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“No One Here Should Be Turning His Back”: Facing Each Other, Those On Each Side Might Be Surprised By What They See

Whom are police officers turning their backs on when they refuse to face Mayor Bill de Blasio, and whom are they protecting? On the night of Saturday, December 20th, after a man named Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot the officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, execution style, outside of a Bedford-Stuyvesant housing project, a line of officers who’d gathered at the Woodhull Medical Center faced away from the Mayor as he walked passed them. They were mourning and distraught; one might wish that they realized more fully that the city and its mayor were mourning with them, but it was the sort of act of shocked grief that can be forgiven the next day. That was more than a week ago, though. Since then, Patrick Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, a police union, all but called de Blasio the officers’ killer—he had “blood on his hands.” At Ramos’s funeral, held two days after Christmas, the officers in an overflow crowd outside the church turned their backs on the screen showing de Blasio giving his eulogy. Then, on Monday, at the graduation ceremony for the city’s police academy, members of the audience shouted “Traitor!” when de Blasio spoke, and there was scattered back-turning, though not, apparently, among the newest officers. De Blasio, in a speech that was almost abject, said, “You will confront all the problems that plague our society—problems that you didn’t create.” According to the Times, “a heckler yelled out ‘You did!’ and drew applause.”

But what, exactly, did de Blasio do? What was his “betrayal,” to borrow another of Lynch’s bitter phrases? After a grand jury failed to indict anyone in the death of Eric Garner, even though a video showed an officer putting him in what, by the N.Y.P.D.’s own rules, was an impermissible chokehold, de Blasio said that many in the city “did not want” that outcome. But he was less than explicit about what he wished, other than for any protests to be peaceful and, more generally, to not have to worry about how the police might deal with a child like his son Dante. Perhaps a fantasy mayor would have come out smiling following the news of the grand jury and presented it as a vindication. But what or whom would have been defended with a gesture like that? How would the city have been served by what whole communities would have experienced as scorn? (The Mayor may be the target here, but the message that members of the police will turn their backs on those who criticize them, excluding them from a circle of protection, is broad and unhelpful.) De Blasio promised, in his campaign, to do away with the N.Y.P.D.’s stop-and-frisk policies. A court case had already given him and the city good reason. Voters agreed, a source of tense confrontations was removed, and, in the year since, crime has fallen. He reacted defensively to criticism of his wife’s chief of staff, who, among other problems, had a boyfriend with a criminal record. Yet, at the same time, he brought in Bill Bratton, hardly a flaming radical, as his police commissioner.

Creating a space for peaceful, lawful protests is not what killed Ramos and Liu. The murderer was Brinsley, a lifetime petty criminal who didn’t even live in New York. Hours before the killings, he was in an apartment in Baltimore, pointing a gun at his girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson. He shot her in the abdomen; she survived, and he fled to Brooklyn. He posted an Instagram message saying “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours … let’s take 2 of theirs.” At that point, he had already come close to putting “wings on” Shaneka Thompson, and any police officer in the country would have had good reason to arrest him in defense of a young, black woman. Brinsley added a “shootthepolice” hashtag and ones about Garner and Michael Brown; after news of the shooting, those words, his would-be excuses, were seen as explosive. They only are, though, if someone like Brinsley gets to decide what is “ours” and what is “theirs”—and who the us in “let’s” is. And he doesn’t. Ramos and Liu were ours; claiming them has nothing to do with race. Brinsley was nobody’s.

