Mayor Bill de Blasio met behind closed doors with PBA boss Pat Lynch for a “private airing of grievances,” according to the New York Times.
The gathering, to which Mr. de Blasio had invited the union officials, appeared to yield no concrete results, providing no immediate balm for the fractious relationship between the mayor and his police force.
“Our thought here today is that actions speak louder than words, and time will tell,” said Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, who has been perhaps the most vocal critic of Mr. de Blasio in recent weeks.
Actions. Like job actions, such as reported by the New York Post as arrests “plummeted” in the week following the killing of two police officers. The union claims it had nothing to do with it, because that would be an unlawful job action, so it must have been a miracle that cops citywide somehow got the same idea in the head at the same time to show the City that if it questioned them, tolerated a challenge to their authority, the people of New York would pay for it.
In a separate editorial, even the Times can’t ignore the implicit threat raised by the cops this time.
They have expressed this anger with a solidarity tantrum, repeatedly turning their backs to show their collective contempt. But now they seem to have taken their bitterness to a new and dangerous level — by walking off the job.
It amounts to a public act of extortion by the police.
Nice to have you on board, guys. But then, bear in mind that the mayor is meeting with Lynch, negotiating the terms of the city’s release. He may be taking a hard stance at the bargaining table, but he’s still negotiating over extortion. That’s rarely a good idea, as it only encourages more of the same.
But the Times lays out the negotiating positions quite well.
Let’s review the actions that Mr. de Blasio’s harshest critics say have driven the police to such extremes.
1. He campaigned on ending the unconstitutional use of “stop-and-frisk” tactics, which victimized hundreds of thousands of innocent young black and Latino men.
2. He called for creating an inspector general for the department and ending racial profiling.
3. After Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, was killed by a swarm of cops on Staten Island, he convened a meeting with the police commissioner, William Bratton, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, giving Mr. Sharpton greater prominence than police defenders thought he should have had because Mr. Sharpton is a firebrand with an unsavory past.
4. He said after the Garner killing that he had told his biracial son, Dante, to “take special care” in encounters with the police.
5. He generally condoned the peaceful protests for police reform — while condemning those who incited or committed violence — and cited a tagline of the movement: “Black lives matter.”
What all of this amounts to is the one thing police officers cannot bear: to be subject to scrutiny and criticism. It strikes at their very core, that they are above question or challenge, for the laundry list of usual reasons. And what are the demands put upon them that is so unbearable?
But what New Yorkers expect of the Police Department is simple:
1. Don’t violate the Constitution.
2. Don’t kill unarmed people.
To that we can add:
3. Do your jobs. The police are sworn public servants, and refusing to work violates their oath to serve and protect. Mr. Bratton should hold his commanders and supervisors responsible, and turn this insubordination around.
When I offered the radical view that there is nothing to compromise, this is why. Which of these three onerous burdens are we prepared to give away? Maybe it wasn’t so radical after all. Maybe we aren’t asking much of police, as not violating the Constitution, not killing people needlessly, is the job.
There is no entitlement to being a cop. If it’s too hard to make it through the day without tossing a kid against the wall for no reason, then it’s not the job for you. If using sound judgment and a little patience to not kill someone is too burdensome, then it’s not the job for you. And if having your work, as a public employee, subject to the scrutiny and challenge of the public for whom the job exists to serve, then it is definitely not the job for you.
Police are not “the law.” They’re men and women who have been hired and trained to perform a function in society. The function is necessary, though perhaps not quite as necessary as cops think it is, but only when the function is performed in the manner in which society demands it should be.
But the police union, together with the rank and file, reject the notion that they are not above society, that society has any authority to challenge and question them. Because, as Lynch reminds us, “actions speak louder than words,” their actions have pushed society to the limit of what it will tolerate from its police, who have become an army unto itself, answerable to no one, as we tried not to stare too hard at the dead bodies they left in their wake.
The police have given society little choice. And they are now testing Mayor de Blasio, and all of us, to see whether we have the will to say “no,” to put an end to their extortion, to refuse to cave in to their threats and refusal to serve if we do not blindly adore them, no matter what.
The New York Times asks, “and for what?”
For demanding that the police serve and protect society. If that is too much for them, then we have no use for them. This cannot be negotiable. If they can’t, or won’t, do the job, then society has no use for them.