Among anti-cop legislators, “defund the police” may have lost some currency, but “demoralize the police” is doing just fine.
On January 30, the New York City Council passed the How Many Stops Act, over the veto of Mayor Eric Adams. The law requires New York police officers to fill out a form nearly every time they interact with a civilian. If, for example, an officer asks a potential bystander to a shooting if he had witnessed that shooting, the officer will have to complete a form listing the bystander’s race, sex, and age. Are there other potential witnesses in the area who urgently need to be contacted before they disperse? Too bad. Identity-based paperwork comes first. (If an officer waits to the end of his shift to finish filling out the forms, he will still likely need to have made some contemporaneous record of his encounters.)
The department’s personnel will spend hundreds of hours a day cumulatively on this bureaucratic task—time diverted from bringing criminals to justice.
The rationale for this unnecessary bill, like almost everything encumbering policing today, is the council’s belief that the NYPD routinely harasses people of color, whether suspects or witnesses. Never mind that civilians in these newly red-taped investigatory stops are free to ignore the officer’s questions, preserve their anonymity, and walk away. The council still sees a bigoted purpose in an officer’s reaching out to the public for help in solving crime.
The How Many Stops Act is innocuous, however, compared with California’s data-collection requirements for police officers. New reporting obligations under the Racial & Identity Profiling Act require California officers to fill out an eight-page form (up from four pages last year) with nearly 200 fields when they make what is known as a custodial stop (meaning the civilian is not free to walk away).
The form, generated by the California Department of Justice, comes straight from race- and gender-studies classrooms. The officer first documents whether he, the officer, is a “cisgender man, cisgender woman, transgender man, transgender woman, or nonbinary person.” To avoid placing a retrogressive “gender” straitjacket on the state’s public servants, the form allows an officer to check both “Nonbinary person” and one of the other categories, such as “Cisgender woman.” “N/A” is not an option; the officer must list a sexual identity. Naturally, there is also an extensive “Officer race or ethnicity” section, asking whether the officer is “Asian, Hispanic/Latine(X), Black/African, Native American, Middle Eastern or South Asian, Pacific Islander, White,” or a combination of the above.
Then the officer documents the civilian’s “perceived sexual orientation: LGB+ or Straight/Heterosexual” and the civilian’s “perceived gender: Cisgender man/boy, Cisgender woman/girl, Transgender man/boy, transgender woman/girl, or nonbinary person.” Here, too, the discerning officer is allowed to surmise that the person stopped is both a “Transgender man/boy” and a “Nonbinary person.” How is the officer to make those judgments, without engaging in culpable “stereotyping”? Police academies across the state are going to have to contract with Judith Butler for a “gender theory” module. The civilian’s “perceived race or ethnicity” must be as narrowly described.
California created this form, of course, to gin up antipolice narratives. Once an officer’s identity profile is merged with that of the person stopped, the possibilities of finding some form of identity oppression are virtually endless. (On January 23, a Superior Court judge in Sacramento, responding to a petition from California law-enforcement associations, temporarily enjoined the California attorney general from requiring officers to document their “gender” on the Racial Identity & Profiling Act stop form. The state of California must submit its opposing motion by February 27.)
California and New York remain racked by carjackings, looting, and gang shootings. Under the phony charge of racism, officers in both states have cut back on proactive policing, however essential such self-initiated activity is to solving crime. They will do even less proactive policing now, if any such discretionary activity saddles them with insultingly irrelevant forms. Police rushing from one call for help to another are not concerned with the hothouse niceties of distinguishing “nonbinary” from “cisgender.”
California’s Racial & Identity Profiling Act and New York City’s How Many Stops Act have nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with fealty to identity politics. Both are glaring examples of how profoundly Democratic elites misunderstand the challenges of maintaining law and order.
Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images