Two New York City police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were executed while sitting in their cruiser in Brooklyn. They were murdered by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who ran away, then killed himself. Brinsley came up from Maryland to find two random cops to kill. And he did.
These murders are, and are not, connected to the killing of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. And Akai Gurley and Tamir Rice.
The double killing comes at a moment when protests over police tactics have roiled the city and other parts of the nation. Since a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges in the case of Mr. Garner, a black Staten Island man who died after a police chokehold in July, protesters have filled the streets on numerous occasions. Those protests followed more violent ones in Ferguson, Mo., after there were no charges in the police shooting of Mr. Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
These cops had nothing to do with any of these killings, but they were cops. To the crazies out there, for whom all cops are the enemies, and to whom the only solution is to kill cops, they are the personification of their anger and frustration. The insane mind contorts its vision of the world in ways no one can quite predict, but it’s not as if this was hard to see coming. There are a lot of crazies out there. A lot.
Here, there are always a cadre of people reacting to every post about police misconduct and abuse, and most specifically about the police wrongfully killing someone, with the “answer” being that all police must be treated like “the Nazi storm troopers they are.” This reaction, of course, is that of the extraordinarily angry and irrational. No sane person sees this as an appropriate way of behaving.
But there are crazies out there, whether we like it or not. And they are getting increasingly angry, increasingly frustrated with the way certain interactions between police and non-cops are happening lately. And their blood boils. And they seethe. And they feel that something must be done. And they feel that they must do it. And . . . something insane, like this, happens.
The problem is that the message sent is not the message received. The police don’t perceive the anger and frustration on their violent and cavalier treatment of others as a matter that should cause them deep concern; are they losing the support of the people they are supposed to protect and serve? Are they too filled with fear and loathing of their neighbors, of black skin, of “them,” that they are the violent aggressors in a society where the police are supposed to be the ones to stop the violent aggressors?
Is the First Rule of Policing the foremost impediment to mutual support and respect?
Instead, this will heighten the fear and antagonism of police officers, none of whom is willing to take any chance of being the next cop executed in his cruiser. Will the person who approaches an RMP to ask for directions be killed as he knocks on the window? Certainly such an aggressive act will justify a legitimate fear of death because two cops were shot.
PBA president Pat Lynch appears to be upping the rhetoric right off the top:
POLICE UNION PRES. PAT LYNCH: “for the 1st time in a number of years we have become a “wartime” police department. We will act accordingly”
— Rob Nelson (@RobNelsonABC7) December 21, 2014
This won’t help cops. This won’t help anyone else. Aside from the worst-kept secret that we’ve had a “wartime” police department for years, such challenging rhetoric merely reinforces the anger that gives rise to attacks. Pat Lynch may complain that this is all due to Holder and de Blasio not showing the “tough” support for cops that would melt the heart of a union boss, but then, guys like Lynch never saw a shoot that wasn’t righteous.
Blood in the streets is no answer for anyone. These murders are horrible, intolerable and, for those who think there is anything good coming out of such action, unbearably counterproductive. Yet that is the same message for police. You want to get home for dinner. We all do.
We all do.