NYPD Butthurt That They’re Getting Same Treatment As TSA

EDIT: Brief summary for all those new to the blog since this post is generating quite a bit of external traffic. I was stopped in the middle of 2011 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on my way home after visiting a friend of mine who lived there, by 4 NYPD officers in an unmarked car. They detained me, threatened me with arrest, and searched me because I didn’t want to talk to them, which is, of course, my right. I sued the city, who has mysteriously been “unable” to find these officers and now suggests that they probably don’t even exist. In light of the fact that the NYPD stops and frisks 700,000 people on NYC streets annually, that does not seem to be the likely explanation. My background is that I am a tech entrepreneur, musician, and civil rights advocate, and you may be familiar with my work on the latter via my “How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners” viral video published this March.

In documents filed today in my lawsuit against the NYPD for stopping and frisking me on the street because I was a white boy in a black neighborhood (which naturally means I’m a drug dealer), NYPD attorney Vicki Zgodny (on whom the City wastes $65K/year to make such [losing] arguments as “a unicycle is a bicycle“) whines that “Plaintiff has garnered media attention from other lawsuits he has brought, including a lawsuit against Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in which plaintiff maintains a blog, and has threatened to focus the same media attention on the instant lawsuit if the City does not settle the case.” They continue that I “have an agenda to criticize the NYPD and any government agency that he is displeased with just as he did with the Transportation Security Administration.”

I’m “displeased” when you ban sodas larger than 16 ounces, when you have the largest police force in the world but your response time to 911 calls averages 9 minutes, and when you decide you know better than both doctors and the law (repeatedly) regarding what women should and should not do with their breasts. But I file suit when you infringe on my personal, constitutionally-guaranteed liberties, demand “papers, please!” as I walk down the street, and put your hands on my body with neither my consent nor reasonable suspicion. I suspect you’d do the same, Vicki, if a bunch of NYPD thugs felt you up as you walked down the street.

So, you’re damn right that the NYPD is in the same boat as the TSA. Both of you violate the citizens on a daily basis in the name of “keeping us safer,” both of you have a habit of lying, covering up, and trying to use legal nuances such as immunity and jurisdiction defenses to keep your actions away from a jury, and both of you are right to fear that I will expose your unlawful and uncivilized behavior to the public in a major way, such as I did for the TSA last March.

Relevant Docs:
Corbett v. NYPD – Summary Judgment 56.1 Statement
Corbett v. NYPD – Summary Judgment Reply

33 thoughts on “NYPD Butthurt That They’re Getting Same Treatment As TSA

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  1. All of this looks to me like the expected precursors to the eventual arrival of the Anti-Christ and the return of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean you are supposed to take this lying down. We are expected to fight this with all our strength all the way until the end. God bless you Jonathan.

  2. Rep. Chu: TSA searched baby of Sikh Americans.

    Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) on Monday commended the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for retraining its employees to avoid racial profiling, but said the effort was only “a first step.”

    “Time and again, we hear from the TSA that they don’t profile based on race or religion – however, reports from travelers suggest otherwise,” she said in a statement. “The reports of racial profiling in Boston, Honolulu, and Newark raise questions about TSA’s methods.”

    “And as a Member of the Judiciary Committee, I have heard firsthand the anguished accounts of Sikh Americans who were pulled out of lines at airports for additional screening just because they were wearing a turban, where even their babies were searched. This mistreatment only reinforces common stereotypes of turbaned or bearded individuals as being ‘suspect,’” Chu added.

    More than 30 federal officers involved in a new behavioral screening program at Boston Logan International Airport have alleged that the program targeted ethnic minorities.

    The Behavior Detection Officer pilot program began last year at Logan International Airport. In the new “Assessor” screenings, TSA officers ask passengers a few personal questions and look for signs that they may be hiding something. Suspicious passengers are sent to a secondary screening or referred to a law enforcement officer.

    Chu said that Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Americans were being disproportionately targeted for screenings.

    TSA spokesman David Castelveter said in August that the TSA trainees would be taking an “online learning center refresher course to reinforce that racial/ethnic profiling will not be tolerated.”

