Samantha Zucker, College Student Held by NYPD for 36 Hours for Not Having ID, Tells Her Story

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Courtesy Samantha Zucker
Last week, the New York Times published a story about the arrest of 21-year-old Carnegie Mellon student Samantha Zucker, who was in New York City with a group of classmates to look for job opportunities. At about 3 a.m. on October 22, Zucker and her friend Alex Fischer were stopped by cops in Riverside Park and ticketed for trespassing. (The park was closed at that hour.) While Fischer had a driver's license and was allowed to leave after showing it, Zucker had left hers back at the hotel. What ensued was a 36-hour period in which she was handcuffed, arrested, and held in the system, moved from various precincts to central booking and back again, while also being, in her words, mocked by the arresting officer, and finally going before a judge, who dismissed the ticket "in less than a minute."

Jim Dwyer, who wrote the initial piece in the Times, followed up with another piece this Tuesday stating that Ed Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, had revealed that Zucker was held so long because of the NYPD ticket-fixing indictments in the Bronx. "No one wanted to get involved in making a change where a summons was involved because of everything going on in the Bronx," Mullins told the Times. "She fell victim to it. That's what I am being told."

When we learned of the incident last week, we reached out to Zucker to give her the opportunity to tell her side of the story in a first-person format. (She also shared an earlier version of this material with the Times.) These are her words.

My name is Samantha Zucker. I am the 21-year-old college student the New York Times wrote about on Wednesday in the article "Dismal Tale of Arrest for the Tiniest of Crimes."

I've been amazed by the flood of responses to the article. I had no idea it would pick up such momentum. I did not approach the Times to write the story. I initially approached Len Levitt of the blog NYPD Confidential with a recap of my horrific experience with Officer Durrell on October 22. He forwarded the story on to Jim Dwyer, who then approached me. With some reservations, I agreed that my story was necessary to share.

I had a million reservations about doing the article. I felt almost as much fear waiting to talk to Mr. Dwyer and waiting to see what he would write as I felt during my time in holding. Still, I knew that it was important for me to speak up; I needed to make it clear that I am not ashamed of what happened and I have no reason to be. I did not provoke Officer Durrell in any way and played by the rules I was taught would keep me safe. They didn't work.

From my time spent in booking and from the endless comments and emails I have received since, I have learned that situations like this happen all the time. My story is not about one "loose cannon," and I am not a fluke in the system. Simply firing Officer Durrell will not solve the greater problem. There are more fundamental and underlying changes that must be made.

There are a few unanswered gaps in Mr. Dwyer's article that I would like to address. I acknowledge that Officer Durrell will of course have his side of the story, but from my standpoint and the standpoint of my friend Alex, he used his discretion poorly -- very poorly. After being approached, I did everything in my power to right the situation; I cooperated fully, apologized, asked how I could fix it, and was told there was nothing to be done. Instead, the officer lied to me and gave hostile responses when I was simply trying to understand my position and my rights. My friend Alex was given a court summons for trespassing and will have to return to New York in January, despite my case being dismissed.

As for why Alex didn't bring my ID, it was because he was threatened with disorderly conduct when he asked where I was being taken. Once I was placed in the cop car, my whereabouts were unknown to anyone who knew me. He and my friends on the trip handled the situation phenomenally, especially by tracking down my parents at 4 a.m. and giving them all the information they could find. Even if Alex had brought over my ID it would have made little difference. By the time Officer Durrell arrested me, he was no longer interested in who I was. I gave him my information, but he had no desire to verify it, even if that's what he claimed to do. I have no record or fingerprints or mugshot in any police records that he could have referenced beyond what he looked up from the information I provided him. This case was not about a false identity issue. Instead of doing the respectable job of a police officer, he spent his night bullying me -- making multiple comments about how I needed to get a new boyfriend, giving me a hard time when I asked for water or to use the restroom, and adopting a hostile tone anytime I asked about the process I was going through and my rights -- and got paid to do it.

What I learned in my 36 hours in the police and holding system is how orchestrated the whole situation was. Women were put in my holding cell for the smallest of crimes -- some not even crimes. The realization that false arrests are planned and purposeful haunted me.

After my arrest, I felt immense anger, confusion, and downright terror, and had no idea how to handle what I was feeling. Worst of all was the shame and having to come clean to my friends and teachers about what happened, having to take in their emotions and responses. No victim should ever feel shame.

