Miami police keep rappers under surveillance. New York police taught us how, they say

By Gary Susman
Updated March 10, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Hip-hop stars who visit Miami are likely to be kept under surveillance by Miami and Miami Beach police from the moment they arrive at the airport, and whenever they visit area clubs, check into hotels, or shoot music videos. So reports the Miami Herald, which quotes officers acknowledging that they keep tabs on rappers’ comings and goings in order to forestall criminal activity. They’re using intelligence and methods pioneered by the New York police department, which has given similar tips to police in other major cities as well, the Herald reports.

The acknowledgement by police that they keep an eye on rappers won’t help to mollify those in the hip-hop community who believe that police unfairly give the entire genre a bad rap and resort to racial profiling in their arrests of musicians. ”A lot if not most rappers belong to some sort of gang,” Miami police Sgt. Rafael Tapanes told the Herald. ”We keep track of their arrests and associates.”

But Miami Beach Asst. Police Chief Charles Press said the efforts are to protect the rappers as well as the public, citing the feuds and associations with gangs and crime that may have been behind the still unsolved murders of Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G., and Jam Master Jay. ”We have to keep an eye on these rivalries,” Press said. ”The last thing we need in this city is violence.” For example, he said, ”If we know 50 Cent is coming to town then of course we have to be on alert. We know there have been multiple attempts on his life.”

The NYPD has repeatedly denied news reports — and the suspicions of rappers — that there is a hip-hop task force within the department. Nonetheless, there apparently are officers keeping tabs on rappers’ arrest records, feuds, and lyrical boasts and beefs. After all, they’ve compiled a six-inch thick dossier, which contains information about such rappers as 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Sean ”P. Diddy” Combs, Jay-Z, Nas, and Busta Rhymes. Miami’s Sgt. Tapanes told the Herald that the NYPD gave his department a copy of the binder last May at a three-day ”hip-hop training session” that was attended by cops from Miami, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. ”They were trained on what to look for in the lyrics, what to look for when they go to hip-hop concerts, what radio stations and TV stations to monitor to keep abreast of any rift between these rappers,” Tapanes said.

A hip-hop DJ at a Miami radio station, Papa Keith, told the Herald it was laughable that local police had to travel to New York to learn about hip-hop from New York cops. ”If they’re saying they’re trying to learn about hip-hop,” Papa Keith said, ”then hire more brothers and put them in the ranks.” According to the Herald, only 26 of 226 supervisory officers in the Miami police department are black, and only one of the 97 ranking officers in the Miami Beach police department is African-American.