're discouraging," Noble said.

One federal survey found that among individuals who reported having force used against them or being threatened with force in 2008, 84 percent felt that police had acted improperly, but only 14 percent of that group actually filed a complaint.

"If you don't get many complaints at a department, that might mean that, yes, the department is very good, officers are performing well," said Walker, the policing expert. "But it could also mean that trust in the complaint process is so deep that nobody bothers to complain."

The first sign that my complaint to the St. Louis County Police Department might not be taken seriously came just after I'd finished filling out the complaint form. I told the official who accepted my complaint at the Office of Professional Standards that while the officer in question had refused to identify himself, I had photos of him on my iPhone. I had already tweeted the photos, but I assumed they would want to pull the images from my device or have me send the original files via email. But the office wasn't going to make it easy. Instead, I was told I'd have to turn in printed copies. So I pulled out my phone, mapped the route to the nearest copy center, walked there to print out the photos and then walked back to drop them off.

An initial letter acknowledging my complaint was followed by months of silence. The department failed to meet its goal of responding within 90 days. Six months passed, then eight, then 10. In the meantime, several public records requests failed to unearth the name of the officer who arrested me.

A few months ago, I confirmed his name -- Michael McCann -- after it came up in a lawsuit filed against the police by other people he'd arrested. With a bit of digging, I learned that McCann had previously been suspended without pay by the St. Louis County Police after he allegedly crashed his patrol car through a fence in a residential neighborhood and fled the scene.

In June, more than 10 months after my arrest, I received a letter from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. In the letter, which was carefully vetted by St. Louis County lawyers, Belmar wrote that a "very thorough investigation" had produced "conflicting versions of what occurred."

McCann had denied slamming my head against the door, and Belmar's internal affairs team claimed that the McDonald's security footage did not definitively show what had happened. So Belmar -- "based on the absence of conclusive facts" -- had ordered the investigation closed.

"I would, however, like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he wrote. A recent independent assessment of Belmar's department found a "pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness."

In August, a few weeks after I was charged, the St. Louis County Police Department promoted Michael McCann to sergeant.

Based upon the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis County Counselor's Office filed charges against Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly in August 2015 for allegedly "trespassing" and "interfering" with police officers nearly a year earlier. Lowery and Reilly have said they were wrongfully arrested since the day they were taken into custody, and are fighting the charges.


Here's What Happens When You Complain To Cops About Cops

Ultimately, the strength of an internal affairs process depends on the person in charge, experts say.

"It really comes down to whether a police chief wants to do the right thing. In some jurisdictions, not so much. In other jurisdictions, people are real standouts," said Jeff Noble , the former deputy chief of the Irvine Police Department in California who has written extensively on police misconduct, including the book with Alpert.

One major hurdle for police accountability is that citizens often don't bother to file complaints because they don't think their concerns would be taken seriously. There is little motivation for police departments to encourage civilians to complain, experts say, and many internal affairs officers either implicitly or explicitly make it difficult for citizens to air their grievances.

In 2013, the year before the unrest in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Bureau of Professional Standards received 69 citizen complaints, about the same number it had received in prior years. Officials reported that number as an accomplishment, citing the gap between the number of complaints and the numbers of arrests (more than 26,000) and citizen contacts (more than 1.6 million) as proof that police personnel "continue serving the community in a very professional manner" and the agency "has continued to take positive measures to reduce and eliminate citizen complaints."

By that logic, 2014 -- the year that St. Louis County Police led the initial law enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson -- was a fantastic success for the agency: Only 26 citizens filed complaints, a stunning 62 percent drop from the previous year. Given the extraordinarily controversial -- and unconstitutional -- tactics deployed by police officers during the Ferguson protests, it's unlikely those figures mean anything at all.

St. Louis County Police reported receiving just a single formal complaint about officer behavior during the protests of August 2014. An after-action report pointed to two factors for that: It was "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints," and there was "a lack of confidence" in the complaint process. But even the low number of citizen complaints received in the years before the Ferguson protests -- 64 in 2012 and 69 in 2013 -- is nothing to brag about, experts say.

"I would be suspicious of those numbers," Noble said. "That's just too many officers, 800 officers -- you're only getting 60 complaints? The first thing I would want to look at is their complaint policy. What are they required to accept as a complaint? Who is required to accept it?"

Noble said he once worked with a city police department that had close to 2,000 officers. That agency claimed it received only 30 complaints over the course of a year, less than half the number of complaints typically received in a year by his former department in Irvine, which had a force of just 200.

"I mean, that's just laughable. It's absurd. What it tells me is that they're not classifying everything as a complaint, they're not accepting, they're discouraging," Noble said.

One federal survey found that among individuals who reported having force used against them or being threatened with force in 2008, 84 percent felt that police had acted improperly, but only 14 percent of that group actually filed a complaint.

"If you don't get many complaints at a department, that might mean that, yes, the department is very good, officers are performing well," said Walker, the policing expert. "But it could also mean that trust in the complaint process is so deep that nobody bothers to complain."

