mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The NYPD Slowdown’s Dirty Little Secret”: Not All Of Them Want The Slowdown To End

The police slowdown in New York, where cops have virtually stopped making certain types of low-level arrests, might be coming to an end soon. For a lot of police officers, it’ll be an unhappy moment, because they never liked making the penny ante collars in the first place.

“We’re coming out of what was a pretty widespread stoppage of certain types of activity, the discretionary type of activity by and large,” police commissioner Bill Bratton told NPR’s Robert Siegel in an interview Friday.

In the rank and file of the police department, there are mixed feelings about the slowdown and a possible return to the status quo.

“I’d break it down like this,” an officer in East Harlem told The Daily Beast. “20 percent of the department is very active, they’d arrest their mothers if they could, and they want to get back to work. Another 20 percent doesn’t want any activity period; they’d be happy to hide and nap all day.”

The officer added, “And then there’s the great middle that thinks things are fine now as far as their concerned and all they want is good arrests.”

The not good arrests, by implication, were all the low level infractions policed as part of the so-called “Broken Windows” approach to law enforcement, defended by both Bratton and Mayor de Blasio. It holds that one of the ways to bust high-level crooks is to crack down on seemingly minor crimes.

Between December 29 2014—January 4 2015, arrests across New York city dropped by 56 percent and summonses were down 92 percent compared to the same time last year.

It’s not novel to point out that the police slowdown, which pitted the police and their unions against city hall, granted one of the central demands of the #blacklivesmatter protestors—an end to Broken Windows policing.

Less noted though, is how many police officers are themselves ambivalent about actively enforcing low level offenses, and how that bodes for the post-slowdown future of policing in New York.

Retired NYPD lieutenant Steve Osborne made the point in an op-ed for the New York Times that was sharply critical of both de Blasio and the protestors.

“More police productivity has meant far less crime, but at a certain point New York began to feel like, yes, a police state, and the police don’t like it any more than you,” Osborne wrote.

“The time has probably come for the Police Department to ease up on the low-level ‘broken-windows’ stuff while re-evaluating the impact it may or may not have on real, serious crime,” he added. “No one will welcome this more than the average cop on the beat, who has been pressed to find crime where so much less of it exists.”

Day to day, no one has been telling police officers in New York how not to do their jobs.

“It sounds very unusual,” the officer in East Harlem said, “but I haven’t seen any coordinated activity besides the union putting the message out and then saying jump.”

It hasn’t taken much effort to coordinate the slowdown because, as Osborne notes, average beat cops were never that excited in the first place with going after public urination and loitering arrests. To them, it was a distraction from stopping more serious crimes.

Broken Windows advocates argue that some cops always resisted more active policing. When Broken Windows was first introduced, they say, police officers had to be pushed, by Bratton among others, to adopt the active policing approach that brought crime down to its current historic lows in new York.

But as New York got safer, the methods rather than the results became the measures of success. More arrests meant better policing as the tail started to wag the dog.

Bratton himself has said nearly as much in criticizing his predecessor Ray Kelly’s overuse of the controversial stop and frisk tactic that overwhelmingly targeted minorities.

“The commissioner and the former mayor did a great job in the sense of keeping the community safe, keeping crime down, but one of the tools used to do that, I believe, was used too extensively,” Bratton said in March 2014.

Stop and Frisks have fallen considerably since their high in 2011 when 685,724 New Yorkers were stopped by police, but some numbers driven approaches remain embedded in the department.

As a detective in the Bronx tells The Daily Beast, “there technically are no quotas” in the police department “but you can call them what you want, “productivity goals,” they are back door quotas.”

And those back door quotas can put pressure on officers.

“I have to suspend my disbelief,” the officer in East Harlem said, “to see how sentencing a guy with an open container is going to really bring crime down.”

“Violent crimes haven’t gotten worse in my little slice of heaven despite the slowdown on summonses and misdemeanors,” the officer added. “We’re still responding to robbery patterns. We haven’t gone down in presence for the more serious offenses.”

He acknowledged that it was too soon to say how such a policing strategy would play out over an extended period. “Whether it works will reveal itself over time. That remains to be seen.”

Once New York is out of the slowdown, it’s not clear what kind of policing the city will see on the other side. Will Bratton push the police to bring arrests back up to levels before they dropped off or will the department test its ability to back off?

Maybe there will be some new middle ground possible despite the bluster and rhetoric. According to The Daily News, the combative president of the police union is pushing for just a slowdown that’s a little bit faster. As one police source told the paper, “He said they should go back to at least 50% of what they used to do.”