Officer Durrell knew the system and exactly how he wanted to play it. I knew none of it. Every cop along the way, whether they act this way themselves or not, allowed my unlawful arrest to continue by not speaking up. If I went back to my university and pretended like nothing happened, I too would be perpetuating the system, which is why I found it so important to say something. Surplus arrests and the wasting of resources happen all the time, especially in poorer communities. Perhaps I've gotten more attention because of my race, economic status, and education. While that is entirely unfair, the best I can do is to take the opportunities I've been given and try to make a difference.

I do not wish to be the poster child of police reform. I am not looking for media attention or a payout from the city. If I could undo that entire night, I would in a heartbeat. But I refuse to be the victim of the NYPD's crime and to allow them to let me feel ashamed and responsible for what happened. I wholeheartedly believe that from the moment Officer Durrell stepped out of his car that night, there was nothing I could have said or done to make things go differently. I did not cause this. I made a silly mistake of forgetting my wallet, an easy thing to do. That should not warrant 36 hours in jail.

There have been a lot of negative comments toward the police because of my story. I'd like to take a moment to thank the many officers that understand their job and risk their lives every day. They are the ones who should be most ashamed of Officer Durrell and those like him. I understand that the NYPD strives for unity and works toward a sense of brotherhood, but brothers do more than cover each other's backs. They help each other grow and pressure one another when they're wrong. There's a fine line between brotherhood and thuggery, and the NYPD is teetering on it.

It goes for everyone, cops and citizens alike -- if something is wrong, act on it. Say something about it. Sweeping it under the rug just allows a monster to grow that is much harder to handle.

If my story outraged you, say something in more than just comments and emails. That's a great start, and I appreciate the dialogue that has begun, however, it is not enough. If you want to do more than just scream online, write a letter to Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly or the representative in your city. Donate to the ACLU. Tell every police officer you know how much this upsets you. Most of all, speak up.

We asked Zucker some follow-up questions, as well:


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53 comments
Sterling
Sterling

This cop should be flogged publicly, and I am NOT kidding. He is a criminal himself.

vilisjohnson
vilisjohnson

I think it is a worst thing done with her. She arrested when park is closed. She arrested because of she had not her ID proof. It was such a horrific experience for her.

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Janezucker14
Janezucker14

Like everything else, it's no big deal until it happens to you. We sit here writing blogs in the comfort of our surroundings. When you are suddenly being treated as a criminal and not being given any information, every one of us would be singing a different song. Those of you who are saying this police officer was doing is job is missing the wake up call once again. Why could this not had been resolved at the precient? Sam is lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to speak up about a situation that goes on all the time.

Anon
Anon

Oh NO! A privileged Jew girl is inconvenienced by the law. Boo fucking hoo.

plateoshrimp
plateoshrimp

OK, so what law (NYC, NY State, Federal) actually *requires* you to: a) possess any form of identification; b) carry that form of identification on your person at all times when not at home?  If there is a law that requires this, I would greatly appreciate it if someone could post a citation or link to the actual statute.  Otherwise this is crap.

Bill
Bill

Sorry but the girl is 100 wrong. If u committ a violation that will ultimately end up in a summons and you do not have id, you get arrested. The officer did exactly what the dept is supposed to do. There is a ton of crime in that park especially at 3am. I don't believe that the girl is a hardcore criminal, but what being held for that amount of time is exactly what the would happen to anyone else in that situation.

Aaron Gershoff
Aaron Gershoff

The student is mistaken - she was arrested within the full auspices of the law in NYC.  NYPD did their job.  Responsible citizens are a vital part of the country and Samantha Zucker should learn how to be one.

Guest
Guest

Is this a joke? The park is closed at night and you are supposed to carry your id with you everywhere you go. So she spend the night in lockup for it. I don't see the big deal. I'm sure it happens all the time.

Kris Berg
Kris Berg

 Then most cops and police should be, the cop already offered Sam a favor, a privilege denied to many new yorkers, but by statue could not give the favor, could he have done a bit of work, yes, but why punish him, if he already was offering to give sam the favor, much like you offer to sweep your neighbor's yard but are not willing to do it an hour early.

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

No, she was arrested for trespassing, she was held for not having ID, state law does not allow her not to be held, of course the officer could have gotten her ID, but the officer did not even have to offer a summons,

Listen SAM, I am going to do you a favor which folks don't normally get , I just need your ID, "Oh I don't have ID", okay then I can't do you the favor - news media.

Listen at the precinct, we are not doing any favors (summonses)= thousands of new yorkers, media attention=zero.

