New York

10 things you need to know today – 1/26/2015

AP WHITE HOUSE LOCKDOWN A USA DC

Secret Service Officers search south grounds of the White House on January 26, 2015 | (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)

 The Week

(Via my email.  There is no longer access to the online version without a subscription.)

1. Radical Greek anti-austerity party wins parliamentary election

Greece’s radical left Syriza party, which is vowing to end the country’s tough austerity program, moved quickly to form a government Monday, a day after winning a decisive victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Party leader Alexis Tsipras, at age 40 Greece’s youngest prime minister in 150 years, said the vote gave the party a clear mandate to end “five years of humiliation and pain,” signaling a showdown with lenders over the terms of Greece’s $270 billion international bailout. Greek stocks fell by five percent early Monday. [The Washington Post]

2. New York and the rest of the Northeast brace for historic storm

Airlines canceled nearly 2,000 flights on Monday ahead of a potentially historic winter storm headed into the Northeast. New Yorkers were expecting as much as 30 inches of snow to begin falling in early afternoon. New York City has only experienced two blizzards packing 26 inches of snow, one in 1947 and one in 2006. “Don’t underestimate this storm,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday. “My message for New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have ever seen before.” [ABC News, PBS Newshour]

3. Sixteen die in protests marking anniversary of Egypt’s uprising

At least 16 people were killed in Egypt over the weekend in clashes between police and protesters marking the fourth anniversary of the country’s revolution. At least 15 people, including three police cadets, were killed on Sunday. One woman, Shaimaa El-Sabbagh of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was killed — shot by police, colleagues said — as she marched with a group heading to Tahrir Square. Police deny firing the shots, saying they only used tear gas. [CNN, BBC News]

4. New York Assembly Speaker Silver agrees to temporarily step aside

Longtime New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver agreed Sunday to step aside temporarily as he fights federal corruption charges. Silver was under increasing pressure from Democrats to give up his duties. One person familiar with the deal said Silver, who was arrested on Thursday, would “not specifically step down, but step back.” Democrats will hold a closed-door meeting on Monday afternoon to consider the plan. [The New York Times]

5. Small aerial drone found on White House grounds

A device believed to be a small aerial drone, was found on the grounds of the White House on Sunday. Obama administration officials said Monday that the device posed no threat. The discovery came as President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are in India, although their daughters, Sasha and Malia, did not travel with them. The news came as the Secret Service has been trying to regroup after several security breaches, including one in September when a man with a knife scaled a fence and ran into the White House. [The Miami Herald]

6. Christie forms PAC ahead of possible presidential bid

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has formed a political action committee in what has been interpreted as an early step toward launching a bid for the presidency in 2016. The move made Christie the third high-profile Republican to consider launching a campaign, behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, the GOP’s nominee in 2012. Launching the PAC, Leadership Matters for America, will let Christie recruit the staff and fundraisers he would need to start a campaign. [The Wall Street Journal]

7. Obama moves to expand protections in Alaska wilderness

The White House announced on Sunday that President Obama will ask Congress to classify 12 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as wilderness. The designation would make it illegal to drill for oil and gas, or build roads on the land. The news was met with excitement from environmental groups and anger by Republican opponents, including Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who called the proposal “a stunning attack on our sovereignty.” [The New York Times]

8. Church of England consecrates its first female bishop

The Church of England is consecrating its first female bishop on Monday. The Reverend Libby Lane, 48, said her ordination as Bishop of Stockport is a “profound and remarkable moment,” as it ends an uninterrupted tradition of male-only leadership for the 500-year-old institution. The church announced Lane’s consecration last month after a divisive debate over whether to allow women to become bishops. Critics said Lane’s appointment was merely symbolic, but she said she may be “the first, but I won’t be the only.” [BBC News, The Associated Press]

9. Birdman takes top prize at SAG Awards

Birdman took the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night, winning for outstanding ensemble in a motion picture. The prize boosted the film’s Oscar hopes, although its star, Michael Keaton, was upset by Eddie Redmayne, who took the best-actor award for his work in The Theory of Everything. Uzo Aduba took the prize for outstanding female actor for her role as “Crazy Eyes” in the Orange is the New Black. The series also won for best cast in a comedy. [CBS News, USA Today]

10. Duke’s Coach K gets his 1,000th win

The Duke men’s basketball team made a late-game comeback to beat St. Johns 77-68 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, giving the Blue Devils’ legendary coach, Mike Krzyzewski, the 1,000th win of his 40-year coaching career. Duke trailed by 10 with just over eight minutes remaining, then went on a 28-9 tear. Krzyzewski was already the winningest coach in Division I college men’s basketball. He won that distinction three seasons ago in the same arena with his 903rd win, surpassing his mentor, former Indiana coach Bobby Knight. [Raleigh News & Observer, Sports Illustrated]

‘Daily Show’ trolls NYPD ‘slowdown,’ invites you to ‘sh*ttier New York’

Jon Stewart hosts ‘The Daily Show’ on April 1, 2014.

The Raw Story

Daily Show host Jon Stewart took a more optimistic tack on the news that New York City police were intentionally cutting down on arrests as part of a grudge against Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“A slowdown sounds so negative,” Stewart said on Thursday. “It’s really more of a public safety stay-cation, if you will. It explains the NYPD’s new motto: ‘To chill and reflect.’”

Stewart and correspondent Jason Jones, along with the “committee for a sh*ttier New York,” then invited viewers to visit the city, now that Jones could act like he was negotiating drug deals in full view of an officer without any hassle.

