HOT-97 FM star DJ ANGIE MARTINEZ has reacted with fury to the NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT’s plan to introduce ‘rap police’.
Speaking to NMEHIPHOP.COM last week, Angie said the NYPD’s new unit, which has been set up to focus on crimes within the rap community, was “ridiculous”. She said: “Putting people in categories… it’s like putting Puerto Rican people in one category and then saying all Puerto Rican people are bad. I mean they’ve got, what, like 40 names in that book? The police are going to use these 40 people as examples of all hiphop-associated people’s behaviour. Angie uses Jay-Z‘s recent media profile as an example, claiming: “It wasn’t Jay-Z‘s gun, it was the security’s gun. The security had a licence for that gun, he just didn’t happen to have a New York State licence, so that’s where the legal problem came in. But it’s not like Jay-Z‘s running around with a loaded weapon, you know.
“It’s all about how it’s perceived and that’s the danger of putting everything in a category, cos now you’re saying, ‘OK, well here’s another rapper arrested for gun possession’ and that’s not really what it is. Because there’s a category for it now, people are going to want to put that situation in that category. So that’s one of the dangers of that kind of thing. It’s stupid.”
Thought to be a response to a number of rap-related crimes in the city, the initiative is designed, says an NYPD spokesman “to protect the general public, as well as those in the music industry, from those who may be proceeding with criminal activity”. The move has enraged both rappers and their legal representatives.
“It’s just like the Germans ‘protected’ the Jews,” said Murray Richman, a Bronx defence lawyer, who has represented Jay-Z, DMX and Shyne. “I love people who want to protect me from myself. I love people who offer protection when no protection has been requested.”
Over the last two years, Manhattan has seen a number of violent incidents involving rappers. The row about the new hiphop unit involves claims that this is an example of police ‘racial profiling’ – that is that there exists a link between an individual’s racial origin, and the likelihood of their involvement in crime. The move has been described by Murray Richman as ‘fascistic’.
Sgt Brian Burke, a spokesman for the NYPD, told NME.COM: “I don’t understand the basis of his comments. Nobody said we were targeting rappers – we are targeting the music industry, where there have been a number of incidents. No one incident was responsible.”
The police argument runs into difficulty, said Murray Richman, because of the racial make-up of the hiphop community.
“Rather than say it’s racially profiled, they’re claiming it’s an industry profile. It’s a clear situation. Who are the rappers in New York? They’re all African-Americans and this is clear racial profiling with all the negative connotations. “It’s going to create more trouble. A person who is defined as a rapper – and that definition will be loosely applied – will have to concern himself wherever he goes. He will be under specific surveillance, he can’t make a move or turn around because he will be stopped and searched – that’s clearly in violation of the constitution of the United States.”
Asked whether the NYPD had been under pressure to act from New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sgt Burke said, “No, this is an initiative by the NYPD,” and that he was unaware of any involvement from the city’s tough civic leader.
Murray Richman disagrees. He told NME: “Unquestionably this came from Giuliani – he pulls the strings. The last two commissioners he had were merely his puppets.
“Lately the rappers have been getting a lot of attention. It’s to show the public that they’re allegedly doing something, but what they’re doing is the wrong thing.
“It’s unquestionably racist,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NYPD’s long-standing policy of prosecuting club owners for letting their premises be used to take drugs in is being adopted by forces all across the US, forcing more debate about First Amendment rights.
Club owners claim that they shouldn’t face prosecution if somebody is found to be under the influence of drugs under their roof, but some law officials are so concerned by the increased use of drugs like ecstasy in the US, that they are prepared to take any step possible to prevent overdoses and violent outbursts in their town.