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Zero Tolerance

Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City

Andrea Mcardle, Tanya Erzen

Publication Year: 2001

Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Anthony Baez, Patrick Dorismond. New York City has been rocked in recent years by the fate of these four men at the hands of the police. But police brutality in New York City is a multi-dimensional phenomenon that refers not only to the hyperviolent response of white male police officers as in these cases, but to an entire set of practices that target homeless people, vendors, and sexual minorities.

The complexity of the problem requires a commensurate response, which Zero Tolerance fulfills with a range of scholarship and activism. Offering perspectives from law and society, women's studies, urban and cultural studies, labor history, and the visual arts, the essays assembled here complement, and provide a counterpoint, to the work of police scholars on this subject.

Framed as both a response and a challenge to official claims that intensified law enforcement has produced New York City's declining crime rates, Zero Tolerance instead posits a definition of police brutality more encompassing than the use of excessive physical force. Further, it develops the connections between the most visible and familiar forms of police brutality that have sparked a new era of grassroots community activism, and the day-to-day violence that accompanies the city's campaign to police the "quality of life."

Contributors include: Heather Barr, Paul G. Chevigny, Derrick Bell, Tanya Erzen, Dayo F. Gore, Amy S. Green, Paul Hoffman, Andrew Hsiao, Tamara Jones, Joo-Hyun Kang, Andrea McArdle, Bradley McCallum, Andrew Ross, Eric Tang, Jacqueline Tarry, Sasha Torres, and Jennifer R. Wynn.

Published by: NYU Press

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pp. vii-xiii

The police are a political lightning rod, especially for the sort of politics, so highly developed in the United States, through which a group carves out a place for itself in the system by recognizing its difference from others, while at the same time organizing to attack discrimination against it. It is easy to see why. In New York City, as in practically every other municipality larger than a...

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pp. xiv-xvi

This anthology began as a collaborative project for the American Studies Program at New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Science. The group project—a distinguishing feature of the program’s model of interdisciplinary scholarship—put the project authors (Tanya Erzen, Leota Lone Dog, Andrea McArdle, and Eric Tang, who first proposed the project) in an extended conversation about the brutal effects of New York City’s high-intensity campaign...

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pp. 1-16

On April 15, 1999 , posters bearing this message in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza and lower Manhattan communicated more than any speech, march, or courtroom debate could. The names inscribed on the posters documented the grief of mothers, fathers, spouses, and children whose loved ones had been killed or gravely wounded by police officers. As part of a new community activism galvanized...

I. Policing the Quality of Life

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1. Turnstile Jumpers and Broken Windows: Policing Disorder in New York City

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pp. 19-49

It is rush hour in a crowded subway station in New York, and amid the jostling and general mayhem, a man bounds over a subway turnstile instead of swiping a card or paying a token. On the other side, a transit cop spots the fare evader mid-leap, and is waiting as he clears the turnstile. The officer slaps him...

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2. Policing Madness: People with Mental Illness and the NYPD

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pp. 50-84

James1 grew up in Brooklyn in a middle-class family where he was the oldest of three children. He was a junior in college studying engineering when he was hospitalized for the first time and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He has been in and out of hospitals dozens of times since then. His family took care of him for years, but eventually...

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3. Giuliani Time: Urban Policing and Brooklyn South

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pp. 85-104

This essay examines collisions between mass-mediated representation and the lived history of police brutality in black communities, particularly how such collisions shape politics and everyday life within contemporary American cities. I focus here on one such crash of the social with the representational, which occurred in 1997: the police assault, in August, on Abner Louima...

II. The Police

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4. Can Zero Tolerance Last? Voices from inside the Precinct

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pp. 107-126

The drop in New York City crime has made for tantalizing sound bites and boosted civic pride among the most cynical urban dwellers. But often lost from the commentary are the voices and experiences of uniformed officers charged with enforcing “zero tolerance” policing, the intensified law enforcement as well as style of management that holds law enforcement officials accountable for achieving...

