Short Take: The Cops We Want

President of the New York Police Benevolent Association, Pat Lynch, has never been shy in his defense of NYPD cops. If they administered a beating, a killing, lied, cheated, raped or stole, Lynch was always available to remind us that if we didn’t like they way cops handled things, the next time we were in trouble, call a criminal. It was, in essence, Pat Lynch’s way of reminding us that cops were all we’ve got, and if our option was take them as they came or tough nuggies.

Or, as was too often then case, take them if they came, since they didn’t owe us the time of day, no less a little courtesy or concern for the public. If they had a job to do, maybe they would do it. Maybe not. Maybe they would do it badly. Maybe violently. Maybe violently against the wrong person. Maybe any damn way they pleased, because they were the cops and we were…not.

But when this happened, Pat Lynch told a different story.

No doubt there’s a story that goes with this video. Maybe the cop here is a good guy. Maybe the bust was righteous. Maybe the perp was a bad dude. Rather than concern ourselves with the details behind this video, which could be good, bad or otherwise, it raises a different concern, as reflected by the content of Lynch’s words.

We have a police officer in distress, & nobody helps him. Is this the city we want? Has this become normal?

When we see a police officer engaged in a physical altercation, without knowing anything more about why it’s happening or who the participants are, a choice has to be made. Do you intervene or not. Do you assume the police officer to be in the right or not. Do you take a chance of being hurt, maybe even killed, or not. Do you stand back, or walk away, or take a video, or do you become involved?

There are a lot of factors that go into this choice. Some of them are external, that the media has vilified police by exaggerating to some extent their misconduct, racism and violence. Too many of us forget that of millions of police interactions per day, only a minuscule number end up in the news, with most being largely uneventful.

But the fact that they’re uneventful doesn’t mean that everything went hunky dory. From the banal discourtesy of treating people like dirt (is it really necessary to call everyone “motherfucker”?) to the ordinary impropriety of tossing black guys against walls, profiling black drivers, because your sarge tells you to make your numbers? People see it. People remember.

The video doesn’t show people helping the guy to get away from the cop. They don’t take the side of the guy fighting the cop. They watch. They walk away. They take a video. But they don’t help the cop either. Why, Lynch, don’t they assume the cop is the good guy here? Why, Lynch, won’t they put themselves at risk for the sake of a police officer? Why, as they stand around the fight, moving a table out of the way, within inches of the fight, do they not intervene?

It’s not that we don’t need the police. The rejection of the absurdity of the “abolish” and “defund” crowd has made clear that we need police, we want police. But we want police who don’t treat people like dirt, who don’t invoke the First Rule of Policing to beat or shoot without reason. When you, Pat Lynch, had the opportunity to push your members to treat people better, more fairly, more honestly, less violently, you told the public to suck it up. If they wants cops, they had to take them with a beating because that’s how they rolled.

Has this become normal?

This doesn’t have to be normal, but this is the normal you sought to ram down our throats. This is the discourtesy your people showed the public, and public is paying you back for it. We need cops. Cops need us too. Sometimes, as in this video, cops need us to take a chance, assume they’re the good guys and act to assist them. It’s a two-way street, Pat. Burn the public, toss black kids against walls, call grandmothers “motherfucker,” kill the occasional unarmed person needlessly, and this is the normal you get.

Is this the city you want?

12 thoughts on “Short Take: The Cops We Want

  1. norahc

    “Sometimes, as in this video, cops need us to take a chance, assume they’re the good guys and act to assist them. ”

    And hope the back-up officers that arrive later don’t introduce you to the First Rule of Policing.

      1. Grum

        Well, once upon a time, you did let me get away with the TW3 link to Millicent Martin singing about Mississippi. You have a kinder heart towards your guests than you let on.

  2. PseudonymousKid

    I wish we lived in a world where Lynch was sincerely asking for dialogue by posing his open-ended questions instead of trying to make a point rhetorically. Then maybe we could get to reconciliation instead of glaring at each other across a front all the time. If only.

    But who am I kidding, no one wants to talk to each other or change their mind. Doom and gloom, it’s all hopeless, Antonio, and all of that. The video wasn’t anywhere near disturbing, the real nasty stuff is only a click or two away. This is normal. Got anything to help me cope?

    1. SHG Post author

      You’re obviously unfamiliar with Pat Lynch. But there is a tiny glimmer of hope built in here: it’s in the cops’ best interest to have sufficient support of the public in circumstances like this, not terribly disturbing per se, but disturbing as a reflection of how little the public is willing to help a cop in need. As cops don’t want to get beaten up, or worse, it would behoove them to gain greater public support for their own sake, if not for the sake of the public.

  3. B. McLeod

    We have reached a point where we indeed cannot assume a crime has been committed simply because an officer is beating someone. Any thoughtless citizen who makes an erroneous assumption and uses force in support of the officer could wind up civilly and criminally responsible. So the citizen is not simply risking personal injury, but the prospect of being tarred with the same brush as the officer if the officer is in the wrong.

  4. Anthony Kehoe

    So you jump in to help the officer all John Wayne and you tackle the guy enough for the officer to get free. But you don’t know that the officer has just had enough of this crap, pulls his service weapon and starts blasting.

    Will you get a police honours burial from the NYPD if/when he misses the guy?

    I grew up with all the 70s and 80s cop shows back home in Ireland. We got them in the 80s and 90s since it took time to get over there. Shows like CHiPs often showed the police interacting in a good way with people and vice versa. Living in the US today shows that the 70s/80s was a very different time. There is no upside, today, to getting involved with what’s going on here. Absolutely none.

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