Fire James Frascatore? The New York Times says so. Ken Womble says so. It’s not just for his needlessly forceful takedown of James Blake. His resort to force was well established before it hit the front page, though few knew or cared until they saw it for themselves. Some still refuse to see a problem.
Fire James Frascatore? The Times says that Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and his sidekick, Mayor de Blasio, need to “make an example of him,” which is another way of saying they should send a message. But communication isn’t so simple. The message transmitted isn’t necessarily the message received.
To the rank and file police officer, Frascatore will be a scapegoat, and his firing will be taken as a lack of support for their self-perceived risk in doing a job that the City wants done, but lacks the courage to admit. While the numbers fail to support a “war on cops,” the war they perceive isn’t just a body count, but a lack of respect and appreciation. They believe it’s their due.
Forget the “respect is earned” retort, because they believe they have earned it, as they talk amongst themselves and recount their bravery and efforts. They’re absolutely certain that if only the public could appreciate how the cops protect them from the criminals, they would buy a cop lunch every day. To a cop, it’s the public that’s blind, that’s biased, and can’t see what they do to save them.
Fire James Frascatore? After Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner, Bratton promised to retrain cops to exercise greater restraint. Retraining is the ordinary response to soothe the public’s fears, but it never seems to change anything. Of course, that’s because the public remains blissfully unaware of the indoctrination to the job that comprises the mindset beneath any effort to retrain. They must take charge. They must be in command. Their life depends on it. Your life depends on it. There is no room for hesitation, empathy, second-guessing. The cop who hesitates is a dead cop. A dead cop helps no one.
Fire James Frascatore? There are mechanisms in place which, officials explain, exist to protect us from that one bad apple. Like the Civilian Complaint Review Board, with the power to investigate and “substantiate” complaints, and then send a piece of paper to 1 Police Plaza. The CCRB had paper on Frascatore. Frascatore survived.
Fire James Frascatore? The Police Benevolent Association, by its glib president, Pat Lynch, will go to the mats for this officer. The New York Times asks:
What will it take for the union boss Patrick Lynch to stop reflexively defending excessive force and admit that Officer Frascatore and Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who led the group tackle that smothered the life out of Mr. Garner, reflect a larger problem?
Why would anyone think the union’s interest aligns with the public’s? Why would anyone think it should? It’s the police union. It exists to promote the interests of its members, and its members want their union to protect and defend them at all costs. That’s its job.
Some might argue that the long term interests of the union rank and file would be furthered by ridding its ranks of bad cops, officers who resort to force unnecessarily, and thereby undermine public confidence and support for the police. And, indeed, it’s a fair argument. Except the union members fear the sacrificial lamb, knowing that it could be them at any moment. They demand that Lynch let no cop go undefended, and Lynch is good at his job. He wants to keep his job. Lynch has a very good job.
New Yorkers deserve policing carried out with “Courtesy, professionalism, respect,” painted on the sides of patrol cars. Officers Frascatore and Pantaleo make those words a farce.
Fire James Frascatore? Will that change the marketing slogan applied, at taxpayer expense, to cruisers that speed police officers to wherever they’re needed, whether the scene or a crime or the donut shop? Will a police force without Frascatore, without Pantaleo, be courteous and respectful?
Of course Bratton should fire James Frascatore. He’s a bad cop. And all the other cops who can’t restrain their violent urges, their anger and hatred of the people, their compulsion to bully the public because of the bravery of having a gun strapped to their hip. But that’s just one cop. How many more James Frascatores are getting NYPD paychecks? Ten? One hundred? Thirty thousand?
One line in the Times’ editorial, referring to Bratton’s beloved broken windows approach to policing, stands out:
But “quality of life” should also mean the freedom to stand on the sidewalk without worrying that a plainclothes officer will attack you.
Whose “quality of life” do cops think they’re protecting? They envision some amorphous happy public, the good folks whom they meet at backyard barbecues on their days off, the parents of their kids’ friends from school, their aunts and cousins.
But it’s a lie they tell themselves to support their belief system that they do their job to save us. Sure, these are people whose quality of life they’re supposed to protect. But so too the young black man on 125th Street. So too the Hispanic guy in the old Toyota with a ridiculous spoiler. So too the mother trying to protect her child’s bicycle from seizure, knowing that if the cops take it away her child will have no bike to ride.
The cops are protecting lives, of course. Their own. Firing James Frascatore? Yes, of course fire James Frascatore, but do not for a moment believe that it’s going to accomplish anything more than one less violent cop who lacks the discretion to do his job without harming the people he tells himself he’s protecting. And once he’s fired, the message sent to other cops is that we, the public, just don’t get it. We don’t deserve their devotion to our quality of life.