 

By: Jacob Siegel, The Daily Beast, January 10, 2015

January 14, 2015 Posted by | Broken Windows Policing, NYPD, Police Abuse | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Enough”: The NYPD’s Dangerous, Disgraceful Game

Over two weeks of foot-stomping is enough, don’t you think?

On second thought, maybe that was already far too much.

Of course, I’m talking about the overwrought indignation roiling the New York Police Department since the horrific murder of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu by a deranged psychopath on Dec. 20.

But first, a concession.

It’s been a tough several months for the police. Their work is often dangerous — sometimes intensely so, requiring heroic acts of valor that go far beyond what the rest of us will ever be called to do in our jobs. They deserve our respect and gratitude for risking their lives and well-being to ensure public safety. Police officers usually receive a decent wage and pension, but they aren’t rich. A significant part of their compensation comes from the honor, deference, and respect they are shown by elected officials and the public at large. It feels good to wear a uniform and carry a weapon, especially when unarmed civilians respond with admiration to both.

That’s the main reason why things have been so tense in the months since the unarmed Michael Brown was gunned down by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. For the first time in decades, the police have come in for widespread, sometimes harsh public criticism. That criticism got harsher after the non-indictment of Wilson — and it got exponentially worse after a grand jury in Staten Island failed to indict the cop who strangled the unarmed Eric Garner to death in a separate incident.

After weeks of loud and angry protests, with large numbers of law-abiding citizens (including some politicians, and myself) raising tough questions about whether cops are shown too much deference in our culture and legal system, tension were running high. Which is why the cold-blooded murder of officers Ramos and Liu was especially shocking. When news of the shooting first broke, it was perfectly understandable for cops to wonder in their grief and fear if it had now become open season on the police.

What is not understandable — or justifiable — is for officers days later to show outright and repeated disrespect to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio by turning their backs on him at public events. Or for them to engage in a dramatic two-weeks-and-running work slowdown that has led to a 50 percent drop in arrests, and a 90 percent decline in parking and traffic tickets, from the same period a year ago.

Such actions are unjustifiable for several reasons.

First, because Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who gunned down Ramos and Liu after shooting his girlfriend and before killing himself, was a lunatic. His crime was not an act of politics; it was an act of madness, however he may have rationalized it to himself in the midst of his homicidal-suicidal rage. In case there is any doubt of this, we have the additional fact that no one in the protest movement views Brinsley as a hero advancing its aims. Far from it. The expressions of anguish, outrage, and disgust at the shooting have been nearly universal and entirely sincere.

That much is obvious to anyone who’s paying attention.

Which means that the cops who are acting out in counter-protest are either behaving like children throwing an irrational temper tantrum or cynically using a tragedy to forestall public criticism and browbeat protesters into silence.

Either way, their actions are disgraceful.

They’re also dangerous.

Liberal democratic government depends on several norms and institutions, including rights to free speech, worship, and assembly, free and fair elections, private property rights, an independent judiciary — and civilian control of the military. Make no mistake about it: the NYPD — with roughly 35,000 uniformed officers, as well as a well-funded and well-armed counterterrorism bureau — is a modestly sized military force deployed on the streets of the city.

It is absolutely essential, in New York City but also in communities around the country, that citizens and public officials make it at all times unambiguously clear that the police work for us. In repeatedly turning their backs on the man elected mayor by the citizens of New York, in refusing to abide by the police commissioner’s requests to cease their protests, in engaging in a work slowdown that could lead to a breakdown in the public order they are sworn to uphold — with all of these acts, the NYPD has demonstrated that it does not understand that the residents of New York City, and not the members of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association or its demagogic leader Patrick Lynch, are the ones in charge.

When police officers engage in acts of insubordination against civilian leadership, they should expect to be punished. Just like insubordinate soldiers.

The principle of civilian control of the military and police depends on it.

It also depends on cops who kill unarmed citizens being tried in a court of law. And on cops respecting the right of citizens to protest anything they wish, including the failure of the judicial system to hold police officers accountable for their use of deadly force in ambiguous situations.

All of this should be a no-brainer. That it apparently isn’t for many police officers and their apologists in the media is a troubling sign of decay in our civic institutions.

The mourning is over. Respect has been paid to the victims of a senseless act of violence. Now it’s time for the NYPD to go back to acting responsibly — and for the rest of us to continue expressing our justified outrage at the recklessness of bad cops and the prosecutors and jurors who enable them.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, January 7, 2015

January 10, 2015 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, NYPD, Public Safety | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“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

%d bloggers like this: