The NYPD Turns Its Back On Civilian Control

At Sunday’s funeral for slain police officer Wenjian Liu, hundreds of New York’s Finest turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio for a second time:

The silent protest against de Blasio came after a Friday memo from New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton specifically asking officers to refrain from turning their backs on the mayor at Liu’s funeral, as they had at the funeral of his partner, Officer Rafael Ramos. “A hero’s funeral is about grieving, not grievance,” Bratton wrote. Urged by their unions, NYPD officers have also sharply reduced their law enforcement duties to protest what they view as de Blasio’s lack of support.

Calvin Wolf sympathizes with the NYPD’s sensitivity to the increased scrutiny and criticism it’s facing, but urges the cops to change tactics before their petulance comes back to bite them:

Police officers, I understand. But you must not turn your backs.

Though it is tempting to turn your back on a mayor who has insinuated that you are brutal racists, and may be trying to score cheap political points, you must use the power of your voice instead. Turning one’s back on the mayor may be mistaken as turning one’s back on the entire citizenry. Critics will use this gesture against you. You must show the people that you are not turning their back on them. You must step forward, not turn your back. You must use your words to explain, not to condemn. Do not let your critics have a monopoly on the heart-wrenching op-eds.

How TNC frames the NYPD’s recent actions:

If the public appetite for police reform can be soured by the mad acts of a man living on the edge of society, then the appetite was probably never really there to begin with. And the police, or at least their representatives, know this. In this piece, by Wesley Lowery, there are several amazing moments where police complain about things Barack Obama and Eric Holder have not actually said. There simply is no level of critique they would find tolerable.

Denis Hamill, meanwhile, rips the police union chief a new one for not speaking up against the department’s “virtual work stoppage“:

If you agree with Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch that the blood of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu is on Mayor de Blasio’s hands, then is the blood of Zbigniew Truszkowski, 37, stabbed to death protecting his teenage stepdaughter from a drunken stalker on Dupont St. in Brooklyn on Monday night, on the hands of Lynch? By not condemning an apparent police work slowdown, Lynch has essentially sanctioned a mass breach of the NYPD oath to protect and serve the public.

I think it’s completely unfair, of course, to smear Lynch with Truszkowski’s blood. But if you apply Lynch’s twisted logic of de Blasio’s culpability in the two police assassinations, you can make the case that in the police work slowdown, suggested by a reduced number of summonses and arrests, Lynch with his silence gave the killer the means and opportunity to commit the only murder in Greenpoint in 2014.

While others have noted that the “work stoppage” has had little noticeable effect on crime rates, and that lighter-touch policing might actually be beneficial, the fact that the police made this decision unilaterally makes Charles Ellison nervous:

[A]ctive work stoppages … add a whole new ugly dimension to the dispute and could create a slippery slope towards bad police practices in New York City and beyond. That ventures into a future no one would want and no one benefits from: a scenario where distressed and underserved communities are left to fend for themselves once police departments consider “quality of life” crimes as too much hassle and not worth the headache. Is that where we’re headed? A world where police, who already know the dangers and risks of their profession, suddenly want to skip out or provide lower levels of service because they feel under-appreciated and targeted? Not sure if it’s a good idea to get comfortable with that.

Anyone who grew up in a working class urban neighborhood can tell you how minor offenses and “broken windows” can quickly add up into crime-ridden nightmares for the residents. Policy makers should figure out a approach that’s less punitive on folks who can’t afford it. But allowing the dramatic slashing of local police presence out of police fear and arrogance is an insane proposition.