There is clearly anger toward de Blasio within the police force, as well as heartfelt dislike. It may be the legitimate result of a thousand acts of clumsiness and cultural blindness on the Mayor’s part. No matter the statistics, officers like Ramos and Liu, or Russel Timoshenko and Herman Yan, put their lives on the line. De Blasio is the mayor, and it is his job to form connections with people who have one of the hardest, most dangerous jobs in the city. Clearly he can do better, but it is also clear that he is trying. The police may feel left out, or that people don’t understand the hard work they have done—that new residents born in distant, safer places think they are the ones who’ve transformed Bushwick or Bed-Stuy, as if a peaceful city requires only artful curators, not custodians. For members of the police, suddenly places they didn’t want to patrol are places they can hardly afford to live on an officer’s salary. Their dismay may be understandable. But it should not be enraging. New York is a much safer city than it used to be, and that requires an adjustment by police officers, too. This may be where the N.Y.P.D.’s own leadership has failed. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association recently put a message on its Web site saying “Don’t let them insult your sacrifice!” It linked to a document that officers could sign asking de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito not to come to their funerals if they are killed in the line of duty, saying that it would be an “insult” due to their “consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve.” The statement is not a request to remove politics from funerals, but rather an effort to politicize them.

De Blasio did go to Ramos’s funeral—the insult would have been if he hadn’t. He spoke about Ramos’s love for his wife, Maritza (“the love of his life and the partner in all things”), and his sons, Justin and Jaden (“they are Mets fans. God bless them. And he loved playing basketball with his sons in Highland Park”). He added a few words in Spanish (“era un padre y esposo amoroso, un hombre de mucha fe”). Officer Ramos was studying to be a pastor, and Vice-President Joseph Biden, who also spoke at the funeral, said that he “didn’t just have a Bible in his locker; he lived it in his heart.” Wenjian Liu will be buried this coming weekend (the services were delayed to allow relatives to get here from China; that these two men are the ones Brinsley found randomly is a reflection of the N.Y.P.D.’s real diversity, as well as the city’s). Many of the officers outside were not New Yorkers; they had come from California, the United Kingdom, and places in between, and so it is hard to say what they knew about de Blasio when they made their act of protest, or what they knew about this city. They might answer that they knew what they needed to about being cops, and, sometimes, about being alone. That would be better expressed by moving toward people—the officers’ families, the communities they live in, even the Mayor—rather than showing their backs. The same could undoubtedly be said of some of those in the crowds that protested the grand jury’s verdict. Facing each other, those on each side might be surprised by what they see. The time for turning away is over.

 

By: Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, December 30, 2014

January 5, 2015 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, Law Enforcement, NYPD | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Need Our Police To Be Better Than This”: It’s Part Of Having The Badge And The Right To Use Force

In 1951, Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War. The two never got along, but that wasn’t why Truman canned him. “I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was,” explained Truman after the fact. “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the president.” You expect soldiers of all ranks to understand the need to respect the chain of command, regardless of personal feelings.

Soldiers—and cops, too.

Which is one big reason the display by members of the New York Police Department at the funeral of slain patrolman Rafael Ramos is particularly disturbing. At Ramos’s funeral service Saturday, NYPD rank-and-file—along with members of police forces attending from around the country—turned their backs when Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his eulogy. This was a very public fuck you to a politician widely perceived by conservatives and law-and-order types as weak on crime and in the pocket of social-justice warriors. Yet the cops’ protest illustrates exactly what drives so much fear of the police: the worry that cops react emotionally and impulsively in situations that call for cool rationality and a reliance on training and strategic restraint. “It wasn’t planned,” said one of the protesters. “Everyone just started doing it.”

“I certainly don’t support that action,” said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. “I think it was very inappropriate at that event.” Bratton—whom de Blasio appointed and who first served as commissioner under tough-guy Rudy Giuliani—is very much in the tradition of “Give ’em Hell” Harry Truman. Which is to say that he at times lets his emotions get the best of him, as when he spuriously implicated President Obama for strained relations between police and citizens, saying that cops feel as if they “are under attack from the federal government at the highest levels.”

But if de Blasio is in fact soft on crime, he made an exceedingly strange choice in tapping Bratton, credited with helping drive crime down in ’90s New York under Giuliani and in 21st-century Los Angeles, to lead the NYPD. As a cop’s cop, Bratton is in the best possible situation to restore respect for authority among New York’s finest.

