Since the moment when police officers turned their backs in protest on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, we’ve seen the type of escalating activity in the city which would be more recognizable as the preview to a messy Latin American coup d’etat.
The latest is a form of purposeful sabotage on the part of the NYPD, which is now actively shirking its duty to enforce the law. According to the New York Post, traffic tickets and summonses have plummeted by 94 percent, and overall arrests are down 66 percent for the week compared to the same period last year. Here’s the data comparisons from this year to 2013:
Citations for traffic violations fell by 94 percent, from 10,069 to 587, during that time frame. Summonses for low-level offenses like public drinking and urination also plunged 94 percent — from 4,831 to 300. Even parking violations are way down, dropping by 92 percent, from 14,699 to 1,241. Drug arrests by cops assigned to the NYPD’s Organized Crime Control Bureau — which are part of the overall number — dropped by 84 percent, from 382 to 63.
Considering how much New York, as with many of our other major cities, has leaned toward over-policing, this isn’t all a bad thing – I’m not going to get worked up about cops handing out fewer parking violations. But as a whole, this represents a completely irresponsible rejection of the duty to enforce the law. Yesterday, speaking to a graduating class of more than 800 new officers at Madison Square Garden, de Blasio was booed and heckled as he struggled to extend an oratorical olive branch. De Blasio told the gathering of new cops “you will confront all the problems that plague our society, problems that you didn’t create” – in response, a heckler jeered “You created them!” People in the audience applauded and cheered as a de Blasio tried to recover with even more voluminous praise for the force.
Supporters of the NYPD have pointed out throughout the back-turning that their officers feel upset at Mayor de Blasio and others, that they feel they are less safe because of the comments of politicians. This is one more example of one of the most irritating tendencies of unionized police forces today – a recurring demand that they receive the same attitude of respect for authority given to the United States military, without any of the responsibility and duty that comes with it. A poll last week found that a mere 15 percent of active duty service members approve of President Obama – understandable, considering his many policy decisions and a laundry list of questionable choices.
But is the American military turning their backs on the Commander in Chief? Showing contempt for him? Going AWOL with the endorsement of their superiors? Shirking their duty? Booing and jeering at him at a graduation ceremony? No. They, after all, are not unionized.
The real rise of frustration with police officers in America comes down to one thing: an enduring sense that the current law enforcement system is unfair. We have to abide by rules they do not. We are the civilians, as if they are not. When we go before a court, enduring bias assumes that police are responsible and honest, even if the evidence suggests otherwise. District attorneys have one method for grand juries with cops, and different methods for ones without cops. The problem is one of institutional disrespect for their own civic obligations. We have to obey the commands of officers, but they have no real desire to obey the commands of their own authorities, or the ultimate authority they serve – the people.
In retrospect, Mayor de Blasio should’ve responded to the backs turning by firing people immediately. The NYPD needed to be reminded that chain of command exists, and that they are not at the top of it. Instead, what New York City is experiencing now amounts to nothing less than open rebellion by the lone armed force under the worst kind of weakened junta, one led by a figure ideologically radical and personally weak, who has lost control of his bureaucracies and may soon be devoured by them.
Perhaps he can take a cue from a political leader of another time, who faced open revolt from a police force in another major city.
To Mr. Samuel Gompers
American Federation of Labor
New York City, N.Y.
Replying to your telegram, I have already refused to remove the Police Commissioner of Boston. I did not appoint him. He can assume no position which the courts would uphold except what the people have by the authority of their law vested in him. He speaks only with their voice. The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited. The suggestion of President Wilson to Washington does not apply to Boston. There the police have remained on duty. Here the Policemen’s Union left their duty, an action which President Wilson characterized as a crime against civilization. Your assertion that the Commissioner was wrong cannot justify the wrong of leaving the city unguarded. That furnished the opportunity, the criminal element furnished the action.
There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time. You ask that the public safety again be placed in the hands of these same policemen while they continue in disobedience to the laws of Massachusetts and in their refusal to obey the orders of the Police Department. Nineteen men have been tried and removed. Others having abandoned their duty, their places have, under the law, been declared vacant on the opinion of the Attorney General. I can suggest no authority outside the courts to take further action. I wish to join and assist in taking a broad view of every situation. A grave responsibility rests on all of us. You can depend on me to support you in every legal action and sound policy. I am equally determined to defend the sovereignty of Massachusetts and to maintain the authority and jurisdiction over her public officers where it has been placed by the Constitution and law of her people.
Governor of Massachusetts
I doubt that the Salvador Allende of Park Slope has the stomach for such a confrontation – but the reality is that the NYPD today is turning into an embarrassing neighborhood bully, and the only thing a bully understands is force. You wouldn’t want those broken windows to stay broke, would you?
[First published at The Federalist.]