The first sign that my complaint to the St. Louis County Police Department might not be taken seriously came just after I'd finished filling out the complaint form. I told the official who accepted my complaint at the Office of Professional Standards that while the officer in question had refused to identify himself, I had photos of him on my iPhone. I had already tweeted the photos, but I assumed they would want to pull the images from my device or have me send the original files via email. But the office wasn't going to make it easy. Instead, I was told I'd have to turn in printed copies. So I pulled out my phone, mapped the route to the nearest copy center, walked there to print out the photos and then walked back to drop them off.

An initial letter acknowledging my complaint was followed by months of silence. The department failed to meet its goal of responding within 90 days. Six months passed, then eight, then 10. In the meantime, several public records requests failed to unearth the name of the officer who arrested me.

A few months ago, I confirmed his name -- Michael McCann -- after it came up in a lawsuit filed against the police by other people he'd arrested. With a bit of digging, I learned that McCann had previously been suspended without pay by the St. Louis County Police after he allegedly crashed his patrol car through a fence in a residential neighborhood and fled the scene.

In June, more than 10 months after my arrest, I received a letter from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. In the letter, which was carefully vetted by St. Louis County lawyers, Belmar wrote that a "very thorough investigation" had produced "conflicting versions of what occurred."

McCann had denied slamming my head against the door, and Belmar's internal affairs team claimed that the McDonald's security footage did not definitively show what had happened. So Belmar -- "based on the absence of conclusive facts" -- had ordered the investigation closed.

"I would, however, like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he wrote. A recent independent assessment of Belmar's department found a "pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness."

In August, a few weeks after I was charged, the St. Louis County Police Department promoted Michael McCann to sergeant.

Based upon the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis County Counselor's Office filed charges against Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly in August 2015 for allegedly "trespassing" and "interfering" with police officers nearly a year earlier. Lowery and Reilly have said they were wrongfully arrested since the day they were taken into custody, and are fighting the charges.


Here's What Happens When You Complain To Cops About Cops

Ultimately, the strength of an internal affairs process depends on the person in charge, experts say.

"It really comes down to whether a police chief wants to do the right thing. In some jurisdictions, not so much. In other jurisdictions, people are real standouts," said Jeff Noble , the former deputy chief of the Irvine Police Department in California who has written extensively on police misconduct, including the book with Alpert.

One major hurdle for police accountability is that citizens often don't bother to file complaints because they don't think their concerns would be taken seriously. There is little motivation for police departments to encourage civilians to complain, experts say, and many internal affairs officers either implicitly or explicitly make it difficult for citizens to air their grievances.

In 2013, the year before the unrest in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Bureau of Professional Standards received 69 citizen complaints, about the same number it had received in prior years. Officials reported that number as an accomplishment, citing the gap between the number of complaints and the numbers of arrests (more than 26,000) and citizen contacts (more than 1.6 million) as proof that police personnel "continue serving the community in a very professional manner" and the agency "has continued to take positive measures to reduce and eliminate citizen complaints."

By that logic, 2014 -- the year that St. Louis County Police led the initial law enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson -- was a fantastic success for the agency: Only 26 citizens filed complaints, a stunning 62 percent drop from the previous year. Given the extraordinarily controversial -- and unconstitutional -- tactics deployed by police officers during the Ferguson protests, it's unlikely those figures mean anything at all.

St. Louis County Police reported receiving just a single formal complaint about officer behavior during the protests of August 2014. An after-action report pointed to two factors for that: It was "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints," and there was "a lack of confidence" in the complaint process. But even the low number of citizen complaints received in the years before the Ferguson protests -- 64 in 2012 and 69 in 2013 -- is nothing to brag about, experts say.

"I would be suspicious of those numbers," Noble said. "That's just too many officers, 800 officers -- you're only getting 60 complaints? The first thing I would want to look at is their complaint policy. What are they required to accept as a complaint? Who is required to accept it?"

Noble said he once worked with a city police department that had close to 2,000 officers. That agency claimed it received only 30 complaints over the course of a year, less than half the number of complaints typically received in a year by his former department in Irvine, which had a force of just 200.

"I mean, that's just laughable. It's absurd. What it tells me is that they're not classifying everything as a complaint, they're not accepting, they're discouraging," Noble said.

One federal survey found that among individuals who reported having force used against them or being threatened with force in 2008, 84 percent felt that police had acted improperly, but only 14 percent of that group actually filed a complaint.

"If you don't get many complaints at a department, that might mean that, yes, the department is very good, officers are performing well," said Walker, the policing expert. "But it could also mean that trust in the complaint process is so deep that nobody bothers to complain."