The NYPD—and cops more generally—have a public relations problem in the wake of the Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and a long string of other cases. Acting like a bunch of high-school jocks protesting a ban on keg parties isn’t exactly going to win over many hearts and minds. It’s exactly the inability of the cops who killed Garner to restrain themselves that bothered so may of us who watched the video of the encounter. The same goes for the hysterical overreaction and escalation of force used against protesters in Ferguson over the summer.

Yes, cops are under stress and tension (though their jobs are far less dangerous than normally supposed). But they are trained to rise above mere emotional responses; that’s one of the reasons they are given a state-sanctioned monopoly on force. Yet even after the funeral protest, de Blasio was booed and heckled while addressing a new class of recruits as well.

That’s not the worst of it. In the wake of the murders of Ramos and Liu, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, immediately issued a statement claiming that “there’s blood on many hands tonight” and “that blood on the hands starts at City Hall in the office of the mayor.” In fact, Ramos and Liu were killed by deranged gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a career criminal who shot his girlfriend in Baltimore, drove to New York, and bragged about “putting wings on pigs.”

I’m no de Blasio partisan, but the mayor’s willingness to entertain the notion that Eric Garner needn’t have died in police custody has about as much to do with the murders of Ramos and Liu as Sarah Palin’s defense of the Second Amendment had to do with madman Jared Loughner’s shooting of Gabby Giffords. Which is to say: nothing.

The New York Post reports that an email circulating among the NYPD declares, “We have… become a ‘wartime’ Police Department… We will act accordingly.” The email further advised that “two units are to respond to EVERY call,” regardless of the severity of the situation or “the opinion of the patrol supervisor,” a tactic that, the Post notes, not only bucks the chain of command but would “effectively cut in half the NYPD’s patrol strength.”

Prior to the killing of Ramos and Liu, the last time an NYPD cop was ambushed in such a way was in 1988; their deaths were the first in the line of fire since 2011. Yet the email references the 1970s, “when police officers were ambushed and executed on a regular basis.” We normally associate such massive displays of overreaction with pearl-clutching undergraduates calling for “trigger warnings” when faced with reading The Great Gatsby.

Echoing Truman talking about MacArthur, Bratton has said that it was wrong for cops to disrespect de Blasio at the Ramos service because “he is the mayor of New York [and] he was there representing the citizens of New York to express their remorse and their regret at that death.” The police commissioner is sitting down with the unions representing the NYPD rank and file to work through issues that range “far beyond race relations in this city” and include contract disputes about pay, benefits, and more (these latter issues suggest that police outrage at city leaders may be as much a negotiating tactic as in-the-moment reactions).

Based on the responses so far by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the cops themselves, those won’t be pleasant conversations. But Bratton himself has granted that black people “of all classes” have told him they fear the police. Such attitudes join the growing discomfort with militarized police who always seem ready to escalate force and refuse to acknowledge any culpability when things go wrong.

As Bratton and the NYPD start talking among themselves, the commissioner will do well to paraphrase another Trumanism: “The buck stops here.” The police cannot ultimately control public opinion unilaterally. What they can do, though, is acknowledge that a change in their attitudes, behavior, policies, and willingness to engage in discussions about how people see them can help them win back the public trust.

 

By: Nick Gilllespie, The Daily Beast, December 31, 2014

January 2, 2015 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, NYPD, Police Brutality | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Demand For Respect Really Means”: The NYPD Freakout Isn’t Just About Race, It’s About Inequality, Too

The recent war of words between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the president of the city’s Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, is framed by tragedy. Specifically, the tragedies of Eric Garner’s death and the subsequent non-indictment of officer Daniel Pantaleo, and by the deaths of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, recently murdered by a mentally ill man, who imagined that he was seeking revenge on behalf of Garner and Michael Brown. In this context, de Blasio’s repeated suggestion that black citizens attract significantly more attention than white citizens doand with a far greater chance of tragic deaths at the hands of the policehas been read by Lynch and others as a sign of great disrespect.