“Catch the spirit of the city’s old-world charm, and also some chlamydia,” Jones said over footage of himself wearing a cardboard box instead of pants and inviting a man to his one-man “peep show.”

The “new New York,” Jones said, opened up new business opportunities, like selling bootleg copies of Stewart’s movie, Rosewater, on the street.

“I tell you what — you buy American Sniper, I’ll give you two Rosewaters,” he told a prospective customer.

Stewart noted that police have cut down drastically on arrests for minor offenses following the fatal shootings of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos on Dec. 20, accusing de Blasio of disrespecting them.

But at the same time, he said, the “slowdown” happened just as the city is boasting an overall decrease in the crime rate.

“Burglary — down. Assault — down. Remember that giant ape, used to be on the skyscraper? Gone,” he explained. “The only thing we have to deal with now is the occasional koala ruckus, which is really one of the more adorable problems our city has.”

Watch Stewart and Jones’ take on the “new New York,” as posted online on Thursday, here.

5 Policies That Defined Mario Cuomo’s Progressive Legacy

Former New York  Gov. Mario Cuomo (D)

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) | CREDIT: LOUIS LANZANO/ AP

Think Progress

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) died of natural causes due to heart failure Thursday, the same day his son Andrew Cuomo was inaugurated for a second term as governor of New York. He was 82.

In a press statement issued Thursday, President Obama called Cuomo “a determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity.” Echoing similar sentiments, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement saying that Cuomo’s “values, his vision, and his effectiveness for the people of New York were an inspiration around the world. In word and deed, Governor Cuomo challenged us to make real the American Dream for all who strive to realize it.” Other liberal heavyweights like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also weighed in, calling the former governor “compassionate.”

Hailed as a progressive giant, the former governor, who served three terms as the 52nd governor of New York between 1983 to 1994, championed the rights of working people, middle class families, women, and minorities, setting the stage for liberalism during a time that the political philosophy was “in decline,” the Washington Post pointed out. Cuomo’s “Shining City on a Hill” speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention — deemed one of the greatest speeches of all time — challenged then-President Ronald Reagan (R) to visit rural areas of America and to help lift working people into the middle class. Cuomo charged, “Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ than it is just a ‘Shining City on a Hill.’”

Here is just a short list of some of Cuomo’s most progressive causes and accomplishments:

1. Fought for legal abortion. In spite of his strong Roman Catholic belief, Cuomo fought for women to receive legal abortions in New York State. “Those who endorse legalized abortions — aren’t a ruthless, callous alliance of anti-Christians determined to overthrow our moral standards,” Cuomo said in a 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame. “In many cases, the proponents of legal abortion are the very people who have worked with Catholics to realize the goals of social justice set out in papal encyclicals.”

2. Passed nation’s first mandatory seat-belt law. After a 11-year battle in the New York state legislature, Cuomo signed into law the nation’s first mandatory seat-belt law in 1984. Prior to the law’s passage, only about 12 percent of people buckled up, but that figure has since shot up to 91 percent in 2013 in New York state. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that seat belts have saved an estimated 11,949 lives.

3. Vetoed the death penalty. For the 12 years he served as governor, Cuomo vetoed the death penalty several times, against public mood at a turbulent time when the crime rate soared in New York. Calling the death penalty “corrosive” and a “stain on our conscience” in 2011, Cuomo lamented that the 48 executions in 2008 were “an abomination” and that the death penalty is unfairly applied across racial lines. Counting the last 18 people in New York State to be executed after 1963, Cuomo found that 13 individuals were black and one Hispanic, “an extraordinary improbability for a system operating with any kind of objectivity and consistency.”

4. Reshaped the New York State Court of Appeals with a diverse group of sitting judges. Cuomo appointed the state’s first African-American, a Hispanic, and two women justices to New York’s highest court, the State Court of Appeals. Judith S. Kaye was the first woman to serve as chief judge. According to a 2013 Albany Law Review piece, Cuomo “remains the last New York State Governor to appoint a Court of Appeals judge from the opposing political party.”

5. Supported banning assault weapons. The former governor has been a longtime opponent of banning assault weapons used in a quarter of the crimes committed in New York state. According to a 1994 New York Magazine article, Cuomo “has supported an assault-weapons ban that is far more serious than the federal one Bill Clinton is poised to sign — it would ban the guns used in a quarter of the crimes in New York — though so far the State Senate has blocked it.” Guns “encourage that instinct we have for brutality that’s everywhere around us,” Cuomo said in 2006 to a group called New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty. “My God. How do you justify it? You can’t move the NRA in Congress.”

10 things you need to know today: December 30, 2014

Relatives of passengers of the missing AirAsia flight react to news of bodies found.

Relatives of passengers of the missing AirAsia flight react to news of bodies found | (AP Photo/Trisnadi)

The Week

Bodies found in search for missing AirAsia jet, Rep. Michael Grimm resigns, and more

1. Bodies and wreckage found in AirAsia search
Indonesian search and rescue crews looking for a missing AirAsia jet have recovered 40 bodies from the Java Sea near Borneo, Indonesian naval authorities said Tuesday. The Airbus A320 aircraft was bound for Singapore when it disappeared from radar early Sunday with 162 passengers and crew on board after hitting a line of severe tropical thunderstorms. Rescuers spotted only bodies and debris believed to be from the missing plane. There was no sign of survivors. [The Globe and Mail]