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

What?, Sam was given a favor, its like me asking you for a favor, and then you saying, gee can you wait 5-10 minutes, if I asked you the favor or was giving you a favor, would you criticize me if I don't give an "additional favor".

Thousands of folks are arrested and ELIGIBLE FOR SUMMONSES!, Samantha was NOT ELIGIBLE FOR A SUMMONS!, yet because she is a white college student it gets news.

The officer could have had her held for 36 hours with ID!, would that get media attention, maybe but for the thousands of folks who have that happen, no media attention.

The NYPD has enormous discretion  when giving out DATS, and since there are central booking facilities and guiliani's policies or ray kelly or whoever, they abuse it.

Sterling
Sterling

You are a loser, Anon. That's why you are Anonymous.

Dad
Dad

REALLY? In Jim Dyer's followup even Stg. Ed Mullens, President of the Sargents Benevolent Association is quoted:  “This thing should have been tossed out the door,”.  The fact is that Samantha has a NYS driver's license and it would be ultra simple for the officer or his superiors to confirm her identity, give her a summons and send her on her way. But he didn't and no one stopped him. Other police officers commented to Samantha that PO Durrell was "out of control". But PO Durrell is the symptom, not the problem. He is a symptom of a system of Compstat (managing by numbers) that causes management to set quotas for summons and arrests and a culture of "brotherhood" that as my daughter relates is teetering on thuggery. If you want proof, just look up Ardian Schoolcraft's story of what NYPD did to him.

Bill
Bill

She was arrested for trespassing. In a minor crime like that the police can release you with a summons, if and only if, they can verify who you are by seeing valid id. If the police allowed people o walk away from minor crimes without any id, the laws would be useless. She was not arrested for not having Id. She will not sue, because any lawyer is going to know the police can do that. Again this doesn't make her a bad person, or a hardcore criminal, but the policeman did exactly what he was supposed to do.

Sterling
Sterling

Well, cops can use discretion, and Samantha Zucker looks to me like a nice girl. The cops could have separated the two and asked her friend who she was to corroborate who she said she was. They were cooperative, and the cops should have just warned them about the high crime in the park. All of you who are defending the cops on this blog are idiots.

Guest
Guest

Too bad anyone with a smidgen of common sense after taking one look at this girl would realize that she isnt a criminal. Amazing that American citizens are so quick to acquiesce to police state tactics. I guess as long as the pateranl authorities order you to go along with it, that's about all it takes for some? You're about as intelligent as a sheep though. 

psusense
psusense

Well, the full auspices of NYC can suck my merry c*ck from far away because I am not going to be spending any of my money in NYC. there are other better cities with less pompous people where I can have a better time without the police itself preying on me. Enjoy your stupid law and order showing the great nypd on tv

Tay Owens
Tay Owens

> The student is mistaken - she was arrested within the full auspices of the law in NYC.

Then the law in NYC is wrong.  Unconstitutional even, since the punishment must fit the crime and 36 hours in detention for being 20 feet from a public street in a public park with no barriers to entry is unacceptable.

> NYPD did their job.

The officer here is the type of policeman who makes otherwise reasonable citizens dislike cops.  The abuse of authority is the worst crime in a free society, so this police officer deserves to be tarred and feathered--which is what would have happened to him 200 years ago and what should happen to him now.  Instead he probably won't even get suspended with pay.

So, since he won't be punished for this incident, I'll say this: the next time a cop gets shot, I really hope it's him.

Guest
Guest

is it possible you can be an even bigger douchebag next time? 

psusense
psusense

the ID everywhere law is in Saudi Arabia  and North Korea.. not in US.

Sterling
Sterling

Shutup idiot. There's no law requiring you to carry ID.

Grubber21
Grubber21

 What? There was no reason for her to be arrested, PLUS they violated several rights. And these are the people who are supposed to be DEFENDING our rights, lives, ETC. If these things continue, then I will lose next toall faith in my police of my state.

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

Trespassing is a crime, the police had no way of doing a background check,

kjane
kjane

This is the United States of friggin' America!!!!  You aren't "supposed" to carry your ID with you wherever you go!   Are you a refugee from Somalia or something?  Get educated, man!  It's scary to see such ignorance on display!

Tay Owens
Tay Owens

> you are supposed to carry your id with you everywhere you go

Since when, Stalin?  Don't you remember back in the day that whenever we used to discuss the differences between the free American system and the communist Soviet system, that we'd inevitably mention how great it is that in America you can go wherever you want without having to "show your papers" and get government permission?  So, we've basically become Soviet Russia, and you think that's okay.

There's no law stating that Americans even have to have ID cards.  There's no law saying we have to travel with these ID cards.  If we do have them and have them with us, there are laws in some jurisdictions stating that we have to show them to police if asked.  That's it.

And the notion that a public park should ever be closed to a law-abiding citizen is riduculous totalitarian nonsense.

Jacob Karolev
Jacob Karolev

It wasn't a night, it was thirty-six hours, and nothing openly stated that the park was closed. In addition, many people don't carry their IDs around at all times - this isn't the USSR or Arizona, a cop shouldn't be able to book you just for not having ID. Especially if you're a tourist or something, and the only form of ID is your passport, and you lose said passport...It's a better idea to leave it at home, since there's no direct logical need for it.

Songbyrd76
Songbyrd76

That's the problem, why are they exhausting resources they don't have to punish petty "crimes" instead, there were a number of hit & run bicycle accidents all of the city they could be focused on. If a cop is bored with is job enough to find two young people walking through the  park & arrest a tourist for not having identification perhaps he should be back at the precinct doing much needed paper work! This shouldn't be happening all the time! 

psusense
psusense

and please give me a f*ing break.. Police officers give favors out ALL the effin time to people who have "connections" or who have a police benevolent officers associaton sticker on their car.. 

Rich
Rich

With the current computer consoles in the police cars couldn't he have verified her ID using her name, address and/or SS# to bring up a copy of her NYS drivers license, which has her picture on it?  I not in the car, certainly he could at the station house.

Sterling
Sterling

Christina Berg, YOU are the racist for even bringing up the fact that she is white. I would feel exactly the same, and my posts would have been just the same, if Samantha had been any other race. Let's get over it people. There is only one race, and that's the human race.

My daughter and son-in-law were walking down the street in Milwaukee not too long ago. He is on a full scholarship for music and recently played live with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for one of their gigs. They are both dedicated Christians and active in their church. Neither do drugs. As they walked down the street near the UW Milwaukee, a cop jumped out of his squad and did a pat down on them. No reason whatsoever. They didn't look like anyone that was wanted, and the cop asked them where they were going and all sorts of other questions.

This is why we call these types PIGS!

And don't tell me that I'm the naive dad who wouldn't know if they were doing drugs! I'm the 58-year-old ex-hippy who knows all about drugs.

A annoyed person
A annoyed person

Christina berg, wake up and smell the coffee.

THE NYPD IS CORRUPT.

Doubt me? Read about the Adrian Schoolcraft trial.

Factchecker
Factchecker

 He's only saying that because sam is white and jewish, nypd officers for decades never gave out summonses even to those who produce proper ID and have no warrants.

Why is everybody up in arms,

Sterling
Sterling

I am so sorry for what your family and Samantha had to go through.

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

Actually Anon is right, what about the thousands of minorities who don't get DATS , DATS or summonses are a privilege, not a right, officer durrell was giving Samantha a favor by saying "Gee, I can give you a summons, you have ID?", Samantha was arrested for a crime punishable by up to a year in jail, in fact even with a summons its still an arrest.

Whether she should have been arrested at all is debatable, however she was already given the privilege of being let go, its like a damed if you do , damned if you don't, its like me asking you for 5 bucks, and whining and saying you couldn't give me 10.

Sterling
Sterling

Well, you're an idiot as well. They could have waited a couple minutes while someone got her ID, given her a trespassing ticket, and let her go. All of you who say she was wrong... I wish upon you that you would spend a week in jail for something you didn't do, or for a trifle.

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

Exactly. where is the outrage of New Yorkers, when they realize that folks who are eligible for summons get denied,

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

Before criticizing, how would you love it if a person with No ID, use your name?

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

Tay, where have you been, this has been going on for nearly 15 years!, folks are jailed for minor offenses even with ID, no warrants, etc, Samantha didn't even have ID.

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

Gee, if Samanahta carries her ID on college campus, I admit the NYPD is sloppy, however its a misleading story.

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

Before accusing other folks of ignorance, do you believe in April fools,

The title should read "Samantha denied summons for no ID", even if she had ID and didn't spend 36 hours, she would still be considered under arrest with a rap sheet!,

If a person commits a crime, and uses your name, how would you feel?

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

You are correct that you do not need to have ID as a matter of law, but incorrect as to the story, she was in the park after hours and arrested for tress passing, the officer would giver her  a ticket or summons , but she did not have proper ID or any ID, without that how is the officer supposed to issue a summons, what if she her name was tay owens?

