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“Blinded By Tribalism, Threatening Public Safety”: The NYPD’s Insubordination—And Why The Right Should Oppose It

In New York City, “NYPD traffic tickets and summonses for minor offenses have dropped off by a staggering 94 percent following the execution of two cops,” the New York Post reports, attributing the “virtual work stoppage” to rank-and-file police officers who “feel betrayed by the mayor and fear for their safety.”

The statistics cited suggest significant solidarity among cops. Overall arrests rates fell 66 percent “for the week starting Dec. 22 compared with the same period in 2013, stats show. Citations for traffic violations fell by 94 percent, from 10,069 to 587, during that time frame. Summonses for low-level offenses like public drinking and urination also plunged 94 percent—from 4,831 to 300. Even parking violations are way down, dropping by 92 percent, from 14,699 to 1,241.”

As a ploy in contract negotiations, this tactic may prove effective, but it puts the NYPD in an unenviable position with respect to explaining what happens next. If this significant work slowdown has basically no effect on the safety of New York City, the NYPD’s prior policing will appear to have been needlessly aggressive, and the case for deploying more cops on the street in the future will be undermined. Scott Shackford zeroes in on this line from the Post article: “… cops were turning a blind eye to some minor crimes and making arrests only ‘when they have to’ since the execution-style shootings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.”

He riffs:

Well, we can only hope the NYPD unions and de Blasio settle their differences soon so that the police can go back to arresting people for reasons other than “when they have to.” The NYPD’s failure to arrest and cite people will also end up costing the city huge amounts of money that it won’t be able to seize from its citizens, which is likely the real point. That’s the “punishment” for the de Blasio administration for not supporting them. One has to wonder if they even understand, or care, that their “work stoppage” is giving police state critics exactly what they want—less harsh enforcement of the city’s laws.

That’s how some policing reformers see it. Others, like me, don’t object to strictly enforcing laws against, say, public urination, traffic violations, or illegal parking, but would love it if the NYPD stopped frisking innocents without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion, needlessly escalating encounters with civilians, and (especially) killing unarmed people, goals that are perfectly compatible with data-driven policing that targets actual disorder. Keep squeegee men at bay—and leave innocent black and Hispanic men alone.

What if the “broken windows” theory is correct and the work slowdown causes an increase in disorder and thus more serious crime? The NYPD will have put the safety and perhaps even the lives of New Yorkers in jeopardy to punish a politician for purportedly disrespecting them. Such a course might succeed in decreasing de Blasio’s popularity. But the public is unlikely to think that willfully putting New Yorkers in jeopardy to settle a political score is a forgivable tactic. It is certainly at odds with the notion that NYPD officers represent “New York’s finest,” heroes who willingly sacrifice themselves to protect and serve.

Due to de Blasio’s progressive politics and the political right’s reflexive “law and order” alliance with police, many conservatives are siding with the NYPD in its standoff with de Blasio. AlterNet reports that it has emails “revealing plans to organize a series of anti-de Blasio protests around the city” that are “billed as a non-partisan movement in support of ‘the men and women of the NYPD'” but actually orchestrated “by a cast of NYPD union bosses and local Republican activists allied with Rudy Giuliani.” The first rally is planned for January 13.

The right should greet it with the skepticism they’d typically summon for a rally on behalf of government workers as they seek higher pay, new work rules, and more generous benefits. What’s unfolding in New York City is, at its core, a public-employee union using overheated rhetoric and emotional appeals to rile public employees into insubordination. The implied threat to the city’s elected leadership and electorate is clear: Cede leverage to the police in the course of negotiating labor agreements or risk an armed, organized army rebelling against civilian control. Such tactics would infuriate the right if deployed by any bureaucracy save law enforcement opposing a left-of-center mayor.

It ought to infuriate them now. Instead, too many are permitting themselves to be baited into viewing discord in New York City through the distorting lens of the culture war, so much so that Al Sharpton’s name keeps coming up as if he’s at the center of all this. Poppycock. Credit savvy police union misdirection. They’re turning conservatives into their useful idiots. If the NYPD succeeds in bullying de Blasio into submission, the most likely consequence will be a labor contract that cedes too much to union negotiators, whether unsustainable pensions of the sort that plague local finances all over the U.S., work rules that prevent police commanders from running the department efficiently, or arbitration rules that prevent the worst cops from being fired. Meanwhile, Al Sharpton will be fine no matter what happens. Will the law-and-order right remain blinded by tribalism or grasp the real stakes before it’s too late? Look to National Review and City Journal before laying odds.

 

By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, December 31, 2014

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, NYPD, Public Safety | , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

“Free Spirits With No Accountability”: 179 People Killed By NYPD, 1 Cop Conviction, No Jail Time

Over the last 15 years, NYPD officers have killed at least 179 people, according to a new investigation.

The New York Daily News found that in only three of those incidents, the officer involved was indicted and only once was the cop convicted.

In that one instance, when ex-officer Bryan Conroy was convicted in 2005 of criminally negligent homicide for killing Ousmane Zongo, Conroy didn’t serve any jail time.

Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, defended the NYPD officer’s actions.

“When there is a life-or-death situation on the street, be it an armed robbery, a homicidal maniac on the street or someone driving a vehicle in a dangerous and potentially deadly way, it is New York City police officers who step in and take the risk away from the public and put it on themselves,” Lynch said in a statement. “Our work has saved tens of thousands of lives by assuming the risk and standing between New Yorkers and life-threatening danger.”

To be sure, some of the incidents catalogued by the Daily News involved the justified use of deadly force by officers.

But, holding cops accountable when they are not justified in killing someone is difficult, because often the prosecutors tasked with bringing charges against officers also rely on good relationships with police to do their day-to-day work. DA’s also count on endorsements from police unions when they run for re-election.

The recent decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner chokehold case, has set off calls for laws requiring special prosecutors in cases involving possible police misconduct.

The idea behind any proposed legislation would be to keep local district attorneys out of cases where they might be biased in favor of the police department they work with regularly.

But some, like panelists involved in a recent Democracy Now discussion, said such reforms have been sought for years and have little chance of becoming law, at least at the federal level.

Harry Siegel, a columnist for the Daily News, pointed out that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently said special prosecutors could be necessary in some cases, had the chance to appoint a special prosecutor in the Garner, case but didn’t.

“I would note that Governor Andrew Cuomo, who’s now mumbling about all sorts of reforms, had the opportunity to appoint a special prosecutor here,” Siegel said on Democracy Now. “Andrew here, who’s now outraged by where we’re at, allowed us to get to this point.”

 

By: Simon McCormick, The Huffington Post, December 8, 2014

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Justifiable Homicide, NYPD, Police Shotings | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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