Gotham Gazette: Time to Say Goodbye to NYPD Buy and Busts

“The protests following George Floyd’s murder have amplified two different, yet intertwined demands: to hold police officers accountable and to defund the police. In New York City, the NYPD’s continued use of predatory “buy and bust” operations, which target poor people of color and are conducted by detectives with long misconduct histories, exemplifies the imperative to divert funds away from policing to public health services.

As a public defender, I have handled dozens of these “buy and bust” cases. These “operations” occur daily and follow a familiar playbook. Typically, an undercover officer approaches a person in the street and attempts to purchase a “baggie” of crack or heroin. At times, the person sells the undercover drugs directly. Other times, the person directs the undercover to a street seller, hoping to receive a small tip in return. Once a buy is complete, a police “back-up” team arrests the person, whether they had completed the sale or only introduced the undercover to a seller. The whole police enterprise then proceeds to replicate the process elsewhere, often conducting six or seven “operations” per day. Public data reveals that over the past five years, these operations led to approximately 43,878 arrests — an average of 8,775 arrests a year, or 24 arrests a day.”

Read the full op-ed here