New York City: Identifying People By Their Identifying Marks Is Offensive

by Charles C. W. Cooke

This little gem from the New York Post will one day make a wonderful chapter in my upcoming classic, The Decline and Fall of Common Sense:

Cops might as well wear blindfolds if the City Council passes a bill that would let them use little more than the color of a suspect’s clothing in descriptions — or risk being sued for profiling, according to this provocative new ad (pictured) from the NYPD captains union.

The ad asks, “How effective is a police officer with a blindfold on?”

And the answer is not very, says the NYPD Captains Endowment Association, which is fighting the measure, claiming it would handcuff cops and send crime rates soaring.

Union President Roy Richter — who is seen in the ad wearing a blindfold in Times Square — told The Post the bill is dangerous because “it will ban cops from identifying a suspect’s age, gender, color or disability.

“When we have wanted suspects and patterns of crimes, those are very important descriptive terms to let officers know who to look for.”

The ad warns that if cops transmit a description of a suspect that goes beyond the color of his or her clothing, they could be sued for racial profiling if the proposal becomes law.

So, if a white male in his mid-thirties with a beard and a limp is wanted on suspicion of a crime, the police will be unable to broadcast that fact. Instead, they would have to say that they’re looking for a person of undefined age, race, ability, and pogonic status — and then describe his clothes. In a city of 7 million people, this will presumably work out perfectly, and it certainly won’t lead to an increase in the frisking that the bill aims to reduce.

Now that we’ve decided that identifying people by their identifying marks is offensive, one can only presume that the racist FBI will quickly follow suit and remove not only the “race,” “weight,” “height,” “nationality,” “sex,” “hair,” “eyes,” and “place of birth” categories from the descriptions that accompany America’s ”Ten Most Wanted,” but also the outrageous “Scars and Marks” section. Looking at the FBI’s intolerant, h8-filled page, one is left with the uncomfortable impression that, rather than trying to complete a sociology doctorate, the outfit actually trying to find criminals. We can’t have that. “Suspect” is such a judgemental word.

Williams and fellow Brooklyn Democrat Brad Lander, a co-sponsor of the proposal, say it would only expand the city’s existing racial-profiling law by adding other demographic groups that should be protected, such as the homeless and gay people.

Hey, if we’re going down this road, then why leave it there? After all, some people are bullied for the clothes that they wear and the “life choices” that they make. Why are we excluding them? Why not move to protect Goths by making it illegal to identify trenchcoats and makeup? And why not look out for the Amish? If a Mennonite man is wanted, shouldn’t it be illegal for the police to attempt to identify him by his clothing and facial hair? And what about names? Knowing the name of a suspect is pretty useful in an investigation, but it could also lead to some horrible mixups: I’d venture that there must be a few John Lees, Michael Brennans, Muhammad Abdullahs, or Diego Riveras in New York. 

Behind the move is mayoral hopeful, Christine Quinn, who appears to have taken a leaf out of Andrew Cuomo’s playbook:

The bill’s sponsor, Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), and Speaker Christine Quinn are going to bypass normal committee process and bring the measure directly to a vote.

In a sensible world, for proposing such a ridiculous idea Christine Quinn would be the one benefiting from anonymity. 

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