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New York Post

 

Crimes of The Times

October 02, 2012

By Heather Mac Donald

Cheering bad news for projects

So far this year, public housing has accounted for nearly 20 percent of all shootings in the city, 10 percent of felony assaults and 11 percent of rapes — though less than 5 percent of city residents live in the projects. NYPD "vertical patrolling" of public housing for trespassers, who are often there for the worst of reasons, is a key aspect of bringing safety to their law-abiding residents.

Yet Bronx DA Robert Johnson in July adopted a policy of not prosecuting trespass arrests in the projects unless the arresting officer personally confirms the validity of the charge. Worse, his office can’t actually produce the evidence of false arrests that it cited to justify the new policy.

New York Times readers learned of the new policy in a Page One story last Wednesday — but reporter Joseph Goldstein misleadingly wrote that Johnson had enacted it after "discovering that many people arrested on charges of criminal trespass at housing projects were innocent, even though police officers had provided written statements to the contrary."

Goldstein was plainly relying on a July 18 letter from Jeanette Rucker, an arraignments chief in Johnson’s office, to the head of the NYPD’s legal bureau — but her letter had already been seriously undercut.

Rucker wrote that Legal Aid defense attorneys had complained to her that their clients were arrested for trespassing in public housing, though they were legally on the premises. Rucker’s assistants investigated the claims and "in many (but not all) of the cases the defendants arrested were either legitimate tenants or invited guests," she wrote.

But Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has credibly debunked Rucker’s allegations. In a Sept. 6 letter to Johnson, Kelly reported that a commanding officer in the Internal Affairs Bureau (which investigates police misconduct) asked Rucker for the specifics of the cases she referred to in her letter. She replied that "she could not provide specifics and that she knew of only one case which was dismissed due to an error on the part of the involved police officers," Kelly wrote.

And, Kelly noted, the assistant DA who handled that one case says even that arrest was valid. It was dismissed at Rucker’s request, because the defendant was of limited mental capacity and had recently lived in the building.

The department has analyzed numerous criminal-trespass cases and interviewed the defendants, Kelly added, without finding any officer misconduct. He’d continue to review Bronx trespass cases and get extra training for officers in The Bronx, but Rucker’s "estimation of the issue," he said, looks to be badly off-base.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/crimes_of_the_times_SfLt4VIKZPrAqTYoYeoCjL

 

 
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