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2. New York congressman quits under fire
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion two weeks ago, announced just before midnight Monday that he was resigning. Grimm previously said he would remain in office, but he reversed course shortly after meeting with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “I do not believe that I can continue to be 100 percent effective in the next Congress, and therefore, out of respect for the office and the people I so proudly represent, it is time for me to start the next chapter of my life,” he said. [The New York Times]

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3. U.S. targets al-Shabab leader in airstrike
The U.S. targeted an al-Shabab leader in Somalia with an airstrike on Monday. The operation came four months after another U.S. airstrike reportedly killed the al Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorist group’s head, Ahmed Abdi Godane, following the capture of its intelligence chief. The U.S. designated al-Shabab as a terrorist organization in 2008. It has launched a string of attacks on civilians in Uganda and Kenya, including a 2013 siege at a Nairobi mall that killed more than 60 people. [The Wall Street Journal]

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4. L.A. police officers shot at while on patrol
Two men shot at a police car patrolling a high-crime area in Los Angeles on Monday, stoking fears of attacks in the California city mirroring the recent murder of two officers in New York. “It was a complete unprovoked attack,” LAPD Deputy Chief Bob Green said immediately after the incident. Later reports suggested the officers might have been inadvertently fired at after driving into a violent clash. One man was arrested shortly after the shooting. [The Associated Press]

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5. Scotland reports its first Ebola case
Scotland confirmed its first Ebola case on Monday. The patient — a female nurse — was diagnosed with the potentially deadly virus after returning from Sierra Leone, one of the West African nations hit hardest with this year’s Ebola outbreak — the worst in history. The woman has not been identified by name or nationality. She worked for Save the Children’s Ebola hospital in Kerry Town, near Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown. The patient is being transferred to a high-level isolation unit in London. [USA Today]

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6. De Blasio heckled at New York City police cadet graduation
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was greeted with both boos and applause on Monday while addressing a group of graduating police cadets. The incident came two days after thousands of officers, who accuse de Blasio of fueling anti-police anger over recent killings of unarmed black men by white officers, turned their backs on de Blasio at a funeral for one of the two policemen killed by a gunman on Dec. 20. When de Blasio praised the cadets for confronting problems they “didn’t create,” a heckler said, “You created them!” [Reuters]

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7. House majority whip admits speaking at a white nationalist group in 2002
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House majority whip, acknowledged Monday that he had spoken at a gathering of white nationalists in 2002. At the time of the appearance at the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, which was founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, Scalise, 48, was a state representative. His office said he was not aware of the nature of the organization, which has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. [The Washington Post]

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8. Oil prices continue falling to their lowest in five years
Oil prices dropped by more than $1 a barrel on Monday, reaching their lowest level since May 2009. Reported damage to Libya’s oil facilities briefly buoyed prices before the reality of a worldwide oil glut dragged prices down again. Brent crude fell $1.57 to $57.88 at the end of the day, and U.S. crude dropped $1.12 to $53.60 per barrel. “Every time the market tries to pick itself up, it’s just another wave of selling,” said Tradition Energy senior analyst Gene McGillian. [Reuters]

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9. Australian teenage spear fisherman killed by shark
An Australian teenager was killed by a great white shark on Monday. The young man — Jay Muscat, 17 — was spearfishing with a friend when the shark, estimated to be between 13 and 16 feet long, attacked. The shark reportedly might have been injured by Muscat’s diving companion, who told authorities he fired a spear at it. Officials closed nearby Cheynes Beach in Western Australia’s south coast. Two weeks ago, an 18-year-old man was killed while spearfishing on eastern Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. [The Associated Press]

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10. Mo’Ne Davis, 13, wins AP‘s Female Athlete of the Year
Thirteen-year-old Little League pitcher Mo’ne Davis has been chosen as the 2014 Associated PressFemale Athlete of the Year. Davis this year became the first girl to win a game pitching in the Little League World Series. The eighth grader, who also stars on her school’s high school varsity basketball team, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, was named Sports Kid of the Year bySports Illustrated Kids, and has already met President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House. [USA Today]

10 things you need to know today: October 26, 2014

Ukrainian voters head to the polls | David Ramos / Getty Images

The Week

Two dozen European banks fail a financial stress test, Ukrainians vote for a new parliament, and more.

1. 25 European banks fail stress test
Twenty-five of Europe’s largest banks flunked a financial stress test because they did not have big enough cash buffers to weather a hypothetical economic crisis, the European Central Bank said Sunday. The stress test examined 25 eurozone banks’ finances through the end of 2013. Among those that failed, 13 have still not raised enough capital to insulate themselves from a future crisis. In order to do so, the ECB said, they’ll need to raise another 10 billion euros, or $12.5 billion. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]

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2. Ukrainians vote Sunday for new parliament
Ukrainian voters headed to the polls Sunday for the first parliamentary elections since protests ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich. Voters are expected to back candidates who align with President Petro Poroshenko and favor closer ties to the West. That would give Poroshenko broader authority to pursue his agenda, but it would likely further strain Ukraine’s rocky relationship with Russia. [Reuters]

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3. U.K. ends combat mission in Afghanistan
Britain on Sunday officially ended its combat operation in Afghanistan when it turned over to Afghan forces its last military base in the country. The handover of Camp Letherneck and Camp Bastion, a sprawling base jointly run by the U.K. and the U.S., also marks the end of America’s involvement in Afghanistan’s war-torn Helmand province. Foreign troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year. [The Wall Street Journal , CNN]

