May 10, 1989
To The [Village Voice] Editor:
Let’s all hope that Wayne Barrett’s proposal for a major increase in the use of helicopters by the NYPD (“The Park Debacle, May 9, 1989) never materializes.
Barrett is correct that in Los Angeles, the city with the largest police air force in the U.S., choppers contribute to a tremendous number of arrests, a reflection of the fact that the LAPD has the efficiency of the SS compared to the Keystone Cops of the NYPD. But as with the NYPD’s Tactical Narcotics Teams (TNT), arresting lots of people has been completely ineffective in stopping crime, as the uncontrollable explosion of street violence in L.A. amply demonstrates.
The LAPD’s prowess has earned it only a well-deserved notoriety for waging war against city’s Black and Chicano communities. While growing up in L.A. during the ’60s and ’70s, I witnessed the way the police brought home the tactics of Vietnam. Militarized white ground forces conduct search and destroy missions against the indigenous population while the ever-droning choppers 2 provide the aerial reconnaissance with huge beams of light constantly invading people’s homes, backyards and streets at all hours of the night.
Do we really want to give the NYPD a similar military capacity to reproduce on a still greater scale the murders of Michael Stewart, Eleanor Bumpers and Nicholas Bartlett? Choppers along with 9mm Glocks (soon to be the much more powerful standard-issue NYPD handgun), Emergency Service Units and for that matter, TNT — only make it that much easier for the police to fulfill that role, all at a huge financial expense.
The only real solutions to the crime explosion in the cities is to treat drug use as a problem of health, not crime, and to dismantle the edifice of poverty, decay and institutionalized racism which makes both cities look more like Johannesburg every day.
Michael Z. Letwin
Vice-President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys