(NaturalNews) The United States incarcerates more of its citizens per capita than any other nation on the planet, a real point of contention among many policy analysts of all political stripes. So why, then, do we as a nation tolerate intentional efforts by police departments around the country to artificially grow the prison population?
New York City resident Deirdre Myers is just the latest person to ask that question, and for good reason: She was the recent target of an NYPD "sting" operation that is, pure and simple, designed for one thing only - the manufacture of criminals.
It works like this: Cops in the Big Apple place small amounts of cash, a credit card or even a pack of cigarettes unattended somewhere - a subway platform, park bench or in a car - then wait to see if someone picks them up. If so, cops swoop in and bust them.
'I've never been stopped for anything in my life'
Naturally the NYPD has defended this obscene manufacture of crime as a "valuable" crime-fighting tool - a way to catch career criminals and deter theft in public places. But courts, fortunately, are beginning to take as dismal a view of this practice as are an increasing number of Americans.
In a recent ruling, Judge Linda Poust Lopez threw out larceny charges against Myers because there was no proof that she was trying to steal anything, adding that she was framed by a sting operation that, frankly, has taken the tactic too far. Myers, in turn, has filed suit against the NYPD for false arrest.
According to the The Associated Press, Myers was caught up in a "bait car" operation, a tactic put in place about six years ago ostensibly to combat a chronic car theft problem in working-class neighborhoods. Cops would plant iPads, a pack of smokes, a small amount of cash and other items in plain sight but ensure the bait car was locked, so the thief would actually have to break in to get the item.
More from the AP:
According to court papers and to Myers' account, she and her daughter Kenya, then a 15-year-old high school student, were sitting on the stoop of their building when the sting unfolded.
The summer scene was interrupted by a bit of theater staged by police: A dark car raced down the block before stopping. Another vehicle carrying plainclothes officers wasn't far behind. When the driver got out and ran, the officers gave chase, yelling, "Stop! Police!" her suit says.
After the driver of the bait car fled, Kenya went over to it and peered in the open door. She saw what looked like a wad of cash lying on the front seat. She called her mother over to show her when more police swooped in, instructing them both to get on the ground.
Her suit says officers took them both into custody, even though they had not even touched the money.
Lopez wrote that upholding such ludicrous charges "would greatly damage the confidence and trust of the public in the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, and rightly so."
Myers, 40, is a single mother without a criminal record. In her suit she says she and her daughter were irreversibly traumatized by her wrongful arrest in 2010.
"You know how embarrassing and humiliating this was?" Myers told The Associated Press. "I'd never been stopped by the police for anything in my life."
'Operation Lucky Bag'
Lopez hinted that Myers' arrest and brush with the law may have origins in the so-called "lucky bag" operation that the NYPD also started in 2006 to combat wallet, shopping bag, smart phone and other thefts in the subway.
Typically, a plainclothes officer would place a handbag with cash on a train platform, AP said, then step away or look away briefly. If somebody took the bag then passed on chances to return it to the undercover police officer, or otherwise report it to a uniformed officer posted nearby, they could be arrested.
But such operations have come under increased criticism and scrutiny, culminating with the arrest of a tourist from Atlanta in Central Park last year. In that case, the tourist, Yakov Dubin, 49, had picked up a purse and took out the $27 contained inside. He testified later that he was preparing to turn the cash over to authorities but was arrested and charged with theft before he could do so.
"It was a very bad experience," said Dubin, a successful real estate agent from an Atlanta suburb who has since filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the NYPD for wrongful arrest.