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4. Quarantined nurse criticizes Ebola policy
A nurse who was quarantined in New Jersey after treating Ebola patients in West Africa said the mandatory isolation policy treats health professionals like “criminals and prisoners.” “This is not a situation I would wish on anyone, and I am scared for those who will follow me,” the nurse, Kaci Hickox, who tested negative for Ebola, wrote in The Dallas Morning News. New York and New Jersey implemented the strict quarantine policy Friday after a doctor in New York City, who had been treating patients in Guinea, tested positive for Ebola. [The Dallas Morning News, CNN]

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5. Federal government recognizes gay marriage in six more states
The federal government has added six more states to its list of those where same-sex couples can receive federal benefits, Attorney General Eric Holder said Saturday. The states are Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming, all of which had recently seen their gay marriage bans fall in the courts. Same-sex couples in 32 states may now receive federal benefits. [CBS]

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6. Giants beat Royals, knot World Series
The San Francisco Giants trounced the Kansas City Royals 11-4 Saturday night to even the World Series at two games apiece. Giants ace Madison Bumgarner gets the ball Sunday night to try and put his team one game away from a third title in five years. [ESPN]

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7. Army recruited football players with booze, women
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s football team treated prospective players to a booze-filled dinner and a party bus loaded with cheerleaders, according to documents obtained by The Colorado Springs Gazette. West Point confirmed the report, saying in a statement it “adjudicated this at the highest level of the disciplinary code.” The academy punished 20 cadets, two officers, and two coaches, though none were dismissed from the institution for violating NCAA recruiting rules. [Colorado Springs Gazette]

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8. WHO raises Ebola death toll to nearly 5,000
The World Health Organization on Saturday said the global death toll from Ebola had risen to 4,922 out of a total of 10,141 confirmed cases of infection. All but 10 of the deaths were confined to three countries: Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. [NBC]

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9. Cream bassist Jack Bruce dead at 71
Jack Bruce, bassist for the legendary supergroup Cream, died Saturday of liver disease. He was 71 years old. “The world of music will be a poorer place without him but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts,” his family said in a statement. [The Guardian]

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10. Google exec breaks skydive record with ‘near-space’ leap
Google executive Alan Eustace on Friday set a new record by skydiving from “near-space” at a height of 135,000 feet, or more than 25 miles above Earth. The leap bested the previous record of 127,852 feet, set by Felix Baumgartner in 2012. “It was beautiful,” Eustace told The New York Times. “You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.” [The New York Times]

It’s Time for the NYPD to Stop Treating Mentally Ill New Yorkers Like Criminals

A rally for justice for Mohamed Bah (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Mental illness is not a crime but policeman around the country (not just NYPD) refuse to accept that premise…

The Nation – Over Criminalized

How a crisis intervention program pioneered in Memphis could save lives and prevent arrests.

Hawa Bah had not expected the police.

It was September 2012, and she had just arrived in New York from her home in Guinea to check in on her 28-year-old son, Mohamed. She had heard he had been acting strangely—missing work and skipping classes he was taking at the Borough of Manhattan Community College—and wanted to assess the situation for herself. When he holed up in his Harlem apartment and refused to leave shortly after she arrived, she grew concerned enough to ask a cousin to call 911.

Bah was expecting medical workers, so when police officers appeared instead, she was perplexed. “Let me talk to my son,” she begged as the officers began forcing their way into her son’s apartment. “He never tells me no.” But the police brushed off her concerns, telling her “not to worry.”

What unfolded soon after was a violent confrontation between the police and a desperately ill young man that ultimately led to his fatal shooting. After police officers kicked down his door and began yelling at him, Mohamed Bah lunged toward two of them with a knife, splitting open their protective vests. Three of the officers then pumped as many as eight bullets into him, one of which entered the left side of Mohamed Bah’s head. One of the officers left with a knife cut to his arm.

The death of Mohamed Bah, sudden and dramatic as it was, was not an anomaly in the long, troubled history of encounters between the New York Police Department and the city’s mentally ill. The last few decades have been punctuated by cases like this, stories of men and women in the grips of psychosis who wound up dead or wounded after police had been called in to help. Eleanor Bumpurs, Gidone Busch, Kevin Cerbelli, David Kostovski, Shereese Francis and Iman Morales all died after encounters with the police went horribly wrong, and many more have been hurt or arrested in the process.

For the families of these victims as well as advocates, the deaths of their loved ones—children, brothers, sisters and mothers—have raised unsettling questions about what might have happened differently if experts trained in crisis intervention had been called to the scene rather than the police. Could their deaths have been avoided if they had been treated like people in throes of psychiatric breakdowns, not criminals? “[The police] yell to get the situation under control instead of taking a reflective listening approach. It escalates the situation,” said Carla Rabinowitz, a community organizer with Community Access, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to providing services and support to New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities.

Now, however, there is hope that the terrain in New York State may be tilting toward a new crisis intervention model that pairs teams of mental health professionals with specially trained officers to respond to mental health emergencies, rather than cops. Just within the last few months, several proposals at several levels of government have moved closer to reality, thanks, in part, to the advocacy of Communities for Crisis Intervention Teams, a coalition of more than sixty behavioral health providers and concerned New Yorkers.

In February, New York State Senator Kevin Parker proposed a bill that would require Crisis Intervention training for the NYPD. Not long after, in April, New York State set aside $400,000 from the 2014-2015 state budget for a pilot program to train police officers in approaching the mentally ill during crises. And in June, the administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio created a task force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System, with the goal of providing New York with a pathway to treat the mentally ill outside of the criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, the Bah family is in the process of suing the city of New York for $70 million in damages as well as changes to the way the NYPD responds to emotionally distressed New Yorkers in crisis. They are calling specifically for the police department to implement a Crisis Intervention Team methodology. If that had been in place when Hawa Bah called 911 two years ago, they believe Mohamed would still be alive.

