NYPD: patrolling the streets and trolling the Internet

There's no question whether or not the New York Police Department is in a state of lawlessness. Time and time again they have reaffirmed the fact that they can do whatever they want without any consequences; whether it be through the racially motivated and borderline unconstitutional stop and frisks or the use of excessive force, the NYPD has continued to dodge all accountability.

Last week, the department stooped to an all-time low when it began to edit the Wikpedia pages of two victims of police brutality: Eric Garner and Sean Bell. According to Mother Jones, several damning facts were edited, and more police-friendly facts were added to both Wikipedia pages. In the case of Eric Garner, the phrase "chokehold" was replaced by "respiratory distress," while the line "Garner, who was considerably larger than the officers, continued to struggle with them" was added. These edits may just seem like pure coincidence, but after a short investigation the NYPD has admitted that the edits did come from their network.

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While these edits may seem harmless, they hint at a much larger problem: that the NYPD knows they're in the wrong and they're trying to fix things in the laziest way possible. Instead of implementing new protocols or re-educating officers, they seem content to reshape public opinion by marring the memory Garner. For better or worse, Wikipedia shapes public opinion. It's currently the sixth most-visited website, with more than 80 percent of students admitting to using it as a source. While people like Stephen Colbert have been editing Wikipedia pages for years, the fact that the NYPD is using such tactics in a serious way is more than a little troubling.

Not only are its tactics troubling, the way the NYPD went about it is also more than a little alarming. It's one thing to edit a victim's Wikipedia page, but the brazen way they went about it brings this incident to a new level of smugness. The officers involved with the edits were too lazy to use a different computer because they knew that they would never be punished for their actions. It's really not that much to ask that they at least do a little bit to cover up their cover up. That's what coffee shops, public libraries and home computers are made for. Still, this was too much for the officers involved, because they knew they would never be held accountable.

In no way is this a condemnation of every office in the NYPD. There are officers who follow the rules and are actually trying to make New York a safer place. With negative stories like this coming out every week, all their efforts are completely undone. Until a real effort is put forward by higher ups in the department, all the hard work and goodwill put forward by the good officers will continue to go thankless while the cops that make the headlines will continue to gain notoriety.

 

Reach the columnist at Alec.Grafil@asu.edu or follow @AlecGrafil on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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