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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Magic Knife" Incident Caused NYPD Supporter to Do a 180

Image: Carsten Vogel*
Amanda Warren

If you live in New York, you might be in criminal possession of a "magic knife" too...

When Carsten Vogel noticed the negative social media reaction following NYPD incidents, behavior and the height of the Mayor de Blasio/NYPD face/off - he rushed in to defend the men and women in blue. After all, some of his good friends wear badges.

He too must have thought that "haters gonna hate" and someone should pipe up to defend them from unwarranted criticism.

He wrote in a thread on Facebook, just a few days after debating someone on the topic:

The police in NYC are now refusing to make the mayor look good, I get it. I don't think the police are abandoning their jobs or responsibilities. I think they are refusing to play the game.
Perhaps he was among the many who also parrot the idea that there are only a "few bad eggs" around. That if you're not doing anything wrong, there's nothing to worry about...

Yet, he was about to get a firsthand look into a systemic problem - the real aim of modern-day American policing.

Coincidentally, the afternoon of January 20th would change that on a very personal level - irrevocably - Village Voice Blogs reports.

Vogel's attention was on the music in his earphones while he awaited a train at the Nostrand Avenue stop. That's when an NYPD officer appeared and asked what was in Vogel's pocket. It was a pocket knife attached to a pocket clip. And Vogel responded frankly. 

Bear with me for this important note - Vogel is a conscientious citizen, who strives to follow every letter of the law, so he probably only figures there would ever be a problem for rough "bad guys" roaming the streets. Not so. But Vogel is so conscientious that he had already looked up the knife laws. His 2-inch common pocket knife with a wooden handle, available on many store shelves. did not break the 4-inch law. It was not a switchblade which is totally illegal in New York. Not only was the pocket knife well within legal confines, but Vogel, like many others, uses it for his job. It brings him much convenience as he cuts tape and cables setting up PA systems.

Vogel was compelled to hand it over.

With the flick of the wrist, the seized knife becomes "magic" and reveals its "true nature" bent toward committing crimes.

From Village Voice:

When Vogel handed over his knife, the cop who had stopped him went through a routine that plays out thousands of times every year in New York City. Holding Vogel's knife, the cop raised his arm and vigorously flicked his wrist, in a practiced move. The knife snapped open and into place.

Vogel says he had never in his life tried to open his knife like that. It certainly wasn't designed to operate that way. He was stunned.
Incredulous, Vogel couldn't stop commenting on what a "magic trick" he had witnessed. And a well-practiced one at that, he noted.

You're under arrest - you broke the law.

Not really. Not at all. But the officer said that under NYPD's legal interpretation, Vogel was in possession of a "gravity knife" and would be going to jail! He would remain in a cell for a few hours and receive a "misdemeanor charge for criminal possession of a weapon. " This first-ever charge will cost time, work time, in court appearances, and thousands in legal fees.

Even this did not initially change his heart. The "good cop" arresting him was apologetic and tried to comfort him by telling him he'd probably "get off easy" for his criminality. At this point, Vogel's still thinking they're just good fellas doing what they got to do. Until...

He overheard their conversation about racking up arrest "numbers" needed to move on up. One of them seemed upset that another was getting promoted after only getting "like, two guns and a burglary and few robberies." Big light bulb here. "I'm just a pawn," he said. Even before, he recalled feeling uneasy at the "broken windows" [fallacy] type police work. NYPD has alienated a vocal supporter who now has a stronger bond with his friend whom he had debated. "They turned an ally into an enemy," he said. 

To the best of the media's knowledge, New York City police are among the only agency that interprets a old state law this way. From Village Voice:

Under an arcane statute first passed in the mid-1950s, any knife that can be opened by centrifugal force can be qualified as a gravity knife. The law was never intended to outlaw the kind of knife Vogel carries — the true gravity knives originally targeted back then were far larger and more menacing. And applying the term to common folding knives is a controversial interpretation, even within the five boroughs. That reading of the law has prompted a federal lawsuit and malicious-prosecution settlements; even the state judiciary says it's an incorrect and unjust reading of the law. Regardless, the NYPD is virtually alone among major police departments in New York State in its tough enforcement of the half-century-old law.
A real gravity knife looks like this. NYPD has yet to explain how this is any more dangerous than a folding knife. And it's certainly not switchblade material. Plus, folding knives are legal. Village Voice was so successful in bring this tactic to light that it spawned discussions among lawmakers and police. See the rest of their report as well as How a 50s-Era Knife Law Has Landed Thousands in Jail.

Clearly, Vogel did nothing wrong. But who was left to speak up for him? Only Village Voice, and if you count this piece - both after the fact.

Are we going to have to wait until each and every single person has an experience like this, or a potentially fatal experience, before unacceptable behavior is called out for what it actually is?

*The friendly knife has been superimposed on the image

Recently from Amanda Warren:

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