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Learning About the NYPD — The Hard Way: Fervant Cop Supporter Turns Against Cops After His Own Bogus Arrest

An innocent man gets arrested not because he has committed a real crime but because the officer needs the bogus arrest to pad his stats, qualify for a promotion, and get some extra cash via over-time pay

Carsten Vogel with daughter. (Courtesy Carsten Vogel)
By
A few weeks ago, when relations between the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio were at their nadir, some of Carsten Vogel's friends had been enthusiastically bashing the NYPD on Facebook.

Vogel, who has always been a police supporter and even counts some cops among his friends, took exception to their criticism. At the time, police were in the midst of an intentional "slowdown" in arrests and ticketing in protest of the mayor's many perceived slights toward the department, and Vogel was quick to the NYPD's defense.

"The police in NYC are now refusing to make the mayor look good," Vogel wrote in a thread on his Facebook page. "I get it. I don't think the police are abandoning their jobs or responsibilities. I think they are refusing to play the game." A few days prior, he'd gotten into what he describes as a heated argument with a friend about the same topic.

But his view of police has now been irrevocably changed. At around 4 p.m. on January 20, Vogel was listening to his headphones while waiting for an A train at the Nostrand Avenue stop when he was approached by an NYPD officer, who asked what he had in his pocket. It was a pocketknife, Vogel told him. It was clipped onto the pocket of his jeans — not open or exposed, but visible to a sharp eye.

Vogel knew his knife was legal. He had done his homework and researched New York's laws. "I didn't want to be carrying an illegal knife," Vogel says, so he'd checked out the rules when he got it. The blade didn't exceed four inches, and it wasn't a switchblade, which are illegal in New York State.


[...]

When Vogel handed over his knife, the cop who had stopped him went through a routine that plays out thousands of times every year in New York City. Holding Vogel's knife, the cop raised his arm and vigorously flicked his wrist, in a practiced move. The knife snapped open and into place.

Vogel says he had never in his life tried to open his knife like that. It certainly wasn't designed to operate that way. He was stunned.

"It looked like a magic trick," Vogel says of the officer's move. "That's the best way I can describe it. It looked like magic." To Vogel, it seemed obvious that this officer had done this before. "It's something that this guy has obviously practiced a lot."

[...]

When we wrote about gravity knife arrests in October, it set off a lengthy discussion on Thee Rant, a verified online forum for NYPD officers. One user, in what seems to be a prescient comment, wrote that gravity knife arrests are "Why the public hates us. [Be]cause discretion has been taken away and it's all about numbers." The same user noted that he had seen "rookies stalking the subways between 5-7pm to catch a construction worker wearing one so they could get a...Big CPW [criminal possession of a weapon] arrest." Another user put it this way: "There was a time when a cop had discretion and used common sense when enforcing the law. Now we look at the public as a 'number' to use to keep our steady tours and make OT and we wonder why the public hates cops."

[...]

as he was being taken away in the back of a cruiser, he overheard a conversation that made him think differently. The officers were talking about promotions, about the kinds of arrest numbers they needed to move up in the ranks. The conversation turned to another officer they knew, and why he was getting a bump in status.

"They were saying, 'Why is he getting promoted?' " Vogel recalls. " 'He's only got, like, two guns and a burglary and a few robberies?' " Vogel says he started to realize that his arrest wasn't about safety or the kind of law enforcement that most people want from their police. "Here they are talking about promotions, and the relationship between arrest and promotions. And I'm just a pawn," he says.

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