“He was telling me that I needed to get a new boyfriend, that I should get a guy who takes me out to dinner,” Ms. Zucker said. “He mocked me for being from Westchester.”
Early in the morning on Oct. 22, a Saturday, Ms. Zucker, 21, and her friend Alex Fischer, also 21, were stopped by the police in Riverside Park and given tickets for trespassing. Mr. Fischer was permitted to leave after he produced his driver’s license. But Ms. Zucker, on a visit to New York City with a group of Carnegie Mellon University seniors looking for jobs in design industries, had left her wallet in a hotel two blocks away.
She was handcuffed. For the next 36 hours, she was moved from a cell in the 26th Precinct station house on West 126th Street to central booking in Lower Manhattan and then — because one of the officers was ending his shift before Ms. Zucker could be photographed for her court appearance, and you didn’t think he was going to take the subway uptown while his partner stayed with her at booking, did you? — she was brought back to Harlem.
There she waited in a cell until a pair of fresh police officers were rustled up to bring her back downtown for booking, where she spent a second night in custody.
The judge proceeded to dismiss the ticket in less than a minute.
News about the Police Department lately could run under the headline of the daily Dismal Development, starting with a judge declaring Tuesday that an officer was guilty of planting drugs on entirely innocent people and continuing back a few days to gun-smuggling, pepper-spraying and ticket-fixing.
Here, in the pointless arrest of Ms. Zucker, is a crime that is not even on the books: the staggering waste of spirit, the squandering of public resources, the follies disguised as crime-fighting. About 40,000 people a year — the vast majority of them young black and Latino men — are fed like widgets onto a conveyor belt of arrest, booking and court, after being told to empty their pockets and thus commit the misdemeanor of “open display” of marijuana.
Such arrests are a drain on the human economy.
Ms. Zucker said that throughout her stay in police station cells, other officers were shocked that she had not been given a chance to have a friend fetch her ID. “The female officers were gossiping that the officer who arrested me had an incredibly short fuse,” she said.
We are instructed by the mayor that the garish crimes of police gun-running and fake arrests are the work of rogues, not the daily toil of honest police officers. A fair point — but no more than Ms. Zucker’s observations of spiritual corruption.
“While it may have been one out-of-control officer that began the process,” she said, “no other officer had the courage to stand up against what they knew was a poor decision.”
After two days of storming design firms around the city with about 80 classmates, Ms. Zucker stopped at the hotel near West 103rd Street where the group was staying so she could drop off the bag she had been schlepping. Then she got Mr. Fischer — a classmate, not a boyfriend, the leering remark of the police officer to the contrary — to walk with her a few blocks to the park, at about 3 a.m. They wanted to see the Hudson River, which runs past her hometown of Ardsley, N.Y.
“We’re there five minutes when a police car came up and told us we had to leave because the park was closed,” Mr. Fischer said. “We said, ‘O.K., we didn’t know,’ and turned around to leave. Almost immediately, a second police car pulls up.”
Its driver said they would get tickets for trespassing and demanded their IDs. Ms. Zucker suggested that someone could bring her papers from the hotel. “He said it was too late for that, I should have thought of it earlier,” she said.
Asked about the policy, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said officers can allow a friend or relative to retrieve ID. He did not say if a supervisor approved the arrest of Ms. Zucker, which was attributed in court papers to a Police Officer Durrell of the 26th Precinct.
Twice, she said, the officer told her not to call him by a specific foul term.
“I said, ‘Sir, I never used that word.’ ”
No doubt he was hearing things: the unspoken truth about his unspeakable actions.