Respect is the price the rich are supposed to pay for their protection. Making sense of this transaction, though, requires us to stop seeing this as chiefly a matter of cops versus the community, or even as a story dominated, in some simple way, by race or color.  We need to understand the function of the police in contemporary urban life, in an age marked by declining routes to social mobility, and to recognize the intersecting roles of race and class in the larger story.

As a negotiator, Lynch is a bomb-thrower. Writing in a New York Post editorial, he suggested that the NYPD had been “scapegoated for centuries of racial issues” and celebrated “extraordinary achievements in reducing crime in all communities and protecting the lives and property of New Yorkers of all races.” Speaking to PBA delegates in Queens, Lynch said that de Blasio appeared more interested in “running a fucking revolution” than in leading a city through this crisis. “If we won’t get support when we do our jobs, if we’re going to get hurt for doing what’s right then we’re going to do it the way they want it,” he said. “Let me be perfectly clear. We will use extreme discretion in every encounter.” He added, “Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies? Extreme discretion. The rules are made by them to hurt you. Well now we’ll use those rules to protect us.”

Respect is at the center of this argument. Listening to Lynch, one hears that cops are now nearly criminals, indistinguishable from the real dangerous elements. One hears that citizens should be immediately obedient and pliant when confronted by law enforcement. One hears that the policing of poor communities of color requires a very different siege mentality, with newer, bigger weapons and strong-armed, protective tactics. And one hears, finally, that the rank-and-file of the NYPD have been betrayed by the wealthy, that the city is not grateful enough to those who have made its recent and historic prosperity possible.

Uniformed officers have responded by disrespecting these imagined “enemies,” turning their backs on de Blasio as he visited a hospital where the officers died and then later as he attended funeral services for one of them. Unofficial “contracts” have been circulating, in which active police officers request de Blasio’s absence at their own funerals, should the very worst happen. And officers have followed Lynch’s call to use “discretion”: Since the double-murder, traffic tickets and summonses for minor offensesa vital part of “broken windows” theory of policingare down 94 percent over the same period in 2013.

The PBAa union in some ways, a fraternal organization in othershas pushed back against NYC mayors for several decades now, focusing on issues that are strikingly familiar this winter. In 1992, after rumors circulated in Washington Heights that a police officer had shot and killed an unarmed man, neighborhood residents staged massive protests. After then-Mayor David Dinkins proposed a new review board for all police shootings, the PBA organized a sweeping protest that included a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, a traffic stoppage not unlike recent community protests against the non-indictments in Ferguson and Staten Island. Dinkins, who was black, was seen as an advocate for greater civilian oversight of the police, and was imaginedlike de Blasioto be more sympathetic to the families of “criminals” than to the police.  Rudolph Giuliani, then campaigning for his own mayoralty, accused Dinkins of “ceded[ing] neighborhoods to the forces of lawlessness.” Only a few months after massive riots in Los Angeles, NYPD officers took to the streets as protesters, numbering in the thousands according to the New York Times, and demanding new automatic handguns and an end to public critique.  Chanting  “No Justice, No Police,” many wore t-shirts that read: “The Mayor’s On Crack.”

Much of the recent press coverage of racial profiling has sought to illuminate the issue through granular details. Some have pointed to the composition of the police department, assuming that a more representative force would enjoy better community relations. According to The Washington Post’s recent consolidation of census data, de Blasio’s NYPD is 46 percent whitepolicing a city that is 34 percent white. Others have looked at specific rules and regulations, or training procedures, that might explain the crisis of policing racially diverse cityscapes.