The first sign that my complaint to the St. Louis County Police Department might not be taken seriously came just after I'd finished filling out the complaint form. I told the official who accepted my complaint at the Office of Professional Standards that while the officer in question had refused to identify himself, I had photos of him on my iPhone. I had already tweeted the photos, but I assumed they would want to pull the images from my device or have me send the original files via email. But the office wasn't going to make it easy. Instead, I was told I'd have to turn in printed copies. So I pulled out my phone, mapped the route to the nearest copy center, walked there to print out the photos and then walked back to drop them off.

An initial letter acknowledging my complaint was followed by months of silence. The department failed to meet its goal of responding within 90 days. Six months passed, then eight, then 10. In the meantime, several public records requests failed to unearth the name of the officer who arrested me.

A few months ago, I confirmed his name -- Michael McCann -- after it came up in a lawsuit filed against the police by other people he'd arrested. With a bit of digging, I learned that McCann had previously been suspended without pay by the St. Louis County Police after he allegedly crashed his patrol car through a fence in a residential neighborhood and fled the scene.

In June, more than 10 months after my arrest, I received a letter from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. In the letter, which was carefully vetted by St. Louis County lawyers, Belmar wrote that a "very thorough investigation" had produced "conflicting versions of what occurred."

McCann had denied slamming my head against the door, and Belmar's internal affairs team claimed that the McDonald's security footage did not definitively show what had happened. So Belmar -- "based on the absence of conclusive facts" -- had ordered the investigation closed.

"I would, however, like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he wrote. A recent independent assessment of Belmar's department found a "pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness."

In August, a few weeks after I was charged, the St. Louis County Police Department promoted Michael McCann to sergeant.

Based upon the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis County Counselor's Office filed charges against Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly in August 2015 for allegedly "trespassing" and "interfering" with police officers nearly a year earlier. Lowery and Reilly have said they were wrongfully arrested since the day they were taken into custody, and are fighting the charges.


Here's What Happens When You Complain To Cops About Cops

Ultimately, the strength of an internal affairs process depends on the person in charge, experts say.

"It really comes down to whether a police chief wants to do the right thing. In some jurisdictions, not so much. In other jurisdictions, people are real standouts," said Jeff Noble , the former deputy chief of the Irvine Police Department in California who has written extensively on police misconduct, including the book with Alpert.

One major hurdle for police accountability is that citizens often don't bother to file complaints because they don't think their concerns would be taken seriously. There is little motivation for police departments to encourage civilians to complain, experts say, and many internal affairs officers either implicitly or explicitly make it difficult for citizens to air their grievances.

In 2013, the year before the unrest in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Bureau of Professional Standards received 69 citizen complaints, about the same number it had received in prior years. Officials reported that number as an accomplishment, citing the gap between the number of complaints and the numbers of arrests (more than 26,000) and citizen contacts (more than 1.6 million) as proof that police personnel "continue serving the community in a very professional manner" and the agency "has continued to take positive measures to reduce and eliminate citizen complaints."

By that logic, 2014 -- the year that St. Louis County Police led the initial law enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson -- was a fantastic success for the agency: Only 26 citizens filed complaints, a stunning 62 percent drop from the previous year. Given the extraordinarily controversial -- and unconstitutional -- tactics deployed by police officers during the Ferguson protests, it's unlikely those figures mean anything at all.

St. Louis County Police reported receiving just a single formal complaint about officer behavior during the protests of August 2014. An after-action report pointed to two factors for that: It was "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints," and there was "a lack of confidence" in the complaint process. But even the low number of citizen complaints received in the years before the Ferguson protests -- 64 in 2012 and 69 in 2013 -- is nothing to brag about, experts say.

"I would be suspicious of those numbers," Noble said. "That's just too many officers, 800 officers -- you're only getting 60 complaints? The first thing I would want to look at is their complaint policy. What are they required to accept as a complaint? Who is required to accept it?"

Noble said he once worked with a city police department that had close to 2,000 officers. That agency claimed it received only 30 complaints over the course of a year, less than half the number of complaints typically received in a year by his former department in Irvine, which had a force of just 200.

"I mean, that's just laughable. It's absurd. What it tells me is that they're not classifying everything as a complaint, they're not accepting, they're discouraging," Noble said.

One federal survey found that among individuals who reported having force used against them or being threatened with force in 2008, 84 percent felt that police had acted improperly, but only 14 percent of that group actually filed a complaint.

"If you don't get many complaints at a department, that might mean that, yes, the department is very good, officers are performing well," said Walker, the policing expert. "But it could also mean that trust in the complaint process is so deep that nobody bothers to complain."

The first sign that my complaint to the St. Louis County Police Department might not be taken seriously came just after I'd finished filling out the complaint form. I told the official who accepted my complaint at the Office of Professional Standards that while the officer in question had refused to identify himself, I had photos of him on my iPhone. I had already tweeted the photos, but I assumed they would want to pull the images from my device or have me send the original files via email. But the office wasn't going to make it easy. Instead, I was told I'd have to turn in printed copies. So I pulled out my phone, mapped the route to the nearest copy center, walked there to print out the photos and then walked back to drop them off.

An initial letter acknowledging my complaint was followed by months of silence. The department failed to meet its goal of responding within 90 days. Six months passed, then eight, then 10. In the meantime, several public records requests failed to unearth the name of the officer who arrested me.

A few months ago, I confirmed his name -- Michael McCann -- after it came up in a lawsuit filed against the police by other people he'd arrested. With a bit of digging, I learned that McCann had previously been suspended without pay by the St. Louis County Police after he allegedly crashed his patrol car through a fence in a residential neighborhood and fled the scene.

In June, more than 10 months after my arrest, I received a letter from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. In the letter, which was carefully vetted by St. Louis County lawyers, Belmar wrote that a "very thorough investigation" had produced "conflicting versions of what occurred."

McCann had denied slamming my head against the door, and Belmar's internal affairs team claimed that the McDonald's security footage did not definitively show what had happened. So Belmar -- "based on the absence of conclusive facts" -- had ordered the investigation closed.

"I would, however, like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he wrote. A recent independent assessment of Belmar's department found a "pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness."

In August, a few weeks after I was charged, the St. Louis County Police Department promoted Michael McCann to sergeant.

Based upon the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis County Counselor's Office filed charges against Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly in August 2015 for allegedly "trespassing" and "interfering" with police officers nearly a year earlier. Lowery and Reilly have said they were wrongfully arrested since the day they were taken into custody, and are fighting the charges.


Here's What Happens When You Complain To Cops About Cops

Ultimately, the strength of an internal affairs process depends on the person in charge, experts say.

"It really comes down to whether a police chief wants to do the right thing. In some jurisdictions, not so much. In other jurisdictions, people are real standouts," said Jeff Noble , the former deputy chief of the Irvine Police Department in California who has written extensively on police misconduct, including the book with Alpert.

One major hurdle for police accountability is that citizens often don't bother to file complaints because they don't think their concerns would be taken seriously. There is little motivation for police departments to encourage civilians to complain, experts say, and many internal affairs officers either implicitly or explicitly make it difficult for citizens to air their grievances.

In 2013, the year before the unrest in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Bureau of Professional Standards received 69 citizen complaints, about the same number it had received in prior years. Officials reported that number as an accomplishment, citing the gap between the number of complaints and the numbers of arrests (more than 26,000) and citizen contacts (more than 1.6 million) as proof that police personnel "continue serving the community in a very professional manner" and the agency "has continued to take positive measures to reduce and eliminate citizen complaints."

By that logic, 2014 -- the year that St. Louis County Police led the initial law enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson -- was a fantastic success for the agency: Only 26 citizens filed complaints, a stunning 62 percent drop from the previous year. Given the extraordinarily controversial -- and unconstitutional -- tactics deployed by police officers during the Ferguson protests, it's unlikely those figures mean anything at all.

St. Louis County Police reported receiving just a single formal complaint about officer behavior during the protests of August 2014. An after-action report pointed to two factors for that: It was "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints," and there was "a lack of confidence" in the complaint process. But even the low number of citizen complaints received in the years before the Ferguson protests -- 64 in 2012 and 69 in 2013 -- is nothing to brag about, experts say.

"I would be suspicious of those numbers," Noble said. "That's just too many officers, 800 officers -- you're only getting 60 complaints? The first thing I would want to look at is their complaint policy. What are they required to accept as a complaint? Who is required to accept it?"

Noble said he once worked with a city police department that had close to 2,000 officers. That agency claimed it received only 30 complaints over the course of a year, less than half the number of complaints typically received in a year by his former department in Irvine, which had a force of just 200.

"I mean, that's just laughable. It's absurd. What it tells me is that they're not classifying everything as a complaint, they're not accepting, they're discouraging," Noble said.

One federal survey found that among individuals who reported having force used against them or being threatened with force in 2008, 84 percent felt that police had acted improperly, but only 14 percent of that group actually filed a complaint.

"If you don't get many complaints at a department, that might mean that, yes, the department is very good, officers are performing well," said Walker, the policing expert. "But it could also mean that trust in the complaint process is so deep that nobody bothers to complain."

The first sign that my complaint to the St. Louis County Police Department might not be taken seriously came just after I'd finished filling out the complaint form. I told the official who accepted my complaint at the Office of Professional Standards that while the officer in question had refused to identify himself, I had photos of him on my iPhone. I had already tweeted the photos, but I assumed they would want to pull the images from my device or have me send the original files via email. But the office wasn't going to make it easy. Instead, I was told I'd have to turn in printed copies. So I pulled out my phone, mapped the route to the nearest copy center, walked there to print out the photos and then walked back to drop them off.

An initial letter acknowledging my complaint was followed by months of silence. The department failed to meet its goal of responding within 90 days. Six months passed, then eight, then 10. In the meantime, several public records requests failed to unearth the name of the officer who arrested me.

