The past couple of months have been trying, to the say the least, for many living in New York City. First, there was the choking death of unarmed Eric Garner by a policeman, then the non-indictment charge given by the courts to his killer in December. This ruling, coming weeks after Darren Wilson was not indicted for the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, sparked hundreds of thousands of people of all backgrounds to protest around the country, including a sizable crowd in NYC that continued to demonstrate for days on end, sometimes ending with violent clashes between police. Then, on the 20th of December, a black anti-police assailant shot two NYPD police officers in broad daylight as they were sitting in their patrol car. As a result, tensions between Police and city hall escalated, as Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch called out Mayor Bill De Blasio’s recent anti-police administration as being responsible for these violent acts. After the non-indictment of Garner last month, De Blasio released a statement about how his wife and he have, “had to literally train him (their son Dante, who is black), as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him… because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face.” This direct quote enraged many good officers, who see the mayor’s apparent distrust of the police hurtful and setting a bad example. At both of the officers’ funerals this month and at many other public appearance of the mayor, many of the NYPD officers present have literally turned their backs on the mayor, publicly showing their disapproval of his stance toward police. If this overt but meaningless expression of anger was all that the officers were doing, that would be a fine use of their free speech and union leaders could potentially meet with De Blasio and settle the dispute.
The real problem is that, in the two weeks after the officers’ deaths, low-level arrests citywide have dropped 61 percent, with summonses down 90 percent. And, in the chaos that is New Year’s Eve in Times Square, where over 1 million people packed the streets to party, there was only one recorded low-level offense-for a minor subway infraction. These numbers clearly reflect a purposeful lack of effort and quality put out by disgruntled officers who feel persecuted by everyone in the city-even the mayor. Another problem is that, in the last week, union officials and the Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have met and tried to resolve this conflict, once with the mayor present, but unable to reach any real conclusion other than union leaders strived to stop the “slowdown” or those involved would face repercussions.
So, while the overall crime rate in New York was down four percent in 2014, this decrease in crimes after the shooting is the wrong kind, as it means that petty or minor crimes are not being enforced properly. Many are now getting away with crimes such as double-parking, having an open container of alcohol, public urination and other tiny offenses, with directly is in opposition of Bratton’s “broken windows theory”, which institutes a strict enforcement on petty crime, as these kind of crimes can lead to more serious offenses. The policy, which was reinforced earlier this year when Bratton was made Police Commissioner for the second time, was met with controversy, as the aforementioned Garner was killed for selling individual cigarettes on the street, a minor violation that Bratton had cracked down on. These enhanced policing techniques have made the public almost dislike the police, as they have had to enforce to vaguely racist stop-and-frisk policies along with strict petty crimes. Now, with Eric Garner’s death, many officers don’t feel safe doing their regular duties, which may be why they aren’t doing them for the time being. As a result, their behavior is not only encouraging criminals to continue to break the law, but scaring normals citizens who now don’t think they are being properly protected.
To solve this complicated issue, the unions and city hall must come to a resolution, as the public is currently caught in the middle of a potentially disastrous battle with their own lives at stake. The fast-tracking of body cameras and other technology could help restore public trust in the police, but De Blasio’s main goal should just be to reconcile with the police, as they are employees of the city and he must have their backs, because the actions of one cop shouldn’t mean that all the rest are slandered by liberals. Right now, the glaring hole in enforcement is a huge flaw that could be easily exploited by the right person with the wrong intentions, and something must be done to restore order, then we can focus on the proper policing techniques and faith in the NYPD.