Respect is an abstract thing, though. The city has always needed a multi-ethnic police force to serve as a social engine, absorbing new immigrants and roughly reflecting the communitya diverse force whose basic purpose has been to ensure that the lives of the truly rich are protected, that property values are safeguarded, that commerce can proceed. The wage for this service isn’t just a modest bit of social mobilitya few lace curtains, an extra bathroom, a nicer neighborhoodbut also this intangible thing called respect, with its peculiar class inflections. Put simply, joining the police force is a well-trod route to gaining respect from the city establishment. In exchange for that respectand even for their occasional valorization as “heroes”the rank-and-file are supposed to use maximum force on even the smallest challenges to the status quo.

And no challenges are too small. The city has enjoyed a renaissance as a consequence of the “broken windows” policy, which suggests that cutting down on petty crime in poor neighborhoods will catch a greater number of serious criminalsan approach that shifts the focus of policing onto black and brown bodies, naturalizes crime as a feature of minority communities, and justifies the excessive use of force.

The last few decades, in the U.S. but especially in New York City, have been marked by at least two distinctive and contradictory trends: a vast and growing divide between the truly rich and the truly poor; and a series of repeating crises related to race and policing. But they are not unconnected. The new NYPD battling for what they define as workplace rights and lobbying hard, as well, for the intangible and much-desired benefits of respect. But such respect is only awarded to the working-class and racially diverse force for its role in the city’s ongoing war against crimea war with casualties disproportionately drawn from the poor and the desperate and the racially marginal.

To see this just as a black/white thing, or to think about it only as a matter of cops and communities, is to miss the awful backdrop. To truly understand what is happening in New York, we need to look harder at class. This is a story about rich people in a minority-majority city, policed by a force that is now similarly minority-majoritybut a force that, per the city’s orders, defines criminality in terms that impact black and brown peoples most of all. It is a story about who, exactly, is being protected and served. And it is about the wagesliteral and, as W.E.B. Du Bois once put it, psychologicaldemanded for the protection of some but not all, and at the expense of others.

 

By: Matthew Pratt Guterl, The New Republic, December 30, 2014

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, Inequality, NYPD | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Memo To Cops; Criticisms Aren’t Attacks”: In A Democratic Society, No Institution Is Above Criticism And Accountability

Bill Bratton made a number of sensible and decent comments on Sunday’s Meet the Press. More on those a little later. But let’s start with the one comment that wasn’t so reasonable, not for the purpose of bashing the commissioner but for prodding him in whatever tiny way I can to get him to do better, because any solution to this crisis rests largely on his shoulders.

The quote, the one that took control of the headlines, had to do with cops’ feelings about recent criticisms. “Rank-and-file officers and much of American police leadership,” he said, “feel that they are under attack from the federal government at the highest levels. So that’s something we have to understand also.”

We all know what “highest levels” means. It means the president. Hard to know exactly what Bratton’s intention was here, but in essence he endorsed the recent comment by his old boss and enemy Rudy Giuliani, who said on Dec. 21, “We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police.” Now that’s what one expects of Giuliani, because he once lived and thrived in that cauldron of racial conflict and he largely came out of it with his reputation intact (his pre-9/11 approval numbers were around 50-40—good, but could have been much higher had he not fanned so many racial flames over the years). But one doesn’t expect Bratton, who never really talked like that and who worked in Los Angeles to take steps to overcome that police department’s demented racial history, to think that way.

Maybe he was just pointing out that many police feel that way. Fine. But you know, people feel lots of things. Some of them are justified and some of them aren’t. And sorry: Neither Barack Obama nor Eric Holder, whom Giuliani also critiqued, said anything that qualifies as an “attack” (Bratton’s word) on cops. Here’s chapter and verse on that. Please read it. Obama and Holder have certainly spoken of the tensions unique to police-black American relations, but they have never, ever said hate police and have very often said exactly the opposite.