A few months ago, I confirmed his name -- Michael McCann -- after it came up in a lawsuit filed against the police by other people he'd arrested. With a bit of digging, I learned that McCann had previously been suspended without pay by the St. Louis County Police after he allegedly crashed his patrol car through a fence in a residential neighborhood and fled the scene.

In June, more than 10 months after my arrest, I received a letter from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. In the letter, which was carefully vetted by St. Louis County lawyers, Belmar wrote that a "very thorough investigation" had produced "conflicting versions of what occurred."

McCann had denied slamming my head against the door, and Belmar's internal affairs team claimed that the McDonald's security footage did not definitively show what had happened. So Belmar -- "based on the absence of conclusive facts" -- had ordered the investigation closed.

"I would, however, like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he wrote. A recent independent assessment of Belmar's department found a "pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness."

In August, a few weeks after I was charged, the St. Louis County Police Department promoted Michael McCann to sergeant.

Based upon the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis County Counselor's Office filed charges against Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly in August 2015 for allegedly "trespassing" and "interfering" with police officers nearly a year earlier. Lowery and Reilly have said they were wrongfully arrested since the day they were taken into custody, and are fighting the charges.


Here's What Happens When You Complain To Cops About Cops

Ultimately, the strength of an internal affairs process depends on the person in charge, experts say.

"It really comes down to whether a police chief wants to do the right thing. In some jurisdictions, not so much. In other jurisdictions, people are real standouts," said Jeff Noble , the former deputy chief of the Irvine Police Department in California who has written extensively on police misconduct, including the book with Alpert.

One major hurdle for police accountability is that citizens often don't bother to file complaints because they don't think their concerns would be taken seriously. There is little motivation for police departments to encourage civilians to complain, experts say, and many internal affairs officers either implicitly or explicitly make it difficult for citizens to air their grievances.

In 2013, the year before the unrest in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Bureau of Professional Standards received 69 citizen complaints, about the same number it had received in prior years. Officials reported that number as an accomplishment, citing the gap between the number of complaints and the numbers of arrests (more than 26,000) and citizen contacts (more than 1.6 million) as proof that police personnel "continue serving the community in a very professional manner" and the agency "has continued to take positive measures to reduce and eliminate citizen complaints."

By that logic, 2014 -- the year that St. Louis County Police led the initial law enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson -- was a fantastic success for the agency: Only 26 citizens filed complaints, a stunning 62 percent drop from the previous year. Given the extraordinarily controversial -- and unconstitutional -- tactics deployed by police officers during the Ferguson protests, it's unlikely those figures mean anything at all.

St. Louis County Police reported receiving just a single formal complaint about officer behavior during the protests of August 2014. An after-action report pointed to two factors for that: It was "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints," and there was "a lack of confidence" in the complaint process. But even the low number of citizen complaints received in the years before the Ferguson protests -- 64 in 2012 and 69 in 2013 -- is nothing to brag about, experts say.

"I would be suspicious of those numbers," Noble said. "That's just too many officers, 800 officers -- you're only getting 60 complaints? The first thing I would want to look at is their complaint policy. What are they required to accept as a complaint? Who is required to accept it?"

Noble said he once worked with a city police department that had close to 2,000 officers. That agency claimed it received only 30 complaints over the course of a year, less than half the number of complaints typically received in a year by his former department in Irvine, which had a force of just 200.

"I mean, that's just laughable. It's absurd. What it tells me is that they're not classifying everything as a complaint, they're not accepting, they're discouraging," Noble said.

One federal survey found that among individuals who reported having force used against them or being threatened with force in 2008, 84 percent felt that police had acted improperly, but only 14 percent of that group actually filed a complaint.

"If you don't get many complaints at a department, that might mean that, yes, the department is very good, officers are performing well," said Walker, the policing expert. "But it could also mean that trust in the complaint process is so deep that nobody bothers to complain."

The first sign that my complaint to the St. Louis County Police Department might not be taken seriously came just after I'd finished filling out the complaint form. I told the official who accepted my complaint at the Office of Professional Standards that while the officer in question had refused to identify himself, I had photos of him on my iPhone. I had already tweeted the photos, but I assumed they would want to pull the images from my device or have me send the original files via email. But the office wasn't going to make it easy. Instead, I was told I'd have to turn in printed copies. So I pulled out my phone, mapped the route to the nearest copy center, walked there to print out the photos and then walked back to drop them off.

An initial letter acknowledging my complaint was followed by months of silence. The department failed to meet its goal of responding within 90 days. Six months passed, then eight, then 10. In the meantime, several public records requests failed to unearth the name of the officer who arrested me.

A few months ago, I confirmed his name -- Michael McCann -- after it came up in a lawsuit filed against the police by other people he'd arrested. With a bit of digging, I learned that McCann had previously been suspended without pay by the St. Louis County Police after he allegedly crashed his patrol car through a fence in a residential neighborhood and fled the scene.

In June, more than 10 months after my arrest, I received a letter from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. In the letter, which was carefully vetted by St. Louis County lawyers, Belmar wrote that a "very thorough investigation" had produced "conflicting versions of what occurred."

McCann had denied slamming my head against the door, and Belmar's internal affairs team claimed that the McDonald's security footage did not definitively show what had happened. So Belmar -- "based on the absence of conclusive facts" -- had ordered the investigation closed.

"I would, however, like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he wrote. A recent independent assessment of Belmar's department found a "pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness."

In August, a few weeks after I was charged, the St. Louis County Police Department promoted Michael McCann to sergeant.

Based upon the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis County Counselor's Office filed charges against Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly in August 2015 for allegedly "trespassing" and "interfering" with police officers nearly a year earlier. Lowery and Reilly have said they were wrongfully arrested since the day they were taken into custody, and are fighting the charges.


Here's What Happens When You Complain To Cops About Cops

Ultimately, the strength of an internal affairs process depends on the person in charge, experts say.

"It really comes down to whether a police chief wants to do the right thing. In some jurisdictions, not so much. In other jurisdictions, people are real standouts," said Jeff Noble , the former deputy chief of the Irvine Police Department in California who has written extensively on police misconduct, including the book with Alpert.

One major hurdle for police accountability is that citizens often don't bother to file complaints because they don't think their concerns would be taken seriously. There is little motivation for police departments to encourage civilians to complain, experts say, and many internal affairs officers either implicitly or explicitly make it difficult for citizens to air their grievances.

In 2013, the year before the unrest in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Bureau of Professional Standards received 69 citizen complaints, about the same number it had received in prior years. Officials reported that number as an accomplishment, citing the gap between the number of complaints and the numbers of arrests (more than 26,000) and citizen contacts (more than 1.6 million) as proof that police personnel "continue serving the community in a very professional manner" and the agency "has continued to take positive measures to reduce and eliminate citizen complaints."

By that logic, 2014 -- the year that St. Louis County Police led the initial law enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson -- was a fantastic success for the agency: Only 26 citizens filed complaints, a stunning 62 percent drop from the previous year. Given the extraordinarily controversial -- and unconstitutional -- tactics deployed by police officers during the Ferguson protests, it's unlikely those figures mean anything at all.

St. Louis County Police reported receiving just a single formal complaint about officer behavior during the protests of August 2014. An after-action report pointed to two factors for that: It was "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints," and there was "a lack of confidence" in the complaint process. But even the low number of citizen complaints received in the years before the Ferguson protests -- 64 in 2012 and 69 in 2013 -- is nothing to brag about, experts say.

"I would be suspicious of those numbers," Noble said. "That's just too many officers, 800 officers -- you're only getting 60 complaints? The first thing I would want to look at is their complaint policy. What are they required to accept as a complaint? Who is required to accept it?"

Noble said he once worked with a city police department that had close to 2,000 officers. That agency claimed it received only 30 complaints over the course of a year, less than half the number of complaints typically received in a year by his former department in Irvine, which had a force of just 200.

"I mean, that's just laughable. It's absurd. What it tells me is that they're not classifying everything as a complaint, they're not accepting, they're discouraging," Noble said.

One federal survey found that among individuals who reported having force used against them or being threatened with force in 2008, 84 percent felt that police had acted improperly, but only 14 percent of that group actually filed a complaint.

"If you don't get many complaints at a department, that might mean that, yes, the department is very good, officers are performing well," said Walker, the policing expert. "But it could also mean that trust in the complaint process is so deep that nobody bothers to complain."

The first sign that my complaint to the St. Louis County Police Department might not be taken seriously came just after I'd finished filling out the complaint form. I told the official who accepted my complaint at the Office of Professional Standards that while the officer in question had refused to identify himself, I had photos of him on my iPhone. I had already tweeted the photos, but I assumed they would want to pull the images from my device or have me send the original files via email. But the office wasn't going to make it easy. Instead, I was told I'd have to turn in printed copies. So I pulled out my phone, mapped the route to the nearest copy center, walked there to print out the photos and then walked back to drop them off.

An initial letter acknowledging my complaint was followed by months of silence. The department failed to meet its goal of responding within 90 days. Six months passed, then eight, then 10. In the meantime, several public records requests failed to unearth the name of the officer who arrested me.

A few months ago, I confirmed his name -- Michael McCann -- after it came up in a lawsuit filed against the police by other people he'd arrested. With a bit of digging, I learned that McCann had previously been suspended without pay by the St. Louis County Police after he allegedly crashed his patrol car through a fence in a residential neighborhood and fled the scene.

In June, more than 10 months after my arrest, I received a letter from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. In the letter, which was carefully vetted by St. Louis County lawyers, Belmar wrote that a "very thorough investigation" had produced "conflicting versions of what occurred."

McCann had denied slamming my head against the door, and Belmar's internal affairs team claimed that the McDonald's security footage did not definitively show what had happened. So Belmar -- "based on the absence of conclusive facts" -- had ordered the investigation closed.