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5. girlz in blue: Women Policing Violence in the NYPD

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pp. 127-146

I wish I had a dollar for each time I’ve been asked, “You teach theater at John Jay College of Criminal Justice?” To the many incredulous posers of this query, it has apparently seemed odd that a college that prepares students for careers in law enforcement could have the slightest use for theater. When I joined the faculty of the Department of Speech and Theatre in the fall of 1995, I had had little...

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6. No Justice, No Peace

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pp. 147-176

While New York City burnishes its reputation as a safe haven for developers, tourists, and affluent residents,1 the iconic presence of Emma Lazarus’s Statue of Liberty offers a more ambivalent welcome to the city’s new immigrants.2 Meanwhile, in the streets of the city, the claims of safety are tested daily. Young pedestrians and bike riders in the poorer neighborhoods are routinely stopped and questioned by police in the Giuliani administration’s campaign to reduce drug...

III. Activism

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Mothers of Invention: The Families of Police-Brutality Victims and the Movement They’ve Built

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pp. 179-195

One chilly evening last year, some twenty people crowded into the cramped, downtown Manhattan office of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights to share a mutual heartbreak. Each member of the group—mostly Latinas, though two young Asian women and a middle-aged African American couple were among them—had lost a son or brother to police violence, but the discussion was at once gruesome and remarkably practical. One mother spoke matter-of-factly about the “three kinds of strangulation.” Another...

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8. International Human Rights Law and Police Reform

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pp. 196-220

Recent reports by Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW)1 have defined the problem of police abuse in the United States as an international human rights issue. This may come as a surprise to many Americans accustomed to believing that international human rights problems arise only in far-off lands. International human rights norms do apply to...

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9. Police Brutality in the New Chinatown

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pp. 221-242

On March 24, 1995 , sixteen-year-old Yong Xin Huang, a Chinese American youth from Brooklyn, was killed by Police Officer Steven Mizrahi. Using a Glock 9-mm pistol, Mizrahi fired one shot—at point-blank range—into the back of Huang’s head. According to Mizrahi and the New York Police Department (NYPD), the shooting was an accident. The police story claims that Huang and three friends were in possession of what appeared to be a real pistol while playing in the driveway of the Brooklyn home...

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10. An Interview with Derrick Bell: Reflections on Race, Crime, and Legal Activism

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pp. 243-250

On August 3, 1999 lawyer-scholar-author-activist Derrick Bell joined me for a long, wide-ranging conversation about race, crime, law, direct action, and a pedagogy for a new generation of lawyer-activists. Reflecting on his forty years of advocacy and activism, he encourages us to think about police brutality in a broader economic and political context, keeping the focus on how police violence is connected to, and a symptom of, the racism that persists...

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11. Organizing at the Intersections: A Roundtable Discussion of Police Brutality through the Lens of Race, Class, and Sexual Identities

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pp. 251-270

The Audre Lord Project (ALP) is the nation’s only center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirit,1 and transgender2 (LGBTST) people of color communities. In 1997, ALP added a Working Group on Police Violence to its organizing initiatives in response to increasing reports of police violence directed against LGBTST people of color in New York City. At that time, police brutality had once again emerged to plague America’s national consciousness. ALP...

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Bearing Witness

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pp. 271-281

When does the intensity of an isolated occurrence ripple throughout a community to the point where a collective outcry seems the only resort? Activism is often rooted in empathy. In Witness: Perspectives on Police Violence, a multimedia visual art installation, we have created a space to listen to the voices of those who have directly experienced police violence. Central to the artwork are testimonies of victims of police violence, their surviving family members, police officers, and advocates working on the front line of this volatile...

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Areas A, B, and C: An Afterword

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pp. 282-288

Lenny Bruce, the pioneer of avant-garde standup performance, and no stranger to the interior of police precincts, was seldom at a loss when it came to explaining the refractory shape of law enforcement. In one of his rambunctious, routine spritzes, he offers a vignette of the origins of the law. Back “when it started,” in what we are invited to imagine as a paleolithic landscape, the need for...


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pp. 289-292


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pp. 293-299

E-ISBN-13: 9780814759721
E-ISBN-10: 0814759726
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814756317
Print-ISBN-10: 081475631X

Page Count: 316
Publication Year: 2001