Bratton should acknowledge that truth. He was trying, I think, to demonstrate balance and equivalence. Earlier in the segment, host Chuck Todd had asked him if he understood and acknowledged that black people have a fear of police. To his credit, he said: “Oh, certainly. I interact quite frequently with African Americans of all classes from the rich to the poor, and there is not a single one that hasn’t expressed this concern.” So he was saying: We have these perceptions on the parts of blacks and cops, and we need to deal with them.

But these aren’t morally equivalent. Blacks, males especially, do have reason to be more afraid of cops than whites do. But cops have no reason to believe that they are “under attack” by the White House. Bratton might have said something that was closer to a real-world moral equivalence. He could have said, for example, that for many white cops, the unfortunate truth is that their experience teaches them that they need to take more caution when approaching young black males. But equating African Americans’ daily lived experience with the rhetorical fabrications of Giuliani, PBA head Pat Lynch, and a few other others is… well, it’s like saying that Eric Garner’s crushed larynx is morally the same thing as Lynch’s tender ego.

So ideally Bratton should have said something like, “I’ve seen no evidence that persuades me that there’s any kind of campaign against police at the highest levels of government.” If it came from him, some cops might actually be willing to hear it. He’s the only player in this drama who still has some credibility with both sides. He has struck a promising tone these last few days with his rhetoric about trying to “see each other.” He alone is in a position to start opening some eyes.

But the conversation can’t happen until police departments understand that some criticism of them is legitimate; that not everyone who levels criticisms is a cop-hater; and that in a democratic society, no institution is above criticism and accountability. We don’t criticize the armed services much in America these days—this isn’t the early 1970s, with anti-Vietnam protesters cruelly calling legless veterans pigs and so on—but by God, when something goes haywire (Abu Ghraib), at least there are some prosecutions and forced retirements. The CIA spends years getting away with the stuff it gets away with, but eventually, something happens like this month’s Senate report, and with any luck a couple of heads will roll.

These people put their lives on the line for the rest of us, too. It’s not only possible but also right to find the deaths of CIA officers in the field to be tragic while also demanding that they follow the law and international treaties the United States has signed. And it’s possible and right to be sickened both by the murder of those two NYPD cops and by incidents of police violence that seem to have a clear racial element to them. But somehow, it feels like the Army and the CIA, rigid as those institutions can be, are more responsive to democratic accountability than police departments. That’s the reality that needs to change. And in New York, at least, Bratton has to lead the way.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 28, 2014

December 30, 2014 Posted by | Law Enforcement, NYPD, Police Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Resetting The Default Button”: The NYPD Is Using Fear As A Weapon In The “War On Cops” Crackdown

The New York Post‘s Christmas edition carried a red, but hardly festive banner on its front page: “War on Cops.” The hyperbole aptly captures the perspective of the New York Police Department, which indeed has behaved like it’s at war since officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were murdered in their patrol car last week. Patrick Lynch, the head of the city’s largest police union, declared that there’s “blood on many hands,” specifically “those who incited violence under the guise of protests” and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Another police union has advised its members to remain armed even when they’re off duty and to keep a low profile on the street and online.

Never mind that the dead killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had a long history of mental illness and had shot his ex-girlfriend in Maryland before traveling up to NYC. The only relevant fact, it seems, is that Brinsley had forecast his actions by posting a photo of a pistol on Instagram with the phrase “They Take 1 Of Ours… Let’s Take 2 of Theirs” and hashtag references to Eric Garner and Michael Brown. That’s all the evidence that Lynch, the Post, and their ilk need that there’s a war on copsand that police must respond in kind.

The week after Ramos and Liu’s deaths has seen more than 40 threats against the NYPD, with seven arrests in connections with those threats, the department’s media office said Friday. One of those arrested, Devon Coley, an 18-year-old facing separate assault and weapons charges, posted on Facebook a photopossibly from a movieof a man firing a pistol into the driver’s side of a police car. He wrote “Nextt73,” an apparent reference to his local police precinct in Brooklyn, and punctuated it with emojis of a cop with a pistol by his head.