Spacemanspiff4ever
Spacemanspiff4ever

wow, really... comparing AZ to Old Russia... that is about the dumbest thing i have heard in a while. I live in Tucson, and I am a Medically retired military member, there is no big brother running around here w/ a flashlight asking randomly for my ID... other than that yes there are problems all over the US, there are many things that need to be fixed, if we as a nation can take a deep breath, step back and look @ what it is we have been doing for a while now, we might just be able to pull our collective heads out of our asses and get back on track.

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

She was arrested for a crime, of course the merits of that are debatable, however if there is no ID, there is no way of checking to see whether you are wanted for murder.

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

It's been going on for 15 years, yet nobody complains, blame ray kelly, guiliani,etc

Factchecker
Factchecker

 Yes BUT even then, the officer didn't have to give her an DAT, most nyers don't get themuntil recently when eligible, this is a story because she is white and jewish.

Dad
Dad

Yes, it was probably not a good idea for Samantha to be in the park after it was closed. But why did the first set of officers advise them to leave when the second set insisted on giving them a summons? Why did the second officer then refuse to allow Samantha to retrieve her ID in one of several ways? Why could he not confirm her ID in the DMV database once back at the precinct and then give her the summons? Why did other police officers comment to her that this officer was "out of control", yet no one stepped in to stop him? Why did Stg. Ed Mullens, President of the Sargents Benevolent Association say  “This thing should have been tossed out the door,”?

There are two issues here. 1. A police officer "Out of control" and apparently lacking supervision. This is a situation where administrative action needs to be taken to determine the appropriate action needed.  2. As asked above, why did this police officer insist on issuing a summons leading to her arrest? I assert that this has to do with the much larger problem in the NYPD and that is the misuse of the Compstat system. As used, it sets up an environment of quotas encouraging and even forcing police officers to make questionable arrests to make their numbers. It creates an environment where five drug detectives are currently accused of planting drugs related to a number of arrests and on a lower level results in numerous law abiding citizens being arrested on BS charges.  If you want to really start to understand this, just listen the the This American Life podcast on the experience of Adrian Schoolcraft, a Brooklyn Patrolman who recorded what he was being told and how the NYPD reacted. http://www.thisamericanlife.or... Listen to this and research more on his story and you will start to see that this is going on all the time. It breaks down the needed trust between the populace and the police. Arrests like Samantha's happen every day. Samantha just had the resources and opportunity to make her experience known.

Factchecker
Factchecker

It's not racist to tell the truth, the fact that samantha zucker was white or jewish means influence, for instance if a white woman goes missing such as holloway or smart.

Factchecker
Factchecker

The NYPD is corrupt, but the point that is missing here is that the officer was already giving her a favor.

Christina Berg
Christina Berg

No, while I do admire the fact that she spoke up, the bias is evident in the article, an outpouring of sympathy while ignoring the facts is evident, you ignore the issue that even if she had ID, she could spend 36 hours in the system anyway and that it goes on and on.

 

Guest
Guest

Perhaps you need to read the story again where she "tried to remedy the situation numerous different ways" meaning finding a way to produce her ID. Instead the officer mocked her, denied her basic legal righrs or explanations, and drove her through the system for a day and a half when at most this issue could have been resolved in just a few short hours if need be. So I say again, you're one of the people who will basically roll right over and give up your rights if the authorities tell you to.

Sterling
Sterling

Trespassing is not a "crime." That's why they have a thing called "Criminal Trespass," to differentiate the two. Just because someone jaywalks doesn't mean the police are obligated to check to see if someone is a murderer. Screw to police. 25 years ago I was in New Orleans, and a friend of mine was assaulted by a store owner. I'll not get into the reasons, but it was totally unprovoked. And this was not during Mardi Gras. A nice couple sitting in a restaurant saw the assault and volunteered to be witnesses and gave us their number at their hotel. We went and found a cop, and we were very peacefully and civilly trying to convince the cop to look into this and talk to the witnesses, when suddenly the cop sucker-punched me and handcuffed me. I was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer, when nothing like that ever happened. We were being very cool. I had to be bailed out of jail and had to go to court and I was CONVICTED! That's why I generally do not like cops (well, not just for that). I know there are good cops, but like the very articulate Samantha Zucker said above, none of the seemingly good cops would even stand up to the situation. Cops are a brotherhood of assholes.

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