  3. How do you even know they are NYPD? According to the court papers you posted, you didn’t get their names, they were in plain clothes, they didn’t have badges, guns, etc…

    1. They told me they were cops. They were driving a car typical of plain-clothes officers. There were 4 men together in the car. There was center console equipment. They asked questions that cops frequently ask and had the same demeanor (the NYPD was one of my biggest clients a few years back, so I’m quite familiar). But most importantly, who else would they be? They didn’t rob me or kidnap me or anything.

      1. I dunno, it could have just been a few guys fucking with you. I drive a car that’s easily mistaken for a cop car (or a taxi) and out of all the interactions I’ve had with NYPD (I work EMS in the city) I’ve never seen an undercover that didn’t display a badge after identifying them as PD. The only thing going for you is the center console thing, but I’m leaning that its a few guys that saw you out of your element and decided to have some fun. And it also says that you picked two cops out of a line up that couldn’t have been there?

        1. They didn’t exactly seem to be having fun. They seemed to be rather irritated that the smartass white guy wasn’t answering their questions. Also, impersonating a police officer is a felony and to do such a thing on the streets in such a bold manner is likely not just “for fun.” They’d also have to be the best actors I’ve ever met in person.

          They handed me about 70 pictures of cops, and I picked out the two that looked closest to the ones that I saw. They tell me it “couldn’t have been” those two — but who am I to know what kind of investigation they actually did?

          1. The way they were acting doesn’t really mean anything – to say they acted like cops is kind of a loaded statement because it implies all cops everywhere act the same way. If they were nice about it, could they not have been cops then? The NYPD is one the largest police forces in the world – to say they all act the same way doesn’t hold water in my opinion. The fact that they were upset could easily be explained that they were upset that they weren’t scaring you if their intent was to fuck with you, or that you wouldn’t give them your stuff to “search” if their intent was to rob you. If they were trying to rob you by getting you to voluntarily hand over your stuff, then its clear that they weren’t looking for a fight, so when you refused to hand over your ID/bag, they gave up.

            As for the fact that its a felony to impersonate a police officer, you’re completely right. If they weren’t police officers that did this to you then they should be arrested and tried – this sort of thing shouldn’t be tolerated.

            However, without any badge numbers, names, even a license plate on the car, it seems like you’ve taken a huge leap in suing the NYPD when the only evidence that exists is your word, which given the facts doesn’t even conclusively point to the NYPD.

          2. You’ve created a contrived scenario whereby it might not have been the NYPD. That doesn’t mean it’s not far more likely that it *was* the NYPD, and therefore a civil suit is not a huge leap but rather entirely in order.

          3. I don’t necessarily agree that it was entirely within order – if you were able to point out the officers involved, then it would be within order because the NYPD would then be able to evaluate the entire scenario, adequately respond to your allegations and a jury or judge would be able to evaluate the merits of each side.

            By not being able to do that, but simply bringing a suit against the entire department based on the actions of some individuals who aren’t conclusively proven to even work for said department, then what is stopping anybody from saying they were stopped by the NYPD and searched and that they didn’t get their names or badges? What do you think about the prospects of your case, baring any type of major breakthrough on either side?

          4. It’s not just “the actions of some individuals” — stop & frisk is a department policy that ensnares 700,000 individuals annually, the overwhelming majority of which are never cited for any crime. The NYPD should indeed pay for that, and they shouldn’t be given a free pass because their plain-clothes officers are hard to identify and “hey, maybe it was a fake cop!”

          5. Stop and Frisk isn’t a crime and has been ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court. If you want to fight that, then bring your case to the legislatures that make the law, but to criticize the NYPD for using a tactic that as of right now they’re allowed to use isn’t the smart move, especially in a case as flimsy as this.

            Its also not just they might not have been cops, it could be that they were cops and were completely justified in their actions. It doesn’t sound like the broke any laws if they were NYPD besides following a policy that you don’t neccessarily agree with.

          6. Stop & frisk is Supreme Court approved if and only if the officer has reasonable suspicion that you are 1) in possession of a weapon, AND 2) about to use it to harm the officer or others. In this case, and MANY others, there were no grounds for such reasonable suspicion. It’s unlawfully abused so often, in fact, that a federal judge recently granted *class action* status to a lawsuit against the practice:


          7. Actually, according to Terry, stop and frisk is legal if there is reasonable suspicion that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime and there is reasonable suspicion that the suspect has a weapon (nothing about being about to use it).