Under normal circumstances, that vague, semipublic comment might be reason for police to contact Coley for a conversation. But in these “blood on the hands” times, the NYPD is making it known that it will treat all threats as deadly serious. For his Facebook post, Coley faces up to seven years in prison. Brooklyn’s district attorney, Ken Thompson, told the Post that his request for $250,000 bail in the case fit the charge of making terroristic threats. (New York statute defines it as an actual threat that inspires “a reasonable expectation or fear” that a specified crime will happen.) While acknowledging that what Coley did was “stupid” and an “incredible inflammatory thing to do right now,” Circuit Judge Laura Johnson concluded, “I think that for me to set bail because of the current climateit would be a misuse of bail.”

NYPD’s strong reaction does seem justified in at least one case: An informant with ties to Black Guerilla Family gang overheard talk of shooting up the stations, sources told DNAinfo, prompting two precincts to post heavily armed officers outside. But actual arrests have made for a less-than-ominous roundup. A Queens man was overheard talking on his phone about killing police; after receiving a tip, police searched his place and found guns, brass knuckles, and pot paraphernalia. A Manhattan man called Ramos and Liu’s old precinct in the middle of the night and claimed to be Brinsley, saying he’d like to kill more cops. Two men were arrested for making false reports of other people making threats. One Staten Island teenager wrote “kill the cops” on Facebook. And Jose Maldonado, 26, posted the same shooting photo Coley did, musing he “might just go out and kill two cops myself!!!” He surrendered to police and apologized, saying he was drunk. That didn’t save him from a trip to Riker’s after being arraigned on charges of terroristic threatening.

The NYPD understandably takes even drunken rants seriously, given Brinsley’s Instagram message. But throwing terroristic-threat charges at Facebook users who walk themselves into police stations when police contact them, as both Coley and Maldonado did, cheapens the very notion of terror. It might also make their jobs a whole lot harder in the coming weeks and months.

A basic principle of good policing holds that officers in the field should seek to de-escalate, rather than intensify, tension and use of force. (Police escalation of force was instrumental in many if not all the recent deaths that have sparked nationwide protests.) Yet thousands of New York’s finest created a political spectacle at Ramos’ funeral Saturday by turning their backs on the mayor during his eulogy. And while it’s Lynch’s job to antagonize the sitting mayor when his union is in protracted contract negotiations with the city, it’s also his job to represent police to the city. Cranking up the heat, especially at funerals, does police no favors. Even NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has started pointing fingers, saying on the “Today” show that the “targeting of these two police officers was a direct spinoff of this issue of these demonstrations.”

Connecting peaceful demonstrators to a cop-killer has had its presumably intended effect. The New York Times on Friday reported that the killing of Ramos and Liu has opened rifts in the protest movement in New York. “It is wrong to connect the isolated act of one man who killed NYPD officers to a nonviolent mass movement,” Joo-Hyun Kang, the executive director of Communities United for Police Reform, told the paper. But conflating a call to end police violence with violence against police, contradictorily or not, has worked in City Hall. The Times quoted Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who earlier in December exhorted her colleagues to repeat “I can’t breathe” in memory of Garner’s last words, now calling “to end hateful and divisive rhetoric which seeks to demonize officers and their work.”

At the protests I saw two weeks ago, no one was demonizing officers’ work: The overwhelming mass of people were calling for police simply to do their jobs better, to avoid unnecessary deaths. The very inspiration for these protests was police overreaction, and yet here we are, charging nitwits with terroristic threats. Maybe this is how the NYPD de-escalates situations after all: By corralling elected officials and prosecutors, and letting the city know fear will now be the default. New York needs its cops to keep cooler heads. “Stop resisting” may be practical advice during an arrest, but it makes for contemptible politics.

 

By: Sam Eifling, The New Republic, December 28, 2014

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, NYPD, Police Brutality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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