Police Union Offers Citizens $500 To Get Hurt, Killed, Or Sued As Amateur Cops

from the new-level-of-audacious-stupidity dept

Police unions have never been the sharpest tool in the law enforcement PR shed. Over the years, they’ve claimed officers should be subjected to less scrutiny than Walmart employees, flashbang-burned toddlers are the price society pays for “safe” neighborhoods, and anything remotely suggesting greater accountability or transparency will probably result in dead cops.

Hey, I get it. Zealous advocacy and all that. Unions need to show the rank-and-file their dues are being put to use. And it’s the best use possible: self-preservation and consistent maintenance of the status quo. Unions will always strongly advocate for their officers, even when advocating positions officers don’t agree with. To sum up: ridiculous. And here we are with yet another ridiculous police union action.

Recently, a video went viral showing an officer begging for help from a security guard while a number of people stood around filming his losing battle with an arrestee. Maybe the problem was callous citizens and their anti-cop attitudes. Maybe the problem is the reduction of real life to social media filler. Or maybe it was just the bystander effect: the more bystanders there are, the more everyone assumes someone else will step up and help out.

The correct response from New York City’s Sergeants Benevolent Association would have been nothing more than some grousing about civilians and their nipple-suckling. Instead, the SBA chose to get involved in the worst possible way.

A police union wants to turn random bystanders into vigilantes-for-hire — by offering $500 to any civilian who helps cops wrestle down suspects who are resisting arrest.

The cash proposal from the Sergeants Benevolent Association is aimed at getting those who normally would make videos of cops taking people into custody to put down their phones and actually get involved.

“When you see an officer struggling, rather than take your cellphone out, assist the officer and you’ll receive an award of $500,” SBA president Ed Mullins told The Post.

Oh my. $500 is barely going to cover an hour of bystanders’ attorney’s time. Good lord, what an awful idea.

If Joe Self-Deputization decides to pitch in and help a professional suspect-subduer subdue a suspect, he could get injured or killed. Who’s legally responsible in this wrongful death suit? The union? The PD? The city? The suspect? The officer who needed help? Someone’s going to get sued and all the union can offer is a conditional $500.

Let’s up the ante: instead of the civilian being injured during the helpfulness, it’s the cop. Can the cop sue the person incentivized to assist the officer by the officer’s union? Does the officer sue the union for pitching such a stupid idea?

What if the amateur officer has a gun and handles it as responsibly and accurately as cops do? Now he’s got a dead cop on his hands and zero chance of obtaining $500 since the suspect has probably used this unexpected opportunity to flee the scene. Is this person going to jail? A lawsuit is inevitable. No one knows who’s suing who at this point, but what happens to the erstwhile officer while the litigation logistics are sorted out? Assaulting an officer charges and all the sentence enhancements that brings?

What if the suspect is killed or injured by the non-officer? Can he sue or press charges?

These are all questions no one’s answering. And they need to be answered. You can’t just encourage a bunch of non-professionals to pitch in with crime fighting without deciding who’s indemnifying who when everything goes sideways.

The only bright spot in all of this stupidity is only bright if you’re as cynical as I am. It appears one New York legislator is planning to introduce a bill that will make it much easier for those involved to sue the government post-clusterfuck.

State Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), a retired cop, will introduce a new good Samaritan law to shield civilians from liability if they help cops. The bill is still being drafted, his office said.

“The current good Samaritan law does not protect citizens who assist first responders. It is my intent to introduce legislation in the Senate that corrects this shortcoming,” Golden said.

Cool. This almost makes it official policy. This might codify the state’s liability when suspects, cops, or citizens are injured and killed during assisted altercations. It shields citizens from liability, which pushes it back on the government. Officers have a variety of immunities already available to them, but this law would implicitly condone assistance efforts by citizens, making it a policy issue when lawsuits start rolling in. If an injury/death stems from a policy or law, it’s much harder for government entities to dodge liability.

My guess is there will be few takers. Attempting to help a cop out with an arrest is an activity with very few positive outcomes. People jumping into these situations greatly increase their risk of being injured or killed, and they sure as hell do not possess the training needed to assess the danger before getting involved. $500 doesn’t pay for much medical care, much less much lawyering.

If the police union would like more citizens to support their officers, perhaps it should spend more time considering how much its own actions and statements have harmed community relationships with law enforcement. The fact that the union feels it needs to pay citizens to help cops is an indictment of the system unions helped create — one that has elevated officers from their position as public servants to one of warlords presiding over disputed territories.