“I want justice, and the justice I want is not just for my son,” said Hawa Bah, crying into the phone. “It’s for all people to not feel like I feel. I used to work and help my children, help my family. Since they killed my son, I can’t do nothing, I can’t walk three blocks.”

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The Crisis Intervention Team model was pioneered more than twenty-five years ago in Memphis, Tennessee, after police killed a mentally ill young man they had been called in to help. The idea emerged out of months of consultations between the police department, mental health providers and two universities, and was designed with the goal of creating “safety, understanding, and service to the mentally ill and their families,” according to the Memphis city government website. Towards this end, the program has forged a close partnership between mental health providers, people with mental illness and law enforcement. Police and mental health professionals respond together to crisis calls, and the police also receive extensive training to help individuals in crisis, especially those who are mentally ill.

In the decades since it was launched, the CIT program has become a model for other cities around the country. Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Houston and San Antonio have all employed some form of the program, with impressive results. Since San Antonio implemented its CIT program in 2003, for instance, the city’s police force has not once engaged in deadly force against someone in the grips of psychiatric episode.

New York City, however, has yet to join the list of cities that have embraced CIT. Indeed, it is the only major city in the United States that has not done so, despite the 100,000 “emotionally disturbed person” calls the NYPD receives each year. What the city does have is an Emergency Service Unit that consists of an elite corps of officers trained to respond to extreme emergency and high-risk situations. These include everything from SWAT and counter-terror operations to assisting mentally ill New Yorkers. It is worth noting that it was one of these units that was called in to quell the situation with Mohamed Bah the day he was shot.

The NYPD also provides its cadets with between eight and sixteen hours of training each year in responding to New Yorkers in high emotional distress, and 1.5 hours of training in working with people with disabilities, according to the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. But Rabinowitz argues proper crisis intervention training should be closer to 40 hours a year.

“Police are the first to encounter those in an emotional crisis and police are on the frontlines, whether we like it or not,” said Community Access’s Rabinowitz. “They need tools to respond to these crisis calls so everyone can walk away safely.”

Rabinowitz, along with Steve Coe, the CEO of Community Access, and other advocates have spent years pressing for the NYPD to shift its approach to these crisis episodes. But it wasn’t until last year that their efforts began to get traction. That is when a group of mental health advocates formed the coalition “Communities for Crisis Intervention Teams” in an attempt to begin a conversation around crisis intervention with the candidates then running for mayor. The coalition researched CITs in other major cities and approached the candidates, asking them to include establishing CITs in their platforms. As mayor, de Blasio went a step further by establishing a task force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System last June. Its goal is to research and then recommend and implement strategies to decouple mental health treatment from the criminal justice system, with which it has all too often been lumped.

Take Action: Call on Congress to Support Critical Mental Health Services

“I’ve charged the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System with developing innovative strategies to transform, reform and update this city’s criminal justice system,” de Blasio said in a statement announcing the task force. “In the interest of justice and public safety, the task force will take a comprehensive look at how, as a city, we can provide real, lasting mental health and addiction treatment for those in need.”

Advocates expect recommendations to come from the task force within the next month, or perhaps sooner. (There are whispers that its recommendations could be released as early as this week.) It is their hope the task force will recommend Crisis Intervention Teams as well as a diversion unit so that police can take those suffering from a mental crisis somewhere besides a hospital or central booking.

Dustin Grose, a twenty-nine-year-old Brooklyn native, shares this hope. He has first-hand experience of the way a situation can quickly turn violent when the police are the primary responders to crisis calls. At 14, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. In 2008, after an argument with his parents, his mother called the paramedics to take her son to the hospital, concerned he was having another episode. As in the case of Mohamed Bah, the police arrived. He reluctantly went outside with the four officers who came to his bedroom door and then, as Grose recalls, an officer hit him, unprovoked, in the face. Because he was handcuffed and punched repeatedly, he suffered a broken nose as well as back injuries and injuries to his hands.

Grose also sued the city of New York and settled for an undisclosed amount. “A person with a mental illness is not a criminal,” he said. “I wasn’t even in an enraged state and that happened to me. I wasn’t fighting with them… so imagine if someone was already enraged and imagine if a cop treated him as a criminal, it leads to death.”

10 things you need to know today: August 13, 2014

An American flag flies while Yazidi Iraqis escape into Syria.

An American flag flies while Yazidi Iraqis escape into Syria. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

The Week

White House sends 130 more advisers to Iraq, Ukraine vows to stop Russian-supply convoy, and more

1. White House sends 130 more advisers to Iraq
The U.S. has deployed 130 Marines and Special Operations forces to northern Iraq to help assess ways to rescue thousands of members of the Yazidi religious group taking refuge on Mount Sinjar, U.S. officials said late Tuesday. Those military advisers will not have a combat role, but the Defense Department left open the possibility that U.S. troops could help create a safe passage for the Yazidi off Mount Sinjar. That would likely put U.S. troops in direct combat with the ISIS militants trying to kill the Yazidi — a proposition President Obama has not signed off on, but one the military advisers are exploring. [CBS, The New York Times]

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2. Ukraine vows to stop Russian-supply convoy unless conditions are met
Wary that the Russians may be trying to move military supplies into their country to aid pro-Moscow separatists, Ukrainian officials said they would not allow a convoy of 280 Russian trucks to cross the border unless the Red Cross took over the delivery. The cargo, which Russia insists is humanitarian aid, must be loaded onto other vehicles by the Red Cross, Ukraine says. It will take the trucks about two days to make the 620 mile trip from Moscow to eastern Ukraine. [Reuters]

