NYPD officers, while knowing no crime had been committed, “put the fear of God” into a man who voiced his opposition to the Cordoba House mosque being built at Ground Zero by telephoning Community Board 1 members. DNAinfo has the story:
“The guy used four-letter words and said I should die a horrible death,” the board member said. “He just launched into an attack, screaming at me.”
The board member called the police, and they tracked down the harassing caller, who had used a cell phone with a 347 area code.
Since the caller had said, “You should die,” not, “I will kill you,” he was protected by the First Amendment, officers told the board member. So instead of arresting him, the officers talked to the man and “put the fear of God in him,” the board member said. The calls stopped.
The same caller also harassed Dr. Lewis Gross, a TriBeCa dentist and former CB1 member.
The caller first told Gross, 58, that he’d been selected as a New Yorker of the week and asked whether he was a community board member. The caller then asked what Gross thought of the mosque.
When Gross said he had mixed feelings, the man “started screaming and cursing and going off the wall,” Gross said. “I said it’s a free country. He didn’t like that.”
NYPD officers are not Saudi Arabia’s religious police or Barney Fife of Mayberry.
The officers involved had no legal authority and they damn well knew better. If the board member felt harassed, the officers should have suggested they ask a judge for a protective order.
People should not tell someone “you should die” anymore than Muslims in Queens should burn the American flag yet that is only my opinion.
But NYPD officers taking sides in a 1st Amendment protected debate or putting the fear of God (or Allah) into a non-criminal when some muckety muck complains is not their job.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is not going to be happy.
One final point: DNAinfo got their headline wrong; non-threatening calls are not “Threatening Phone Calls.” [quotation marks mine]