An Unintended Message From NYPD

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.”


  1. All I can say about this blog, Sheila, is …thank you. And possibly suggest the NYPD be forced to sit through a history lesson on the beginning of the NYPD; a sorry history indeed.

  2. What concerns me about the NYPD behavior is the “we versus them” mentality that seems to be pervasive with not just police officers.

    I am also concerned about the militarization of the police. I was a classroom teacher for many years and last year I tried to engage a parent in the car rider line about their child, just being friendly. The parent was a male police officer in his patrol car. Instead of a dad there to pick up his kid, he was “yes, sir. No sir.” Brusk. Officious. It was like talking to a robot.

    Wow! I couldn’t help but think that either there was no real person behind that uniform or he was so hiding behind it. Hopefully, he just was having a bad day.

  3. Thank you for this observation. It presents a perspective that is lost on most. Childish behavior is never a persuasive argument.

  4. The debate that began in Ferguson, well actually the debate that’s gone on and off through most of world history is who do those who we, the people, choose to empower with deadly force work for, and what do we entrust them to do?

    Notice that this has nothing to do with the two officers murdered as they sat in their vehicle. That was a random crime that just happened to befall police officers, carried out by a deranged person. Tragic no matter the victims. If there is a question to be asked about it it would be why do we made weapons of destruction so available that deranged people have no trouble getting them?

    So, to me, armed police and military are the last resort in protecting citizens from those who would use deadly force against them. At home or abroad.

    Mayor DeBlasio was addressing the situation earlier when a young boy pointed a weapon that could have been, but wasn’t, deadly, at a police officer, and was given the death sentence as a result. To me it’s expected of public servants like the mayor and police commissioner to question situations like that and determine if the outcome was justified by the specifics of the situation or not. That’s their civic duty.

    The police union has no role to play in determining that. Other police not involved in the situation have no role to play in that unless they are specifically involved in gathering evidence useful to adjudicating the question.

    The public should insist on an answer to the question of did the shooter exercise the judgment that we must expect from those who we choose to arm?

    Unfortunately those in what passes for journalism nowadays are paid only based on the emotions that they can stir up, but that’s another story.

    Let’s hope that the Mayor and police commissioner do their job and that the police union and journalist limit their involvement to what they’re equipped and entrusted to do.

    Too much to hope for, too much to ask you say.

    You’re probably right.

  5. Great article, Ms. Kennedy.

    I’m so glad to see the Left standing up and not letting the NYPD get away with their grandstanding in the wake of the murders. The murders were horrible, but NYPD still needs large changes and reforms, and we can’t let these murders take our focus off of needed police reform.

    I’ve been hearing that the real reason the NYPD is angry with DeBlasio is that he took away their overtime with his change in marijuana policy.

    “Bratton said the policy change saves money on overtime and allows officers to focus on fighting other crimes. ”

    From a paper by the NYCLU:

    “Narcotics and patrol police, their supervisors, and top commanders in the
    police department benefit from the marijuana possession arrests. The arrests are
    comparatively safe, allow officers and their supervisors to accrue overtime pay,
    and produce arrest numbers that show productivity.”


    Quoted in that paper:

    “[Arrests] were sometimes conveniently timed to generate overtime pay for the arresting officer who typically took hou rs beyond his regular tour of duty to process the arrest. ‘Collars-for-Dollars’ is a practice widely known to officers, police supervisors, and prosecutors alike…. Besides overtime pay, high arrest numbers are often a factor considered for coveted assignments for patrol officers and supervisors alike.”
    – “The City of New York Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption” (The Mollen Commission), July 1994

    “In effect, making marijuana and other misdemeanor arrests has become a
    “quality of life” issue – for the police. According to some news reports, narcotics
    officers have resisted efforts to shift them to other duties or even to higher level
    drug work, which is often more dangerous, more tedious, and provides less opportunity for overtime”

    – at 16.

    The NYCLU paper well delineates the manifold ways in which NYPD are using marijuana criminalization as a cash cow. They’re turning their backs on DeBlasio because he took away this cash cow.

    NYPD’s pretend offense at DeBlasio is a farce.

  6. One more thing, Ms. Kennedy. this work slowdown is ordered by the five police unions. I am extremely disturbed by the police taking orders from the five police unions and not Mayor DeBlasio.

    Who is in charge of the police, the Mayor or the unions? Is following the union and not the Mayor a dereliction of duty?

    The Mayor is going to win this fight, and the Democratic Party is going to come away looking like the true heroes. DeBlasio can serve as an example to the mayor of every other city, and that potential for national change really scares the police, nationwide.

    NYPD was foolish to praise the officers who killed Eric Garner, when the entire country was aghast that the murderers were allowed to go free. NYPD was openly courting conflict with the Mayor, and their attempt to tell him who’s boss and to rub his nose in their power backfired.

    Despite the bloviating from the brownshirts on FNC, the Mayor has not lost his capacity to govern. He’s actually showing that he has the guts to do some governing.

    Another good article:

  7. Don’t forget we had our own slowdown in Indy when the IMPD/FOP ran “Operation by the Book” to drive up crime stats in an election year to retaliate against Bart Peterson for merging IPD & MCSD.

  8. FOP; do you really believe this is something to brag about? You all took an oath to protect all residents and uphold all laws to protect residents of this city, not participate in political protests. As a victim of a physical attack and robbery resulting in being hospitalized with head and neck injuries; I was and am still angry that the criminals had been identified four days earlier and had been followed by undercover IMPD cops since that time. I was mugged on my driveway at 11:00 in the morning, my 2 credit cards were used 8 times as the IMPD undercover cops were followng them yet they saw nothing. One week later, still following the criminals, they parked in the small MCL parking lot at East 10th and Arlington but did not see the man get out of the car and attack and rob the fourth eldely woman victim. Were they on “slowdown” for some reason or is that political action against former Mayor Peterson still in non-action mode? I do not feel safe in this city; anywhere at any time.

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