Buzzed Bands Podcast, Ep. 2 w/ Cold Blood Club

Saturday, June 18, 2011

NYPD Ticketing Rooftop Party Goers

Let me preface this by saying the story you are about to read is not necessarily about myself. When I hear about abuse of power shit I like to use this public forum to share. So while I may or may not have been in attendance here's a little story about some shit that went down last night. I left out the location, names of officers, names of attendees and even names of bands involved since there will be people taking this to court.

Last night there was an impromptu roof party somewhere in Williamsburg. Now, hosting a roof party with loud ass bands on a Monday night is pretty stupid, no one would argue otherwise, and you're basically asking for trouble. But simply showing up as an invited guest doesn't seem like something that should be worried about.

The band started playing and the guests moved towards the stage area. There were about 30-40 people all hanging out and having drinks. After about 15 minutes the cops showed up. This surprised absolutely no one. But what's to worry about? Adults, drinking adult beverages and/or soft drinks on private property to which all attendees were invited.

The coppers seemed to think otherwise. First they split the crowd into two lines, based entirely on where people were standing. The people on the right got in the right line and the people on the left got in the left line. The two officers went through each line and asked for everyone's ID. The cop collecting the ID was asked specifically why they were confiscating IDs and replied, "I'll tell you later".

Then all of the officers, about 6 or so, gathered in a corner to discuss the next steps. They could be overheard discussing trespassing, which one of the officers shot down saying that wouldn't go over, but they were too far away to hear most of the conversation. The cops came back over to the two lines and one of the lines was told to go downstairs to the street. The other line was held up for a bit but eventually told to do the same. The cops told the legal adults in attendance to leave their drinks, open or closed, on the roof. They did not gather these up or even make contact with a single drink.

On the ground level a huge crowd was formed with cops mixed in. Honestly the mood was very civil and everyone was fully cooperating at all times. But people were starting to get freaked out because the cops, who were now in there cars on the other side of the street, were running every single persons ID. One of the cops comes back and starts handing out IDs to random people in the crowd with instructions to "go home".

However, several people were still waiting for their IDs to come back. After another 15 minutes the IDs finally came back but they came attached with a ticket. Now, what could you possibly get a ticket for on a roof of a residential building? Apparently, you can get a ticket for open container. About 10 people of the 40 or so on the roof were randomly awarded open container tickets.

Now let's first address the legality of an open container ticket on private property. I'm no lawyer but I can not find anything in the legal code that in anyway makes it legal to issue a ticket for open container on private property. I was able to find instances of it happening to other people in NYC but there's nothing in the law that says it can be done, ever. So the general premise of the tickets is bogus to begin with, which common sense would tell you.

Next let's address these open containers themselves. At no point did a single officer on the roof inspect, in any way, the contents of a single container. In fact, none of the officers made physical contact with any of the containers in question. That makes an inspection of it's content pretty difficult no? I don't know the story of all of the people who were ticketed but one person who was issued a ticket was holding a cup. Not a beer bottle or a jug of wine, just a cup. Pretty sure you need to do a little more than just glance at person holding a cup before you write them a ticket.

But wait, there's more! All of the people that were given tickets for open container, with the exception of the party organizer, were in the right line. It had nothing to do with who had a drink and who didn't, it was based on where you were standing when they lined you up. Even then it was pretty clear that the tickets were randomly assigned. The IDs were collected in a huge stack, they were not separated out based on drink in hand or no drink in hand, just one big stack of IDs. And just to reiterate, you can't give a person an open container ticket for holding an unmarked cup without at least inspecting it's contents, especially on private property.

Are we done yet? Nope. Nearly all of the people who were ticketed had their IDs taken by one officer. He was the only officer on the right side of the roof at the time the IDs were collected. It was nighttime on a roof, there was very little light available. The only way to ID who did or did not have drinks would be up close. There was only one officer up close to the people on the right (the door was on the left where the other cops were gathered). So the identification of these open containers had to come from that one officer, right? Nope, each ticket was signed by a different officer. That's right, they each got one in for the books. Way to go boys.

When the crowd dispersed and there were only a few stragglers left some casual conversation was struck up with the boys in blue. They said that the reason they had to issue tickets was because roof parties are getting a lot of heat. Last year some kids fell off a roof and died so they had to crack down. He continued by saying that if you get invited to a roof party you should ask the organizer if he has the proper permits before attending or else you might get in trouble just for attending...really dude?

While the ticket was being discussed the officer was told, "there's no way this stands up in court" the officer replied, "oh, no way, you'll be fine - don't even worry about it". Great, so people waited around for an hour and were issued tickets for engaging in lawful activity and then even the cops who just issued the tickets admit it's all bullshit. Now these people either have to admit guilt and pay a fine for a crime they did not commit or take off from work and go to court to fight it. Of course, for all of the above reasons there's no chance the ticket holds up so it's basically just wasting a day in court for no reason.

Well, at least you can rest easy knowing the NYPD is out there meeting quotas by issuing tickets to random people who are in no way breaking the law. Makes you feel safe, huh?

***Update: Several people went to court to fight these tickets. The public defendant in no way even attempted to help clear their names. The judge issued fines without even hearing out what actually happened. The officer said they were guilty and the judge obliged. Adults were found guilty and fined for "drinking in public" on private property. Some of the officers who appeared in court never even came in contact with the people charged the night of the incident. This is NYC. Don't drink on your roof, in your yard or on your terrace - that's illegal apparently.

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