And For What?

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.

14 thoughts on “And For What?

  1. Leonard

    I agree with your comments. People around the nation are tired of the excesses of the police and the policies they implement in out communities. I respect police, but I expect them to be held accountable for their judgment, or rather, lack thereof. Too many instances, police are not held accountable for excessive and deadly force. Too many time, police fund their agencies on the backs of ordinary citizens through asset forfeiture. The problems that have exposed through the lens of the camera are no longer just black or brown problems, but now are seen to affect everyone.

  2. jay w

    Saying: “Don’t kill unarmed people” is a wee bit simplistic, though.

    If somebody is making a credible threat of death or severe physical injury against you, and if they appear to be on the verge of carrying out that threat, you are morally justified in killing them pre-emptively.

    Whether you are a police officer or an ordinary citizen, you should not have to give your apparent attacker ‘one free shot’ before you invoke your right to self-defense. If it turns out, after the fact, that he was bluffing, that’s his fault, not yours.

    1. SHG Post author

      So you’re more concerned that your personal self-defense right might get caught up in this issue, and so desperately want to maintain your own “moral justification” for killing that you’re willing to let others die for no reason to push your personal agenda? You are a piece of shit.

      It’s invariably simplistic without the details of the specific situation. But the stench of your self-interest here at the expense of other people’s lives is a disgrace.

  3. Guy

    Sack them all, then only rehire a few from the previous number, choosing only the ones who will accept that they are public servants, and then a greater number of new black recruits.

      1. Noxx

        This was exactly my observation on social media this morning, that perhaps a “Reagan Lesson” is in order. I can’t imagine that any mild rebuke will provide some perspective to these people, who are already among the most entitled of the working class (name me another high school graduate position where one makes six figures, retires young, and enjoys an exorbitant pension), yet demand an ass-kissing as a bow on their gift from the public coffers.

        1. RAFIV

          Acknowledgeding the limits of my knowledge, does De Blasio have the political capital to make such a bold move? It seems he grossly miscalculated in the beginning by openly embracing the protesters. A more skilled politician may have been able to use this as an opportunity to either develop real reforms or, failing that, use police intrasigence as grounds to impose it like Reagan. Now it appears such a step would be a further concession to the likes of Sharpton and may be politically disastrous.

          PS Happy New Year!

      2. Andrew

        I’m not convinced he has the sack to do it, but I would certainly respect him a hell of a lot more if he did.

        1. Not Jim Ardis

          Could the city even support such firings in court? And even if they could, the cost would break the city.

  4. Bartleby the Scrivener

    Contrary to most who tend to lean to the right, I find this relaxation rather pleasing, assuming that most of the items relate to that huge list of otherwise reasonable behaviors for which people are regularly fined.

    I don’t have examples from NY, but I can provide some from other areas. If they are failing to ticket people who, while they are technically speeding, are otherwise behaving reasonably (e.g. they are moving with the flow of traffic and going 62 mph in a 55 zone), I’m perfectly fine with it.

    Conversely, if they are failing to arrest people who are robbing others, driving 110 mph in a 55 zone when the rest of the other cars on the road are going 65 or so, I have a problem with that.

    So it really depends on what’s going on. I tend to think the police and fines should not be a form of revenue enhancement for a city, but it happens quite often.

  5. Lyon

    I hear debate, I hear this and that… I hear everywhere about tweeks……

    The best solution in real life was this…..

    It happened in 2003 in the country of Georgia….


    This comes from an interview from NPR…..

    Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has targeted corruption in his first year of office. To that end, he revamped the police force — by firing all of the traffic police in his country, cutting 30,000 police from the payroll. Robert Siegel talks with Saakashvili, who is in New York for a world summit of the United Nations.
    [Ed. Note: Balance of comment and link deleted per rules.]

  6. Pingback: NYPD's tactic: strike while still getting paid - Overlawyered

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