Wouldn’t the first clue have been all of the uniformed police that responded to protect the arrest? A warrant squad arrested a woman on the streets of New York City yesterday, hauling her into an unmarked van. The video of the arrest went viral yesterday, leading MSNBC host Chris Hayes to call it a “kidnapping” (via Townhall’s Leah Barkoukis):
this is…kidnapping https://t.co/iT7SDb5RWx
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 28, 2020
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez warned that “civil liberties are on the brink” after the ACLU hyperventilated about it as well:
Our civil liberties are on brink.
This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.
To not protect our rights is to give them away. It is our responsibility to resist authoritarianism. https://t.co/pw20WF05KK
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 29, 2020
Don’t be ridiculous, the NYPD responded. This was an arrest predicated on an existing warrant. The suspect had been wanted in a series of incidents of vandalism against police property, and the police on bicycles were not there by accident either:
In regard to a video on social media that took place at 2 Ave & 25 St, a woman taken into custody in an unmarked van was wanted for damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents in & around City Hall Park. The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks & bottles. pic.twitter.com/2jGD3DT3eV
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) July 29, 2020
When she was placed into the Warrant Squad's unmarked gray minivan, it was behind a cordon of NYPD bicycle cops in bright yellow and blue uniform shirts there to help effect the arrest.
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) July 29, 2020
Is it journalistic practice at NBC News to make accusations against law enforcement without first ascertaining the facts? Or at the very least, without watching the video carefully to see what actually transpired? Actually, it probably isn’t, since another NBC News journalist ended up scolding Hayes on Twitter shortly afterward:
It could also be undercover detectives from a warrant squad making an arrest with probable cause for someone wanted for 5 specific crimes wearing visible weapons and vests in a car immediately surrounded by uniformed police officers with NYPD written on the back. https://t.co/CsKt5QMSmZ
— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) July 29, 2020
Kudos to Tom Winter, the NBC News beat reporter for police and courts in the eastern US.
The tactics used in making this arrest are not all that unusual — and to the extent they are, those are forced on the NYPD in the circumstances of the unrest. People with warrants out who aren’t inclined to turn themselves in watch for uniformed police to avoid arrest. Some police departments use warrant squads in plainclothes and unmarked cars in order to execute warrants more successfully. They go to residences, places of work, and at times to places where suspects are known to hang out in order to serve the warrants and arrest the suspects.
The fact that this woman was apparently known to be in protest crowds required a different set of tactics. To keep the officers safe, they had to arrest her quickly and get her into the vehicle before other protesters could assault them. To walk up and announce themselves and try to make an arrest would invite mob action and prevent the arrest — and in this case, mob action nearly succeeded anyway. That is why they had uniformed backup, and that turned out to be a very wise choice.
There might be a legitimate debate about the use of plainclothes officers in serving warrants. However, anyone who thinks this is some sort of new policy for local police departments, or used only in arresting protesters, has not been paying attention. Everyone else hyping this up should ask themselves why police have to protect themselves to this extent these days, and mull over their own roles in contributing to the anarchic environment in which law enforcement is now forced to operate.
Update: The NYPD is pushing back hard against the “kidnapping” slur. This woman was wanted, Chief Rodney Harrison, and for very good reason:
The #NYPD welcomes peaceful protests.
However, damage to NYPD technology that helps keep this city safe will never be tolerated. These cameras are vital resources which help prevent and solve crimes throughout the city. pic.twitter.com/dwv5vkhQiP
— Chief Rodney Harrison (@NYPDDetectives) July 29, 2020