“The 1% Are Always Going to Have Access to Things. It’s Not Fair. That’s Life. Get Over It.”
Originally published on Daily Kos
Thus said NYC Councilman Peter Vallone – who has jurisdiction over the NYPD – in response to criticism that corporate donors to the NYPD (like JP Morgan Chase) have special access to New York’s finest in ways the average citizen does not.
The criticism, as well as Vallone’s deeply troubling response, revolve around a long-time foundation that funds many NYPD programs, but which also has given New York’s largest corporations unusual access to law enforcement brass.
As WNYC reports (emphasis mine):
Critics contend a decades-old foundation originally created to help the New York City Police Department buy bullet-proof vests has greatly expanded its mission to include funding controversial counter-terrorism overseas efforts while providing special access to the NYPD to the City’s wealthiest citizens and biggest corporations.But the Foundation and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly say the donors have no influence over departmental operations, and Foundation boosters point to a myriad of successful anti-crime tip lines and reward programs that only exist because they are funded by the non-profit.
The Foundation…has a board that has more than two dozen A-listers with names like Tisch, Trump and Wilpon.
Critics of the foundation have taken aim at its lack of transparency and argue that major donors are provided with special access and considerations. Recently, JP Morgan Chase donated $4.6 million, a contribution some within the Occupy Wall Street movement pointed to as a sure sign of the bank trying to buy influence.
And here’s where Vallone comes in. Again, from WNYC (with my emphasis):
Public Safety Committee Chair Councilman Peter Vallone, who has jurisdiction over the NYPD, took no issue with giving the well-heeled special access to the NYPDif it raises money for things like rewards and crime tips. But, he said, for donors it has to be entirely about giving.”The 1 percent are always going to have access to things. It’s not fair. That’s life. Get over it.,” Vallone told WNYC. “If they are giving away a ride along, good for them. If the ride along is getting them millions of dollars that we give out in rewards programs, good for them. If they are getting some kind of influence, that’s a problem.”
That last sentence – “If they are getting some kind of influence, that’s a problem” – seems incongruent with what preceded it, as though it was a throw-away statement intended to make what came before Kosher.
Of course, the question is whether or not such donations being made by JP Morgan Chase and others are affording corporations and New York’s one percent with not only access, but influence over policing. Something Occupy Wall Street, not to mention all New Yorkers, should rightly be very sensitive about.
The seriousness of the issue prompted New York Civil Liberties Union’s Associate Legal Director, Chris Dunn, to sound some alarms:
“It’s private money coming with who knows what motivations and who knows what agreements between the foundation and the Police Department,” Dunn said. “That’s a dangerous combination. You have a police department that is beholden to a private entity and you end up where there is a situation where there is absolutely no oversight or no transparency about the funding of government operations.:Here’s a situation where you have got a private foundation that is directly funding a highly sensitive police department operation and in many respects a high controversial police department operation,” Dunn said. “This is not the kind of operation that should be funded by a private entity.”
Make no mistake that private, corporate donors are funding important programs, including technological enhancements, that the NYPD desperately needs – improvements that are hard to make through normative budgetary allocations.
However, the question is this: are such donations influencing how the NYPD polices.
Or, to put it another way, given the seriousness of this issue vis-a-vis Occupy Wall Street: are such donations influencing how the NYPD is currently policing Zuccotti Park and the areas around it?
These are questions which not only need to be asked, but need to be independently answered as well.
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