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3. Iran endorses Maliki’s replacement
The U.S. and Iran don’t agree on much, but it appears the two countries are backing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s replacement, Haider al-Abadi. Iran’s endorsement on Tuesday means that Maliki, who has indicated he won’t go quietly, will have an even harder time holding onto his position. The United States and its allies hope that replacing Maliki, who alienated the Sunnis of Iraq, will undermine support for the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). [The Washington Post]

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4. Lauren Bacall dies at the age of 89
Lauren Bacall, a star from the golden age of Hollywood, died on Tuesday at her home in New York at the age of 89. Her career spanned seven decades and included several classic films like Murder on the Orient Express, How to Marry a Millionaire, and The Big Sleep. Bacall earned a honorary Oscar, two Tonys, and a National Book Award for her autobiography. [The Guardian]

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5. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo rebuffs Palestinian invitation
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is heading to Israel on an official state delegation, but the politician, who is said to be mulling a 2016 run at the White House, declined an invitation to meet with Palestinian leaders. Cuomo and a handful of New York lawmakers are calling their trip a unity mission to express solidarity with Israel. “Our message is simple and is clear,” the governor said. “We stand with Israel, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself in this conflict.” [The New York Times]

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6. Former Microsoft CEO officially buys the LA Clippers
Steve Ballmer, the former chief executive officer of Microsoft, officially purchased the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday for the tidy sum of $2 billion. The team went up for sale after its previous owner, Donald Sterling, was recorded making racist comments to a companion. Sterling, who bought the team for $12 million in 1981, lost a lawsuit to retain possession of the team and has been banned from the NBA for life. [CNN]

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7. Details of Robin Williams’ death emerge
Marin County officials announced on Tuesday that Robin Williams‘ death was a suicide by hanging. The Oscar-winning actor was found by his assistant who became concerned about him after he didn’t respond to her knocking on his door. Williams also had a few shallow cuts on his left wrist, according to authorities. [USA Today]

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8. Maryam Mirzakhani becomes the first woman to win major math prize
A woman has won the prestigious Fields Medal for the first time. Maryam Mirzakhani, a professor at Stanford University, won the award, which has been described as the Nobel Prize for Mathematics, for her contributions to “the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.”

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9. Toxic algae threatens the Florida coast
Microscopic toxic algea are blooming near the coast of Florida, creating a red tide effect that is threatening local wildlife. Though it is still 20 miles off the coast, the size of the tide — 60 miles wide, by 90 miles long, by 100 feet deep — has authorities concerned that it could kill off millions of fish and potentially disrupt the lucrative tourist season. Officials say they haven’t seem a bloom this large in nine years. [NBC]

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10. Haiti captures high-profile fugitive Clifford Brandt
Haitian authorities captured Clifford Brandt, a notorious fugitive who admitted to kidnapping the children of a rival businessman, Haiti’s Prime Minister announced on Tuesday. Brandt broke freewith 328 other inmates on Sunday when a gang attacked the jail where he was incarcerated. He was found trying to cross the border into the Dominican Republic. [Miami Herald]

10 things you need to know today: May 23, 2014

A prison guard in the electric chair room at Sing Sing Prison, New York, in 1951. This technology may be making a comeback in Tennessee.

A prison guard in the electric chair room at Sing Sing Prison, New York, in 1951. This technology may be making a comeback in Tennessee. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

The Week

The House approves limits on NSA spying, Tennessee brings back the electric chair, and more

1. House approves sharp limits on NSA surveillance
The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would prevent the National Security Agency from mining Americans’ phone records in the hunt for terrorists. Facebook, Google, and Apple withdrew support because they said the bill had been watered down with amendments allowing the continued collection of bulk internet data. Supporters said the bill constituted progress toward ending abuses exposed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. [San Jose Mercury News]

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2. States consider alternatives to lethal injection
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed a bill Thursday allowing the use of the electric chair when lethal injection drugs are not available, making the state the first to bring back the chair in cases where condemned inmates can’t choose their method of execution. The move came after President Obama called for reviewing lethal injections due to Oklahoma’s botched April execution. Wyoming is considering using a firing squad. [The Associated Press]

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3. Thailand’s military leader calls talks after coup
Thailand’s army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, tightened his grip on power on Friday, announcing a travel ban for leading politicians. Ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the caretaker prime minister who replaced her met with Prayuth after he summoned them and other political leaders for talks. Prayuth staged a bloodless coup on Thursday, vowing to restore stability after months of protests and political deadlock. [CNN]

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4. Wildfire erupts near Arizona tourism center
A rapidly spreading Arizona wildfire is threatening to force more than 3,000 people out of their homes. About 300 homes were evacuated as the fire engulfed 4,830 acres near Slide Rock State Park outside the tourism and retirement hub of Sedona. About 840 people were fighting the blaze, which was totally uncontained as of late Thursday. [CNN]

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5. Obama touts tourism at Baseball Hall of Fame
President Obama on Thursday became the first sitting president to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. He used the stop to launch an effort to boost tourism — particularly visits to the U.S. by foreigners. Obama has called on federal agencies to streamline the process of getting foreign tourists through airports. “If they come into LaGuardia faster, then they can get to Cooperstown faster,” Obama said. [New York Daily News]

