New York police don’t like Mayor DeBlasio. That’s their privilege, of course, but they don’t work for the Mayor, they work for the citizens of New York–and the childish behavior they exhibited during funerals of their fallen comrades isn’t winning them any fans. As the New York Times noted in a recent editorial,
With these acts of passive-aggressive contempt and self-pity, many New York police officers, led by their union, are squandering the department’s credibility, defacing its reputation, shredding its hard-earned respect. They have taken the most grave and solemn of civic moments — a funeral of a fallen colleague — and hijacked it for their own petty look-at-us gesture. In doing so, they also turned their backs on Mr. Ramos’s widow and her two young sons, and others in that grief-struck family.
This distasteful and infantile behavior was followed by a more consequential action: a work slowdown during which NYPD is refraining from issuing tickets for traffic offenses and arresting people for “low level” behaviors. Presumably, this is intended to hurt the city in its pocketbook. According to the Atlantic,
In their latest move, officers have begun a “virtual work stoppage” throughout the city by making fewer low-level arrests and issuing fewer citations. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, New York’s largest police union, urged its members not to make arrests “unless absolutely necessary,” according to the New York Post‘s report.
Think about that for a minute.
Shouldn’t police always refrain from making arrests that aren’t “absolutely necessary”?
What if the men in blue focused their energies and resources on actual threats to public safety, rather than–for example–people selling single cigarettes on the street? (For a snarky cartoon on the subject, click here.) (For a compelling analysis of the overall situation, click here.)
I understand that rules should be enforced, and minor transgressions shouldn’t get a free pass forever. But at least to date, this deliberate focus on behaviors that actually pose a danger to the public has produced no upsurge in serious crime. The very plausible conclusion is that (a) we have too many rules forbidding behaviors that don’t threaten public health or safety, and (b) police departments are spending too much of their time hassling the little guys.
Whatever message NYPD thinks it’s sending (the powers-that-be should never, ever criticize us for anything?), the message a lot of people are hearing is: (a) maybe legislators should resist the urge to outlaw so many behaviors that don’t make us less safe, simply because they disapprove of them, and (b) maybe the police should spend more time focusing on arrests that are “absolutely necessary.”