            So lets say you were stopped because the NYPD thought you were a drug dealer. Its Crown Heights – a place with a lot of gun violence that is also drug/gang related. I don’t think its entirely unreasonable that the officer is able to pat you down for his and your safety.

            The officer also did not force you to show your ID and did not force you to hand over your belongings or empty your pockets for a search. Maybe there was enough to stop you, but since there was nothing else, they let you go. I don’t see a problem here.

          8. I bet you don’t.

            First, you’re wrong. The suspect has to be both armed and dangerous under Terry. From Terry itself: “When an officer is justified in believing that the individual whose suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range is armed and presently dangerous to the officer or to others, it would appear to be clearly unreasonable to deny the officer the power to take necessary measures to determine whether the person is, in fact, carrying a weapon and to neutralize the threat of physical harm.”

            Second, you’re right that if they had reasonable suspicion that I was a drug dealer, that would fulfill at least part of Terry’s requirements. However, I was simply walking on the street. There was no basis for that “reasonable suspicion,” and if there was, they wouldn’t have started out by asking me where I was going and so forth — they would have gone straight to the frisk. The search didn’t happen for several minutes — did my refusal to show ID somehow give them reasonable suspicion that I have a weapon? (I’ll give you a hint: refusal to show ID cannot be grounds for reasonable suspicion).

          9. Being armed is considered being dangerous – if a person could be armed and not dangerous then it would warrant a whole different set of criteria for stop and frisk. But the officer doesn’t need to believe you’re about to pull out a weapon in order to warrant a frisk. The quote you gave says nothing about needing to believe the officer is in imminent danger.

            As for why you were stopped, that is why it is imperative that you could identify the officers involved – how do you know a crime wasn’t just committed in the area, or that you matched the description of a suspect (not too many white guys walking around Crown Heights), or that one of any number of situations hadn’t occurred that would warrant a stop? A person who is stopped doesn’t need to be told exactly the reason for the stop.

            Between all this, the fact that you can’t identify the officers involved, and you can’t conclusively prove their NYPD, I just don’t personally see a justification for bringing this lawsuit.

          10. Wrong again. Here in America, we have the constitutional right to be armed, and exercise of that 2nd Amendment right does not require us to relinquish our 4th Amendment rights. We are not automatically criminals subject to search simply because we choose to bear arms. The Terry court used “armed and dangerous” instead of “armed” not just because it sounds better, but because they meant it, and there are numerous other cases that confirm that (I’ll leave finding them to you).

            …all of which is neither here nor there, since the police had no reason to suspect that I was either armed OR dangerous. I was just a guy walking down the street.

          11. I’m not wrong – of course your rights don’t cease to exist when exercising one or the other, but the cops have a right to be safe as well, and its a far cry from stopping somebody with a rifle in their truck in rural Kentucky and stopping somebody with a handgun in a backpack in Crown Heights, and stopping one for a routine traffic violation and stopping the other for suspicion of criminal activity. This is common sense, and something the courts have routinely recognized.

            And you seem to have ignored a large part of MT argument. Because you don’t know why the cops stopped you, you can’t definitively say that you were stopped illegally, if you were in fact stopped by NYPD.

          12. My constitutional rights don’t change based on what city/state I’m in.

            I know why the cops stopped me. They stopped me because they assumed a white guy in a black neighborhood was up to no good. Can I prove it? Probably not, which is why I dropped the racial element from my latest complaint. But based on my interaction, am I sure? Yes.

          13. Of course your constitutional rights don’t change based on your city/state, but things like stop and frisk are independent of that and come into play under the circumstances that you are stopped. Its the circumstances of your stop that determine whether or not a frisk is appropriate (routine traffic stop v. Suspicion of drug dealing).

            You’re assuming that’s what happened. That’s why I can’t find a justifiable reason for your lawsuit. You’re assuming they stopped you because you were white in a black neighborhood. It sounds like your personal politics is causing you to be blind to all the other possibilities that could have caused this and I think that blindness will cause your lawsuit to not go as well as you hope.