"I would, however, like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he wrote. A recent independent assessment of Belmar's department found a "pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness."

In August, a few weeks after I was charged, the St. Louis County Police Department promoted Michael McCann to sergeant.

Based upon the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis County Counselor's Office filed charges against Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly in August 2015 for allegedly "trespassing" and "interfering" with police officers nearly a year earlier. Lowery and Reilly have said they were wrongfully arrested since the day they were taken into custody, and are fighting the charges.


Here's What Happens When You Complain To Cops About Cops

Ultimately, the strength of an internal affairs process depends on the person in charge, experts say.

"It really comes down to whether a police chief wants to do the right thing. In some jurisdictions, not so much. In other jurisdictions, people are real standouts," said Jeff Noble , the former deputy chief of the Irvine Police Department in California who has written extensively on police misconduct, including the book with Alpert.

One major hurdle for police accountability is that citizens often don't bother to file complaints because they don't think their concerns would be taken seriously. There is little motivation for police departments to encourage civilians to complain, experts say, and many internal affairs officers either implicitly or explicitly make it difficult for citizens to air their grievances.

In 2013, the year before the unrest in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Bureau of Professional Standards received 69 citizen complaints, about the same number it had received in prior years. Officials reported that number as an accomplishment, citing the gap between the number of complaints and the numbers of arrests (more than 26,000) and citizen contacts (more than 1.6 million) as proof that police personnel "continue serving the community in a very professional manner" and the agency "has continued to take positive measures to reduce and eliminate citizen complaints."

By that logic, 2014 -- the year that St. Louis County Police led the initial law enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson -- was a fantastic success for the agency: Only 26 citizens filed complaints, a stunning 62 percent drop from the previous year. Given the extraordinarily controversial -- and unconstitutional -- tactics deployed by police officers during the Ferguson protests, it's unlikely those figures mean anything at all.

St. Louis County Police reported receiving just a single formal complaint about officer behavior during the protests of August 2014. An after-action report pointed to two factors for that: It was "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints," and there was "a lack of confidence" in the complaint process. But even the low number of citizen complaints received in the years before the Ferguson protests -- 64 in 2012 and 69 in 2013 -- is nothing to brag about, experts say.

"I would be suspicious of those numbers," Noble said. "That's just too many officers, 800 officers -- you're only getting 60 complaints? The first thing I would want to look at is their complaint policy. What are they required to accept as a complaint? Who is required to accept it?"

Noble said he once worked with a city police department that had close to 2,000 officers. That agency claimed it received only 30 complaints over the course of a year, less than half the number of complaints typically received in a year by his former department in Irvine, which had a force of just 200.

"I mean, that's just laughable. It's absurd. What it tells me is that they're not classifying everything as a complaint, they're not accepting, they're discouraging," Noble said.

One federal survey found that among individuals who reported having force used against them or being threatened with force in 2008, 84 percent felt that police had acted improperly, but only 14 percent of that group actually filed a complaint.

"If you don't get many complaints at a department, that might mean that, yes, the department is very good, officers are performing well," said Walker, the policing expert. "But it could also mean that trust in the complaint process is so deep that nobody bothers to complain."

The first sign that my complaint to the St. Louis County Police Department might not be taken seriously came just after I'd finished filling out the complaint form. I told the official who accepted my complaint at the Office of Professional Standards that while the officer in question had refused to identify himself, I had photos of him on my iPhone. I had already tweeted the photos, but I assumed they would want to pull the images from my device or have me send the original files via email. But the office wasn't going to make it easy. Instead, I was told I'd have to turn in printed copies. So I pulled out my phone, mapped the route to the nearest copy center, walked there to print out the photos and then walked back to drop them off.

An initial letter acknowledging my complaint was followed by months of silence. The department failed to meet its goal of responding within 90 days. Six months passed, then eight, then 10. In the meantime, several public records requests failed to unearth the name of the officer who arrested me.

A few months ago, I confirmed his name -- Michael McCann -- after it came up in a lawsuit filed against the police by other people he'd arrested. With a bit of digging, I learned that McCann had previously been suspended without pay by the St. Louis County Police after he allegedly crashed his patrol car through a fence in a residential neighborhood and fled the scene.

In June, more than 10 months after my arrest, I received a letter from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. In the letter, which was carefully vetted by St. Louis County lawyers, Belmar wrote that a "very thorough investigation" had produced "conflicting versions of what occurred."

McCann had denied slamming my head against the door, and Belmar's internal affairs team claimed that the McDonald's security footage did not definitively show what had happened. So Belmar -- "based on the absence of conclusive facts" -- had ordered the investigation closed.

"I would, however, like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he wrote. A recent independent assessment of Belmar's department found a "pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness."

In August, a few weeks after I was charged, the St. Louis County Police Department promoted Michael McCann to sergeant.