If fewer people are interested in coming to the aid of cops, it’s not because there’s no financial incentive. Only an organization completely out of touch with the people its officers serve would arrive at this conclusion. And because it came to this conclusion, the union has again illustrated why it shouldn’t be allowed to represent the officers it’s supposed to be serving. Officers have been dumping dues into a PR disaster for years. Maybe it’s time they made their money do a little talking of its own.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Police Union Offers Citizens $500 To Get Hurt, Killed, Or Sued As Amateur Cops”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Dialog, what we expect from them

Cops: We Demand Respect!

Citizens: Respect is earned. What have you done for use lately?

Cops: We need help sometimes, why don’t you help us?

Citizens: When did you last respect us?

Cops: We are here to protect you!

Citizens: You made the Supreme Court state that ‘protect and serve’ isn’t part of your duties.

Cops: But we’re just enforcing the law.

Citizens: You got the Supreme Court to state that you don’t need to know the law you are supposed to enforce. What law are you enforcing now?

Cops: erm

Anonymous Coward says:

Behavior Upon Witnessing an Officer in Trouble

1. Do NOT attempt to intervene physically. The cop assuredly will assume you waded in to assist the perp and may well either shoot you or at least put you in hospital for an extended stay. If he doesn’t, fellow officers arriving to assist the officer on scene certainly will perform those services on his behalf.

2. Do NOT telephone 911. That will immediately connect you to the incident and make you a “person of interest.” In fact, you might want to turn your phone off and walk quietly away.

3. If you are noticed, the least you can expect is to be locked in a patrol car to insure your availability for interrogation while the officers investigate what happened at their leisure.

I speak from experience. The day I was assaulted, when the police arrived, even though they acknowledged I had been the victim of a vicious assault, I spent half an hour locked in a squad car with my untreated wounds for company before I was allowed to go to the local treatment center.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Behavior Upon Witnessing an Officer in Trouble

In fact, you might want to turn your phone off and walk quietly away.

So now the records show you as the person who turned the phone off at the exact time of the incident, while located right near it. Suspicous. Might be better to just keep walking by, and have a semi-plausible claim of having not realized what was happening.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Behavior Upon Witnessing an Officer in Trouble

So now the records show you as the person who turned the phone off at the exact time of the incident, while located right near it. Suspicous. Might be better to just keep walking by, and have a semi-plausible claim of having not realized what was happening.

Thank you. “I saw nothing. I heard nothing. Sorry, master … er… officer.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Do not for a moment believe or accept the throwaway excuse that they were just being idiots. The fry-guy can forget to put ketchup on your burger, but Hanlon’s Razor reverses utterly once you leave the level of “the people on the floor”

Systemic issues let alone to systems with multi-layered quality/authorization controls and decision-making done in multiple steps at multiple levels?

“You’re Fucked” on their guns, or cadet trainers explaining how after getting to “I was fearing for my life” unarmed victims they’ll get to have the best sex they’ve ever imagined? None of that is stupidity. It’s the exact same “we didn’t know any better” as your daughter’s “BUT I DIDN’T KNOW!” after the 4th time that afternoon you sternly warned her she’d get punished if she pulled one of her mother’s fish out of the tank and did it anyways. It’s a cheap deflection in hopes of avoiding the punishments that they deserve.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Everybody knows asking doctors to be liable for malpractice is exactly the same as hunting down everyone who wears glasses and murdering them with machetes as ‘intellectuals’!

Or we could do away with this false dichotomy bullshit and realize that accountability is an important counterpart to power.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Maybe if Tim didn’t constantly write articles that seem to contradict each other in what they ask of cops and ask of civilians in order to build more positive relations, I’d give him more of a benefit of the doubt.

This article: "Cops would have more people helping them if they behaved honorably and were more accountable to citizenry and the rule of law."

This Article : "Deny service to any and all cops. Even if they say they’re good, just don’t; they’re liars."

If some cops try to take Tim’s words to heart and strive to improve themselves, and some restaurant owners take his words to heart and refuse to serve cops, how the hell are things supposed to get any better?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 'If you want to be respected earn it, do not EVER demand it'

If some cops try to take Tim’s words to heart and strive to improve themselves, and some restaurant owners take his words to heart and refuse to serve cops, how the hell are things supposed to get any better?

From the comment section of that article, by the person who wrote it:

The couple of incidents doesn’t seriously mean cops shouldn’t be allowed to eat in restaurants. This little exercise in exaggeration is meant to demonstrate that officers of the law are not inherently honest and decent people, even if there are many among them that are. There’s no reason to give their word more credence than the average citizen’s.