          14. That is your opinion and I appreciate hearing it, as perhaps some of the jury will share your opinion. But, in Brooklyn where the jury is likely to have experienced stop & frisk first-hand, I doubt it.

          15. I grew up and currently reside in Brooklyn, as do many of my family and friends and although we have all had interactions with the police, we haven’t had too many negative ones. I think you overestimate the amount of emotions you’re hoping to solicit from the jury, and that is assuming your lawsuit isn’t dismissed before it gets to that point. I’ll be interested in following your posts to see how it turns out for you.

  4. I find it disturbing that Paul is so willing to defer his constitutional rights to whatever a third party – in this case the cops – interprets them to be at that time. I am not. And thankfully, neither is Jon.

    1. If the cops were doing something illegal, then I would stand up for what is right. But I don’t see stop and frisk as a violation of any constitutional right, and so far nobody has been able to explain why it would be so. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld it, and I’d be inclined to think that they’d be a little more knowledgeable on the subject of constitutional law than redheadwrites. All I see here is a lawsuit that is wasting the courts time and taxpayer dollars. I have nothing against anybody here personally, but that is how I feel about this lawsuit.

      1. They have only upheld a very narrow notion of stop & frisk, only to search for weapons under reasonable suspicion or imminent threat. This instance does not rise to that. Allowing the continual errosion of our 4th amendment rights just because we think the Supreme Court allows it is ill advised. Crossing the clear boundary line as drawn by the Supreme court needs to be stopped, swiftly and clearly.

        Either our rights are our own, or they are delegated to us by the state. I believe the former.

  5. It seems to me, with this particular case and scenario you’re not going to win. If indeed the NYPD is corrupt (I live in Cali so I can’t say first hand) and if indeed those where plain clothed police officers and if the NYPD is lying about their existence, they’re going to continue to do so, even in open court. If those men weren’t plain clothed officers and where indeed people who impersonated a police officer then you are suing the wrong defendants and the case will be dismissed on that count. And even if they where plain clothes officers and the NYPD is mistaken about their location (giving NYPD the benefit of the doubt) you sadly did not obtain ANY identifying information and your case will be dismissed because you could not positively ID any of the officers and the NYPD’s record trails state that there wasn’t any officers traveling in groups of 4 in any precinct at that time.

    This will boil down to your word vs theirs and IMHO their words have more weight since, if asked, they could present estimated locations of EVERY police officer on duty that night.

  6. TSA Can Withhold Watch List Inclusion Process.

    Washington, D.C. – An American who says he was busted on a bogus marijuana charge during a trip to Egypt won’t be able to get his hands on TSA records that might reveal how he made it onto the agency’s watch list, a federal judge ruled.

    U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the Department of Homeland Security and its Transportation Security Administration won’t have to give up the information under exemption three of the Freedom of Information Act, which allows the government to withhold information protected by federal statute.

    Ryan Skurow sued Homeland Security and the TSA in 2011 for denying his FOIA request.

    Skurow says he traveled to Israel in 1998 as a tourist with friends, but the group was busted for marijuana possession by Egyptian police during an excursion trip to the Sinai Peninsula. He and his friends were tried without counsel, fined $200 and returned to Israel, but since then Skurow says he’s been detained multiple times in American airports. On one occasion, he was told by a customs officer that his name is on a watch list as a result of his 1998 arrest.

    Skurow made several attempts before filing his complaint to find out how he got on the list, but the TSA only released redacted documents to him.

    “In his opposition, plaintiff principally argues that the government acted in bad faith,” states Judge Sullivan. “Plaintiff also argues that defendants’ searches were inadequate and that the exemptions do not apply.”

    The judge backed the TSA, stating that “delays in responding to FOIA requests are not, in and of themselves, indicative of agency bad faith.

    He also ruled that the TSA performed an adequate search and that a statute giving the Secretary of Homeland Security the right to withhold information determined to be detrimental to the security of transportation sufficient to meet the FOIA exemption.

    The judge dismissed Skurow’s case and granted the government’s motion for summary judgment.

    Click to access WatchListFOIA.pdf

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