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6. IRS delays hearing on rules regarding tax-exempt groups’ political work
The Internal Revenue Service postponed a Thursday hearing on controversial new rules regarding the political activities of tax-exempt groups, saying it needed to revise the rules. The IRS has faced sharp criticism from conservatives who say the Obama administration wants the rules to silence critics, and liberals who think the proposals go too far. The agency got more than 150,000 comments during a public input period that ended three months ago. [The Washington Post]

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7. HP announces deep job cuts
Hewlett-Packard is laying off up to 16,000 employees — on top of 34,000 already cut — as CEO Meg Whitman steps up efforts to turn around the personal computer maker. The announcement came Thursday after HP reported its 11th straight quarterly sales decline. HP, which employed 317,500 worldwide at the end of 2013, is the world’s biggest PC maker, but competition from smartphones and tablets have been cutting into its sales. [The New York Times]

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8. Postal Service starts selling Harvey Milk stamp
The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday unveiled a stamp honoring slain San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, one of the nation’s first openly gay elected officials. Crowds lined up to buy the stamps in Milk’s old neighborhood. “It was just like when Elvis Presley went on sale,” a postal worker said. Milk passed the nation’s first strict gay-rights ordinance before he and mayor George Moscone were assassinated at City Hall in 1978. [San Francisco Chronicle]

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9. China sentences billionaire to death
A Chinese court on Friday sentenced billionaire businessman Liu Han to death, calling him and his brother “deeply evil” and saying they led a “mafia-style” gang responsible for nine murders over two decades. “Their impact on society was extremely bad,” the court said. The condemning of Liu, who was once chairman of one of the biggest companies in southwest China, came as part of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption. [The Washington Post]

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10. Landon Donovan cut from U.S. World Cup team
Landon Donovan — widely considered the greatest U.S. male soccer player ever — was cut from the U.S. World Cup team on Thursday. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said excluding Donovan, 32, from the roster in what would have been his fourth World Cup was the toughest decision of his coaching career. Donovan, the team’s all-time leading scorer, said he was crushed but would be cheering on his teammates when play begins in Brazil next month. [USA Today]

Rep. Michael Grimm, facing federal charges, surrenders to FBI

Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y.) faces federal charges related to his past ownership of a restaurant in Manhattan. | Carolyn Kaster/AP

Mr. Tough Guy turns himself in…

The Washington Post

Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y.) surrendered Monday morning to federal authorities in New York as he faces multiple charges connected to a restaurant business he operated before entering Congress in 2011, according to sources familiar with the long-running probe into the lawmaker’s finances.

Grimm spent much of the weekend hunkered down, bracing for the unveiling of the federal charges, which were due to be disclosed after his surrender. He turned himself in to the FBI at an undisclosed location Monday morning and was taken to Lower Manhattan for processing. The charges stem from his ownership of a Manhattan health-food restaurant that has ties to an Israeli fundraiser who served as a liaison between Grimm and a mystic, celebrity rabbi whose followers donated more than $500,000 to Grimm’s campaign in 2010.

While the investigation has focused on Grimm’s fundraising, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch is expected to announce an indictment centered on his restaurant business, which Grimm launched after leaving the FBI in 2006, according to officials familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the pending charges.

The state fined the Upper East Side restaurant, Healthalicious, $88,000 for not providing workers compensation. In a lawsuit against the company, workers accused the owners of not paying proper wages and sometimes giving out cash payments to skirt tax and business laws.

It is unclear whether federal prosecutors will eventually expand the charges to encompass Grimm’s campaign activities, but investigators have been moving on that side of the case against several key players, some with ties to the restaurant.

New York FBI spokesman Peter Donald declined to comment.

Healthalicious was run by a Grimm company that was connected to another company affiliated with Israeli fundraiser Ofer Biton. Last August, Biton pleaded guilty to filing false documents in 2010 when he sought an investor visa. The plea ended a standoff of several months, during which prosecutors asserted that Biton was not cooperating in their Grimm investigation.

Biton often served as a go-between for Grimm, a Roman Catholic, and followers of Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, a multi-millionaire celebrity rabbi with a strong following in the United States. Pinto is currently in discussions with officials in Israel over a plea deal in a case involving alleged bribery of police leaders there, according to Israeli reports. Pinto has congregations and charitable institutions in the United States and Israel, according to the Associated Press, and reportedly has close relationships with many business leaders, politicians and celebrities, including the Miami Heat’s LeBron James. Forbes Israel recently ranked Pinto as Israel’s seventh-richest rabbi, with a net worth of about $21 million.

The donations from Pinto’s followers proved crucial for Grimm in his 2010 campaign, his first political race, demonstrating to party leaders that he was a viable candidate. He narrowly beat the Democratic incumbent after a campaign that he devoted to his own biography, trumpeting his background as a Marine and an undercover FBI agent as a sign of his ethical standing.

On Friday, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York unsealed an indictment against Diana Durand, a close friend of Grimm’s, alleging that the Houston businesswoman ran a straw-donor scheme that brought in more than $10,000 to Grimm’s 2010 campaign. The charges included lying to investigators in 2012 when they asked about her alleged reimbursement of Grimm donors.

While Grimm’s attorney has proclaimed the lawmaker’s innocence, the charges and the investigation have provided an opening for his Democratic opponent, former New York City councilman Domenic Recchia, who barnstormed the congressional district over the weekend. Recchia bounced around Staten Island and the southern end of Brooklyn, concluding the weekend at a charity event Sunday evening at the Yellow Hook Grille in Brooklyn. Upon his arrival, a waitress rushed up to Recchia and expressed interest in volunteering with his campaign.