As he noted the point wasn’t to demonize all cops and call them all liars, it was to point out that they do not deserve the automatic assumption of honesty that some people give them because they lie just like anyone else, something putting on a badge does not magically make go away.

As for the question, slowly and with a lot of hard work. Reputations are funny things, hard to build up, easy to destroy, but they can be built back up.

Making it very clear that the majority do not support what the ‘few bad apples’ do such that fellow law enforcement are the first to call them out and demand that they be held accountable for their actions would go a long way to improving their relationship with the public.

When a cop screws up they need to own it, even if it costs them. Whey they deliberately abuse their authority and/or power they need to be held responsible for that, and those around them with badges should be the first in line demanding accountability and punishments for those abuses, holding fellow officers(or law enforcement in general if you’r talking about judges and DA’s) to a higher standard rather than a lower one.

The article just yesterday serves as a great example of how not to improve police/public relations. It should not take a court to tell multiple officers that an invitation to one cop to rest their feet is an invitation for several of them to spend three hours searching a house. It should not require a state supreme court to tell officers(and state prosecutors) that constitutional rights are more than just speed-bumps, a minor inconvenience that can be ignored on a whim.

There are other ways that the relationship between police and the public could begin to be improved, but a lot of it’s on those with badges, and far too many seem entirely indifferent to improving or doing anything about the rot within their ranks. Until that changes things will continue to get worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'If you want to be respected earn it, do not EVER demand it'

Well golly gee; if Tim didn’t want to be accused of hypocrisy, maybe he should’ve admitted that it was an exercise in exaggeration in the actual text of the article rather than requiring people to dig through nearly 200 comments (and in the comments section he writes under his screen name, which makes Ctrl-Fing to find his comments difficult) to figure out what he really thinks?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'If you want to be respected earn it, do not EVER demand it'

So you were able to remember and link to the article several months after it was posted, but couldn’t be bothered to read basically any of the comments? Because he left a response to the very first comment noting that the point of the article was primarily ‘police are no more trustworthy than anyone else'(in threaded view it’s the tenth comment from the top, hardly difficult to find).

I’ll even save you the trouble of scrolling down to find it:

It’s mostly a facetious suggestion, but the overall point of the post was to demonstrate police officers shouldn’t be treated as inherently trustworthy until proven otherwise. No business would actually do this, nor should they. But maybe they should refuse to serve cops if they’ve been burned by one making up stories about their staff or service.

Likewise the comment that I quoted from is maybe a fifth of the way down the entire page, still fairly early on in the comments.

I’d advise you remember the first rule of holes and just drop it, continuing this is not going to help you, nor salvage the original comment I responded to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 'If you want to be respected earn it, do not EVER demand it'

What’s so sad that it’s funny is the way in which the comments section is dominated by a handful of regulars engaged in a circle jerk, and any AC that has an opinion that differs from the herd consensus can just be safely flagged, considered either some rando or dismissed as one of the handful of regular trolls that y’all have gotten over the years. The Techdirt comment section is a sterling example of an echo chamber where only a handful of voices truly “matter”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 'If you want to be respected earn it, do not EVER demand it'

“Oh, what a horrible turn of events. People agree with each other, but not me!”

When a post comes in response to a comment after said comment has been considered generally insightful, it looks like sour grapes to me. I don’t go out of my way to “safely flag” posts, but if it bothers you so much why not get an account?

Besides, if you ask any of the “regular trolls” they’ll readily and happily tell you nobody else reads this site. Techdirt’s comment ecosystem is supposedly so banal, trolls are… somehow motivated to keep populating the very location they call a cesspool of their loathing. So I gotta ask, why does it rustle your jimmies so heavily?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Tim isn’t anti cop. He is concerned with bad cop behavior, and writes about it. Is that a real problem for you?

Go ahead, deny that some cops act badly. Go ahead, deny that the so called good cops don’t turn the bad cops in, even when they know about the bad. Go ahead deny that police unions enable all of the above, and more in the exercise of protecting police who should not be protected.

We would all love a sect of police that were actually about protecting and serving. It is in fact harder and harder to tell that they might be.

These days, it is better for the average citizen to infer that they are not, rather than infer that they are. This is hard on those ‘good’ cops out there. But the bed is made.

