In the past, I’ve been critical of the New York Times for tip-toeing around significant issues for fear of upsetting someone with its microaggressiveness. Yes, I’m only kidding about the microagressiveness part. While a bastion of progressiveness, the Gray Lady has proven remarkably circumspect in its refusal to call out wrongdoing in clear, plain language. This time, not so much.
Call this what it is: a reckless, coordinated escalation of a war between the police unions and Mr. de Blasio and a hijacking of law-enforcement policy by those who do not set law-enforcement policy. This deplorable gesture is bound to increase tension in a city already rattled over the killing by the police of an unarmed man, Eric Garner, last summer, the executions of two officers in Brooklyn last month, and the shootings on Monday of two plainclothes officers in the Bronx.
The madness has to stop. The problem is not that a two-week suspension of “broken windows” policing is going to unleash chaos in the city. The problem is that cops who refuse to do their jobs and revel in showing contempt to their civilian leaders are damaging the social order all by themselves.
Even more bluntly, the Times offers Mayor de Blasio some advice:
He should appeal directly to the public and say plainly that the police are trying to extort him and the city he leads.
It’s always heartwarming when the Times comes around to see things as I called them at the outset. Commissioner Bratton, whose “recommendation” that his cops not misbehave, was ignored and reduced to irrelevance when the rank and file turned their back on de Blasio at the funeral of Wenjian Liu, appears in denial about the significance of the cops’ revolt.
Mr. Bratton spoke delicately at a news conference on Monday. He said there could be other explanations, like officers being too busy handling police-reform demonstrations and attending funerals. He promised to investigate — and to “deal with it very appropriately, if we have to.”
Perhaps he’s being advised by Kirby Delauter on crisis management, but nobody can blame Bratton’s ridiculousness on anyone but Bratton. Too busy handling police-reform demonstrations? And no “lol” afterward? Sorry, Bill, but your cops turned you into a joke, and you delivered your own punch line.
Some will see this as nothing more than a smack to a liberal Democrat mayor, and relish in his being taken to task. This view is lunacy. Regardless of whether the cops like de Blasio, or you like him, he was elected Mayor of New York City, and the cops don’t get to ignore civilian authority that displeases them.* There is a word for that, a coup.
We give them guns and shields in the expectation that they will use them in conformity with the social contract that they adhere to the law and subjugate their personal feelings to civilian authority.
He should remind the police that they are public employees, under oath to uphold city and state laws.
Cops aren’t the superheroes they pretend themselves to be. They aren’t “the good guys,” as used to justify any decision that pops into their heads to beat, arrest, shoot some guy on the street they decide isn’t a good guy. It’s a job, and they are hired to do the job.
They are paid by the public, all of us and not just the cops who pay taxes too. They are subject to the laws enacted by elected officials and as interpreted by judges. Most of all, they are subject to the Constitution, which exists not to make sure they get home for dinner, but to protect the public from the government. That includes the cops.
The relationship between the police and the rest of us has always rested on shaky grounds. We hand them guns and shields and trust that they won’t turn them against us. Courts have given them extraordinary latitude, far beyond what they deserve, in the naïve expectation that they can be trusted not to go too far.
Well, they have gone too far. The NYPD has challenged the mayor and his police commissioner to do something to stop them. When they spit in their faces, it lands on us. Even the New York Times can barely restrain itself from speaking the obvious, that this is a revolt against civilian authority by armed forces in our midst.
And if it happens in New York City, it can happen where you live. The rank and file of the NYPD has been called to order, and it has refused to comply. The cops have been asked nicely by their commissioner to behave themselves, and they responded by telling Bratton to kiss their ass. And he did.
What’s left? Will the mayor have another meeting with PBA boss Pat Lynch, who will demand absolute control over Manhattan above 79th Street? Will the cops be permitted their first bad shoot for free? Which of our constitutional rights will be negotiated away, along with salary, back pay and pension?
Mr. Bratton’s faith in “broken windows” needs rethinking. But nothing will be fixed as long as police officers are refusing to do their jobs.
Bad news, guys. The cops have been doing as much of their jobs as they felt like doing for a while now, but you had your head buried in the sand. Now, it’s open and flagrant, a facial challenge to civilian control over an army in our midst. Who owns the cops? Apparently, nobody, and the cops now realize it for sure.
And just in case this gets talked off the edge when the police realize that the only power the politicians hold over them is the purse, the judiciary, the least dangerous branch, best remember that they have even less control than the executive branch. Judges, are you still willing to let the cops run roughshod over the public because they deserve your special trust? Once the social order is violated, trust is gone.
* Contrary to the handful of people whose grasp of the First Amendment is as tenuous as our social contract with the police, this is not a question of their right to free expression. They can express their disdain for de Blasio or anyone else as much as they want when not clothed in the uniform of official authority.
But when they are on the job, in uniform, speaking as a government official and getting a cop’s paycheck, they don’t get to express their personal views. That’s when they do their job, which includes adhering to the law, the Constitution, and obeying civilian authority. Whether they like it or not.