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 New York Police Gang Unit Targets Hip-Hop Community






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-- by Douglas Century, with additional reporting by Minya Oh

One of the most hotly debated topics in the hip-hop world is the New York Police Department's reported clampdown on the rap industry.

In the wake of high-profile investigations into the slaying of Jam Master Jay, the joint FBI-NYPD raids on the offices of Murder Inc., and the recent arrests of 50 Cent and Fabolous on weapons charges, the hip-hop community is abuzz with talk of an elite "hip-hop squad" or "rap task force" whose duties include tailing rappers' vehicles and even monitoring their lyrics.

During a recent stint as a guest DJ on New York's Hot 97, 50 Cent tauntingly shouted out the "hip-hop cops" that he claims follow him everywhere. But does such a task force targeting rappers really exist?

  "50 Cent Arrested For Gun Possession"
MTVNews.com report
No, insists the NYPD.

"There is no such thing," said Detective Walter Burns, a senior NYPD spokesperson. "We have no hip-hop task force, no hip-hop unit, no hip-hop patrol."

Police point out that when they do create task forces, like the Terrorism Task Force or the Hate Crimes Task Force, one of their purposes is to let the public know they're making an extra effort to stop crime. "If we did have a hip-hop task force," another NYPD spokesperson said, "we wouldn't deny it. We'd want to tell you that it exists."

But many artists aren't buying it.

"It's definitely a task force," Fat Joe said. "You go to hip-hop spots now and they ain't just your normal walking-the-beat cops. There's cops out there in undercover cars like they know something we don't know. Like bin Laden's in the club, B."

"It's just a thing where it's targeting hip-hop," Fabolous said. "I don't think you should target something. If it's a problem, you go handle the problem, that's what cops are for. They are there to protect and serve. They're not there to make a problem."

Hip-hop Web sites liken the current situation to the once-secret FBI surveillance of African-American leaders and civil rights activists in the 1960s. Many rappers claim to have first-hand knowledge of the elite task force's existence, and some say they've even seen confidential NYPD Intelligence Division documents containing information on rappers' places of residence and vehicles.

"It's called the Entertainment Task Force," Keith Murray said. "They watch you as far as on the streets, and they watch you as far as monetary operations, taxes, who's paying who what, where you getting money from. They got they scope on rappers right now."

Pressed on his source for the existence of this task force, Murray said, "I've read numerous things on it and I'm seeing it come to fruition."

The story of a hip-hop unit within the NYPD has been widely disseminated by major news organizations, and such reports have led to accusations of "rapper profiling" and civil rights infringement. But police spokespeople as well as other sources within the force say it's simply not true. "We don't target rappers," Burns said. "The NYPD investigates crimes."

Perhaps it's a sense of self-mythologizing — all the Italian-gangster wannabes populating the ranks of the hip-hop game — that leads some rappers to feel they're constantly under surveillance. Just how did they think law enforcement was going to react to artists who take on the surnames of crime kingpins like Gotti and Capone and Gambino?

Lieutenant Tony Mazziotti, a retired 28-year veteran who oversaw investigations of actual gangsters — major racketeers in the Gambino and Genovese crime families — said: "With the rappers, I think it's this sense that, 'Hey, we're worthy of being investigated. That means we're for real.' "

But what's actually for real, one retired NYPD detective insists, is that there is a rap-related unit within the police force. What's more, he said, he's the cop who created it.

"I was the one who started the whole thing," Derrick Parker revealed to MTV News. "The unit was created in '98. ... When Biggie was buried here in New York, there was a lot of concern, there were a lot of threats made. The chief [of the department] wanted me to run this entire investigation for him and to report to him."

Parker said that for more than four years he gathered intelligence on the rap community, compiled files, went to nightclubs and interviewed rappers who were jammed up in criminal cases. Pressed on the exact name for the entity he created, Parker said, "It's not called the hip-hop unit, it's really just under Gang Intel."

 

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Photo: C.I.N. Prod./MTV News

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