In the wake of Eric Garner's death via cop chokehold, the NYPD is coming under all sorts of additional scrutiny. This is in addition to the appointed oversight
ordered by Judge Scheindlin after finding that elements of its infamous stop-and-frisk
program were unconstitutional. Scott Greenfield has a very stark recounting of the incident
, as well as a recording of Eric Garner's last moments. (Here's additional footage
, which includes the officer who applied the lethal chokehold waving at the camera, as well as several officers gamely pretending Garner is simply passed out.)
The unexpected happened when the official medical examiner's report failed to find that the 400-lb Garner (who is heard repeatedly telling officers he can't breathe) had simply dropped dead of a heart attack or pre-existing health conditions
-- something that supposedly would have happened with or without a cop applying direct pressure to his windpipe. Instead, the report contained a word rarely found in examinations following in-custody deaths: homicide
The largest union within the NYPD -- the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association -- couldn't have been expecting that. But PBA president Pat Lynch still managed to find something spinnable about the entire situation, greatly aided by the convenient arrest of the cameraman on weapons charges
The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the largest union representing NYPD officers, said in a statement that it was “criminals like Mr. Orta who carry illegal firearms who stand to benefit the most by demonizing the good work of police officers.”
It wobbles horribly, but it still spins. Here's Scott Greenfield
Come on, you have to be impressed by the statement. The problem is no longer [Officer] Pantaleo killing Garner, but “criminals like Mr. Orta who carry illegal firearms who stand to benefit the most by demonizing the good work of police officers.” This is poetry. This is genius. It was all about criminals demonizing cops, not cops killing people.
As nearly impossible as it is to "demonize" someone with an unaltered recording of their actions, Lynch found a way to at least attempt
to flip the narrative. Orta is a criminal. Pantaleo is a police officer. Lynch's statement asks the public to choose a side. Do you want to side with criminals, or do you want to let bygones be bygones (including the occasional homicide) and side with New York's finest?
It may well be the reddest of herrings, the most irrelevant of questions, but it will be the focus of the attack on the video necessary to show how Police Officer Pantaleo killed Garner. And no doubt Lynch took a deep breath upon learning of Orta’s arrest, and how his tenure as PBA president was again secure by the opportunity to show that “police officers routinely risk their lives for the benefit of the community,” and so the least we can do in return is forgive them the occasional killing.
But it's not just criminals the police (and their supporters) are looking to, well, demonize
in hopes of steering the narrative. It's everyone
. Everyone who doesn't wear NYPD blue. (via The Honest Courtesan
Under the misleading* headline "Why assaults on the NYPD are on the rise," the New York Post gathers the following quotes from NYPD officers, ranging from obnoxiously self-centered to truly heinous
* How many people have been booked for assault
for simply touching an officer
or worse, being on the receiving end of a beating?
Assaults on police officers are up 4 percent this year compared with last year — a disturbing new trend that’s part of an emerging disrespect for authority on the street, cops and experts told The Post.
Disrespect, like respect, is earned. You can earn respect, or you can squander it. Disrespect doesn't arise on its own. If "authority" doesn't like this, it has ways of changing this. Unfortunately, it means making difficult changes and dealing with ingrained attitudes and prejudices.
“The biggest thing is that you’re going to see more cops get hurt, and that’s the sad part,” said one Manhattan cop, blaming it on the decreased use of “stop, question and frisk...”
This may be partially right but for the wrong reasons. When the NYPD could stop nearly anyone
for no reason at all, it had basically ordained harassment and intimidation
. With this gone, fewer people are going to keep their heads down and eyes averted and simply allow the police to shove them up against the nearest wall or bend them over the nearest squad car hood.
So, who's to blame for this rise in assaults? It's the citizens themselves, apparently. It's their
fault that it's hard (or slightly harder) to be a New York cop these days.
“The streets are absolutely more dangerous for other people, too,” said the officer, adding the rise of cellphone videography is also problematic, since suspects “want to put on a show for the camera.”
(And cops don't want to be watched
...) So, First Amendment-protected activity is part of the problem. What else?
“People feel they have more rights and they can’t be stopped. There is no respect,” said a Brooklyn cop, who recalled a recent arrest of an armed man who used the crackdown on stop-and-frisk as a reason to resist arrest. “People feel like they know the law better than we do.”
Too many rights for citizens. Also a problem. (And there's the demand for unearned respect again...) Maybe people don't know the law better than NYPD officers, but they can't go above the law, as officers do when they deal out excessive force
, tell people to stop recording
, hassle people for walking while black
, or book people on bullshit charges simply because they don't like their attitude
. All in all, the imbalance of power has hardly shifted. But to hear these cops tell it, you'd think the city was a half-step away from mob rule
, with officers holed up in well-fortified precinct houses. All the NYPD is receiving is pushback it hasn't felt in years. And it's killing them. (Not literally, of course...)
Ideally, what can citizens do to ensure the (im)balance of power returns to normal?
Well, one Manhattan cop, using the citizen killed
by an NYPD officer (homicide, remember?) as an example, says this
is how citizens should behave when approached by police.
“Obviously, he resisted, and he could have avoided all of that by just going through the process,” another Manhattan cop said. “Everybody likes to point fingers, but no one wants the fingers pointed at them. If people think they are being treated unfairly, they should sue the city after they go through the process instead of resisting.”
"All of that" being shorthand for "choked to death by a police officer." New Yorkers should just submit to any form of police harassment and go through "the process," something that could easily give them a criminal record when they haven't truly performed a criminal act and then spend their time, money and energy fighting in the city's courts to have their grievances addressed and their good names restored.
This police officer is actually saying that people should just deal with cop bullshit and sue later. The only "right" you possess is the option to file a civil lawsuit. Cops, on the other hand, should be given free rein to act as they please, and when the lawsuit finally arrives, possibly
be held accountable for their actions if
the court somehow manages to find the officer(s) in question don't qualify for full or limited immunity.
A much better idea would be for the NYPD to make massive efforts to restore the trust and respect it has destroyed under Ray Kelly's "leadership."
If you want respect, GO AND EARN IT. Demanding full compliance is something autocrats do, not public servants
. You've forgotten who you actually work for. You don't work for the NYPD. YOU WORK FOR THE PUBLIC.
If the NYPD can't get that straightened out, then it needs to learn how to take a punch. It's certainly delivered enough of them. Every police department asks for patience while they investigate their own wrongdoing, but every cop starts swinging and/or shooting when someone takes a shot at one of their own. An officer kills a citizen and suddenly cops start fretting about the "antagonistic" behavior of the public. Have one
cop simply think he hears gunfire
possibly aimed in his direction and the wrath of an entire department will focus in that person's direction -- and it won't stop until every officer's gun is empty
If the NYPD is feeling a bit more apprehensive about its interactions with the public after the death of Eric Garner, so be it. It's all earned. Maybe now they'll have the slightest empathy for the countless citizens who lived with this feeling day in and day out
during the decade-plus run of stop-and-frisk.