News & Politics

NYPD Faces Civil Rights Case in 'Collars for Dollars' Claim

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The police have a tough job to do. As the son of a police officer, I know that about as well as anyone who hasn’t worn a badge possibly could. Every interaction they have with people tend to be under less than pleasant circumstances.

Those difficulties are amplified when police officers fail to act according to what we expect from those who protect and serve.

For example, a couple NYPD officers now stand accused of making arrests at the end of their shift just to rack up overtime.

This isn’t an unheard of accusation against the NYPD, either. As the New York Times notes, it’s been going on for a while. Journalists Alan Feuer and Joseph Goldstein write: “Accusations about the practice — known as “collars for dollars” — have dogged the department for decades. The Mollen Commission’s 1994 report about police corruption, which used the term, detailed the various and devious overtime schemes that have been used.”

However, it didn’t stop in 1994:

Moving in on what seemed to be a crack deal, they seized two packets, which turned out to contain little more than a residue of the drug. Two men — said to be the buyer and the seller — were arrested, but the charges against one of the men were eventually dismissed.
What the officers did get that day was more than 20 hours in overtime for hauling in and processing the men. Collectively, court papers say, they earned as much as $1,400 in extra pay.

If the allegations hold up, this represents a real problem. While police officers probably are underpaid for what they deal with, bogus arrests aren’t the way to bulk up the old paycheck. If I need to tell you why that’s a bad thing, you need remedial lessons in being a decent human being.

The problem with trying to fix something like this: how do you differentiate between the real arrests and bogus arrests at the time?

New policies are needed to address this, but they also have to be adhered to by all parties involved. The officers involved need to face some strict disciplinary action, but it needs to be tempered. After all, you don’t want officers refusing to make arrests at the end of their shift if someone actually deserves arresting.

Either way, it does sound like the NYPD has some work to do.