Already inclined to support Recchia, Jessica Hauser told him that the arrival of new charges in the Grimm case “makes me extra inclined to volunteer.”

Recchia has tried to keep the campaign focused on kitchen-table issues, but he took indirect swipes at the congressman’s legal problems. “It’s very troubling what has transpired,” he said, suggesting that the criminal case will make it harder for Grimm to serve his constituents. “They want someone who is going to focus on them 100 percent.”

Despite Grimm’s legal predicament, Republicans are probably stuck with the embattled congressman on the ballot because the filing deadline for candidates passed two weeks ago. Some New York Republicans are angry about the timing of the charges, fearful that the case could get worse and leave them without a viable candidate in November. Grimm is the only Republican who represents any part of New York City.

The lawmaker’s attorney, William McGinley, denies that Grimm violated any laws and predicted that he “will be vindicated” when the case is concluded.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has not spoken to Grimm about the indictment, according to aides. Neither Boehner nor Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has commented about Grimm’s future. The National Republican Congressional Committee has declined to comment on the case. In some previous ethics cases, Boehner has called for lawmakers to resign or removed them from their committee assignments.

Grimm sits on the Financial Services Committee, which oversees Wall Street and the banking industry.

Despite the investigation, Grimm has remained a prolific fundraiser. Through March 31, he brought in more than $1.8 million for his reelection campaign and had more than $1.1 million in his account. However, the case has left a cloud over his political finances.

He paid $50,000 to McGinley’s law firm, Patton Boggs, in the last quarter, and his campaign reports show that he owes an additional $417,000 to the firm.

Here’s The History Of NYPD Abuse That Turned Its PR Campaign Into A Twitter Assault

NYPDFrisk

CREDIT: PHOTO POSTED BY OCCUPY WALL STREET’S TWITTER ACCOUNT.

Apparently, it was not the response the NYPD was expecting.  Well done Twitterverse, well done…

Think Progress

The New York Police Department may be showing early signs of reforming its practices, but it still hasn’t come to terms with its image. In a PR gaffe that was seemingly predictable to everyone but the NYPD, the Department put out a call on Twitter for constituents to send positive photos about the Department’s work under the hashtag #myNYPD.

Tweeters documented a litany of alleged encounters that ended with detached retinas, a young black boy with a scarred face, and countless instances of beatings caught on camera:

The campaign had gone so awry by morning that the New York Daily News splashed the headline “Bash Tag” across its front page Wednesday morning.

But even now that Mayor Bill de Blasio has cut back on the rampant stop-and-frisks, Muslim spying, and brutality that became synonymous with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s NYPD, the department doesn’t seem to have shed the attitude that prompted NYPD Chief Ray Kelly to declare last year, “You might read something snarky on Twitter, but I could take you right now to 125th Street in Harlem and young men will stop me for my picture and give me a very favorable and friendly greeting.”

And while one of the NYPD’s biggest mistakes was failing to realize that Twitter is an inherently inhospitable forum for glowing public relations, it’s worth taking a look back at the patterns of systemic abuse that underlie the outrage:

Targeting young black and Hispanic men. The NYPD’s systematic campaign against the city’s young minority men is not just evidenced by statistics that show they stopped more young black men in 2011 than there are young black men in the city. The federal judge who ruled the police department’s stop-and-frisk program unconstitutional also found that the department explicitly targeted Hispanic and black men between the ages of 14 and 20 as “the right people,” and established de facto stop quotas that fueled the pervasive tactic.

Aiming to “instill fear” in residents. The administration that thought stop-and-frisk was the answer to everything developed its reputation in part through a campaign of fear. One state senator testified at the trial on NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program that New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly said his goal was to “instill fear” in young minority men. In one incident, an officer admitted during the trial that he told a 13-year-old to stop “crying like a girl” as he handcuffed and detained him.

Inflicting disproportionate violence. In September, NYPD officers shot two innocent bystanders when they were aiming for a mentally ill man, who they were purportedly intending to subdue with gunshots. Prosecutors later charged the mentally ill man for the injuries to the bystanders. In January, an 84-year-old man was left bloodied and hospitalizedafter he was allegedly beaten by police over a jaywalking stop. And during Occupy Wall Street Protests, officers reportedly used violence “without apparent need or justification” 130 times.

Labeling entire mosques terror cells so it could spy on abuse. One of the greatest reforms of the new NYPD under Mayor Bill de Blasio was disbanding the NYPD’s Demographics Unit, which engaged in pervasive spying of the Muslim community after 9/11. But the unit existed until just six days ago, and among its major accomplishments werelabeling entire mosques terror cells without any evidence of wrongdoing, and paying a 19-year-old informant to “bait” Muslims into criminal activity.

Over-zealous policing. While the vast majority of the rampant police stops under the Bloomberg administration resulted in no arrest at all, the most common reason for arrest was for marijuana, even though public possession of marijuana was already decriminalized in New York. The program intended to thwart gun violence snagged very few guns. And other prominent arrests included a 7-year-old who alleged stole $5 from an elementary school classmate, a street artist thrown to the ground for touching the sidewalk, and a real estate broker arrested for being a “smart ass.”

Arrest for documenting abuse. As evidenced by the most recent campaign, the only reason the public knows about many of the most egregious NYPD incidents is because they were documented by photos or recordings. But many individuals have reported arrests and even beatings by NYPD officer for trying to exercise their First Amendment right to record the police. The department even circulated a “wanted” poster for a couple that was legally recording stop-and-frisks.