Despite denials from New York Police Department officials that a "hip-hop division" exists to maintain tabs on rap stars, a report in The Miami Herald on Tuesday suggests that the department does indeed run such an operation — and is sharing its data with other police departments around the country.
The Herald exposes the Miami Police Department's tactics of spying on hip-hop celebrities and their entourages when they descend onto South Beach to live, vacation or party. Officers admitted in the report that they regularly photograph rappers as they arrive at Miami International Airport, tap hotel and club workers for information on the celebs' comings and goings, and stake out hotspots and video shoots.
"A lot [of], if not most, rappers belong to some sort of gang. We keep track of their arrests and associates," Miami police Sergeant Rafael Tapanes is quoted as saying.
Information obtained on the rappers is apparently kept in a binder developed by the NYPD. It was shared at a specially arranged "hip-hop training session" last May that included officers from Los Angeles and Atlanta. The training session allegedly outlined the information kept in the binder and trained officers on what radio stations to monitor for information on new rivalries and what to look for in rap lyrics.
Artists profiled in the binder include 50 Cent, Eminem, P. Diddy, Jay-Z and Ja Rule. When called by MTV News, neither the NYPD nor the Miami Beach Police Department wanted to comment.
Some consider the tactics used by Miami police to be a form of racial profiling, but officials say they're concerned that since their city is a popular destination for rap celebrities, their citizens might get caught in the crossfire of emerging rap beefs.
"We have to keep an eye on these rivalries," Miami Beach Assistant Police Chief Charles Press told the paper. "The last thing we need in this city is violence."
For more on the NYPD's alleged monitoring of hip-hop culture, check out the feature "Hip-Hop Cops: Is The NYPD At War With Hip-Hop?"