It could be unmade, but that is going to take some time, and a lot of behavior. From the cops, from the DA’s, and from the courts. Cops testimony should not be believed because they are cops, but because they have corroborating evidence.

Bergman (profile) says:

To continue the what ifs...

Taking that ‘what if the private citizen has a gun’ what if:

Suppose a cop sees someone jaywalking (practically a sacred right in NYC) and decided to go all tacticool excessive force takedown on the poor jaywalker. Jaywalker isn’t resisting at all (and is down on the ground injured) but the cop pulls a muscle and collapses too, screaming for help.

Bystander draws gun (legality of carry optional) and demonstrates police grade marksmanship skills. Fires 10-20 times, missed jaywalker entirely, kills officer, two cats and a TV. Responding backup sees the assisting citizen and guns him down, no questions asked.

And the outcome: The law is quite clear. The jaywalker murdered the cop (felony murder rule) by resisting arrest (not falling down before the officer drop-kicked him), thereby making it ‘necessary’ for someone to use force on him in defense of the dead officer, so he goes to prison for 20-life. The shooter is dead, but his estate gets sued by the cop’s family and loses everything.

But hey, at least his family gets $500 out of it, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: To continue the what ifs...

Wow NYC police must be really good shots. I remember living in Chicago ba few years back when it seemed like the police were never able to arrest anyone because they shot and killed all the witnesses while shooting at the suspects. It was big news when a witness managed to avoid being shot by hiding in a bathroom. Not only were the police able to arrest the suspect, but they even managed to convict him. All because one witness managed to survive.

That One Guy (profile) says:

$500 to risk livelihood if not life? What a steal

So say you do have a cop struggling with a suspect and decide to help, there are any number of ways for that to go bad such that no amount of money would make it a smart move.

The cop you’re attempting to help may believe you are in fact trying to help the other person and act accordingly, possibly to lethal results.

You could get injured in the process. Cop gets injured on the job they’ve got that covered, think they’d be willing to spring to pay for your medical bills?

In attempting to help you might injure one of the other two, suspect or, if you’re really unlucky, the cop. Similar to the above, if a cop injures someone on the job they’ve got a legal system and union willing and able to make sure that their ass is covered, and any legal actions against them are almost assuredly going to go no-where. A random citizen on the other hand is not so blessed, and could find themselves on the receiving end of potentially ruinous legal action.

One or more other cops could arrive on the scene, see two people struggling with a cop and treat you as just another perp in need of dealing with, with the end result starting from an arrest(and you’d better hope the cop you were trying to help corroborates your story or you’re screwed) and just getting worse from there.

Even ignoring for a moment why people might not be willing to put their safety on the line to help a member of the NYPD the idea in general has a whole host of problems to it that would make it a bad idea both to members of the public and even potentially the police.

Routing_2_Null0 (profile) says:

Lol I will laugh when some of these people get sued and then they hire a lawyer worth half a damn. This is a clear case of respondeat superior, since the citizen is acting on behalf of who hired them. Put in plain English:

“if an employee caused harm while performing work duties or acting on the employer’s behalf, the employer will be found liable for its employee’s acts.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You’re going to need help from an officer one day..

And they WILL do their job as I’m the one paying their fucking salary. There’s nothing in their contract that requires I kiss their ass for it.

And before you go off on how dangerous the job is, know that I give no fucks whatsoever, since if they don’t like it they can fuck off and get another job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Help from an officer? Funny thing, those who do need help from an officer seem to have a habit of getting shot by some trigger-happy, adrenalin-driven loose cannon who some higher-up thought needed a live weapon over marksmanship training… or de-escalation skills…

While you’re hoping that somebody reads this website many of its critics continue to claim is obscure and unread, the rest of us are hoping the officer in question doesn’t shoot the hostage. Or the family pet.

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

Hm... looks like the PBA is mimicking the Educational System..



The Camden, N.J., school system will pay some students $100 if they sign a pledge promising not to skip school and attend workshops on conflict resolution and other topics. The program is funded through a state grant, and the money must be spent by Sept. 30.

California’s Santa Ana Unified School District partners with a local auto dealership and holds a car raffle at the end of every academic term. Students who made it to every class for the 180-day school year are eligible to win.

“It’s caught on. Our attendance rates have improved,” Santa Ana spokeswoman Angela Burrell told The Washington Times last week. “A lot of people are doing creative things” to decrease truancy rates.

Sorry folks, when it comes to certain segments that have a perception of ‘needing entitlements for basic tasks’, seeing the PBA do such a thing is not surprising.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...