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“A Thin-Skinned Blue Line”: Civilian Authority Is The Essence Of Democracy

To the New York police officers who turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio at a slain officer’s funeral: How dare you.

So a wave of grief met a mean-spirited blue wall of silence. And how did they know the slain officer, Rafael Ramos, would have wished for an ugly political stunt amid bagpipes and farewells in his memory?

The nation’s eyes watched conduct unbecoming and saw salt poured in an open wound over violent police practices toward black men. The staged insubordination was a gauntlet thrown down to de Blasio’s first place in the chain of command and to the citizens of New York who elected him in 2013.

Whether the mayor “turned his back on them” by speaking of his worry for his biracial son Dante has nothing to do with it. Whether he questioned a fatal chokehold of a nonviolent black man, Eric Garner, by a scrum of police officers has nothing to do with it. Personal opinions are not the point. The point is, the mayor is the mayor.

If the invective of Patrick Lynch, president of a large police union, incited the silent mob action, it does not justify it. To state there’s blood on the mayor’s hands, as Lynch claimed, is an outrage. It was too much for Republican Rudy Giuliani, the tough-talking former mayor.

Time-out for a hard-headed moment of truth. Civilian authority is the essence of democracy. A public uniformed police or military rebellion is absolutely un-American. The Pentagon tried to do the same thing to President Bill Clinton, when he was new to his job, led by Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who openly opposed Clinton’s gays in the military reform. At first, military leaders did not give Clinton the respect he was due as the elected commander in chief.

Both Democrats, Clinton and de Blasio came in on a tide that signalled social change in the military or the police department. De Blasio campaigned on making police contacts and tactics such as frisking less hostile. That’s what the majority of New Yorkers want from the police, more peace, and that’s what they should get.

On city streets, civilians have lost a lot of ground to police since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The trend is that police officers have become overly aggressive toward people of color as we (white) people act timid and deferential. In an age of homeland anxiety, many of us bought into the narrative that the police were, by definition, heroes. That’s just not so.

In New York, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Ferguson and so on, respect is the ideal, but let’s make it a two-way street. For his part, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton found the funeral spectacle “inappropriate,” as he put it on the Sunday shows. And so were the Puritan witch trials. Maybe Bratton fears a mutiny, as he walks a mighty fine blue line.

To recap, thousands of police officers flocked to the funeral of Officer Ramos, who died in the line of duty. Not all police officers turned their backs in protest at de Blasio’s eulogy for the fallen officer, fatally shot in his squad car. But hundreds of officers did, standing outside a church in Queens.

Maybe it’s time to rethink our collective view on a famed, beloved city police force in popular culture. Now all of America got to see a different, dark side of that police force, and it’s not true blue.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, December 29, 2014

December 30, 2014 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, NYPD, Police Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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