Based upon the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis County Counselor's Office filed charges against Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly in August 2015 for allegedly "trespassing" and "interfering" with police officers nearly a year earlier. Lowery and Reilly have said they were wrongfully arrested since the day they were taken into custody, and are fighting the charges.


Here's What Happens When You Complain To Cops About Cops

Ultimately, the strength of an internal affairs process depends on the person in charge, experts say.

"It really comes down to whether a police chief wants to do the right thing. In some jurisdictions, not so much. In other jurisdictions, people are real standouts," said Jeff Noble , the former deputy chief of the Irvine Police Department in California who has written extensively on police misconduct, including the book with Alpert.

One major hurdle for police accountability is that citizens often don't bother to file complaints because they don't think their concerns would be taken seriously. There is little motivation for police departments to encourage civilians to complain, experts say, and many internal affairs officers either implicitly or explicitly make it difficult for citizens to air their grievances.

In 2013, the year before the unrest in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Police Bureau of Professional Standards received 69 citizen complaints, about the same number it had received in prior years. Officials reported that number as an accomplishment, citing the gap between the number of complaints and the numbers of arrests (more than 26,000) and citizen contacts (more than 1.6 million) as proof that police personnel "continue serving the community in a very professional manner" and the agency "has continued to take positive measures to reduce and eliminate citizen complaints."

By that logic, 2014 -- the year that St. Louis County Police led the initial law enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson -- was a fantastic success for the agency: Only 26 citizens filed complaints, a stunning 62 percent drop from the previous year. Given the extraordinarily controversial -- and unconstitutional -- tactics deployed by police officers during the Ferguson protests, it's unlikely those figures mean anything at all.

St. Louis County Police reported receiving just a single formal complaint about officer behavior during the protests of August 2014. An after-action report pointed to two factors for that: It was "difficult or impossible to lodge complaints," and there was "a lack of confidence" in the complaint process. But even the low number of citizen complaints received in the years before the Ferguson protests -- 64 in 2012 and 69 in 2013 -- is nothing to brag about, experts say.

"I would be suspicious of those numbers," Noble said. "That's just too many officers, 800 officers -- you're only getting 60 complaints? The first thing I would want to look at is their complaint policy. What are they required to accept as a complaint? Who is required to accept it?"

Noble said he once worked with a city police department that had close to 2,000 officers. That agency claimed it received only 30 complaints over the course of a year, less than half the number of complaints typically received in a year by his former department in Irvine, which had a force of just 200.

"I mean, that's just laughable. It's absurd. What it tells me is that they're not classifying everything as a complaint, they're not accepting, they're discouraging," Noble said.

One federal survey found that among individuals who reported having force used against them or being threatened with force in 2008, 84 percent felt that police had acted improperly, but only 14 percent of that group actually filed a complaint.

"If you don't get many complaints at a department, that might mean that, yes, the department is very good, officers are performing well," said Walker, the policing expert. "But it could also mean that trust in the complaint process is so deep that nobody bothers to complain."

The first sign that my complaint to the St. Louis County Police Department might not be taken seriously came just after I'd finished filling out the complaint form. I told the official who accepted my complaint at the Office of Professional Standards that while the officer in question had refused to identify himself, I had photos of him on my iPhone. I had already tweeted the photos, but I assumed they would want to pull the images from my device or have me send the original files via email. But the office wasn't going to make it easy. Instead, I was told I'd have to turn in printed copies. So I pulled out my phone, mapped the route to the nearest copy center, walked there to print out the photos and then walked back to drop them off.

An initial letter acknowledging my complaint was followed by months of silence. The department failed to meet its goal of responding within 90 days. Six months passed, then eight, then 10. In the meantime, several public records requests failed to unearth the name of the officer who arrested me.

A few months ago, I confirmed his name -- Michael McCann -- after it came up in a lawsuit filed against the police by other people he'd arrested. With a bit of digging, I learned that McCann had previously been suspended without pay by the St. Louis County Police after he allegedly crashed his patrol car through a fence in a residential neighborhood and fled the scene.

In June, more than 10 months after my arrest, I received a letter from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. In the letter, which was carefully vetted by St. Louis County lawyers, Belmar wrote that a "very thorough investigation" had produced "conflicting versions of what occurred."

McCann had denied slamming my head against the door, and Belmar's internal affairs team claimed that the McDonald's security footage did not definitively show what had happened. So Belmar -- "based on the absence of conclusive facts" -- had ordered the investigation closed.

"I would, however, like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention," he wrote. A recent independent assessment of Belmar's department found a "pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness."

In August, a few weeks after I was charged, the St. Louis County Police Department promoted Michael McCann to sergeant.

Based upon the recommendation of the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis County Counselor's Office filed charges against Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly in August 2015 for allegedly "trespassing" and "interfering" with police officers nearly a year earlier. Lowery and Reilly have said they were wrongfully arrested since the day they were taken into custody, and are fighting the charges.


Watch the video: The Police - Wrapped Around Your Finger (August 2022).