In the Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 250 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week: taking a look at the situation in New York between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD. This is The Two Minute Drill for January 9, 2015.
New York City’s police officers are mounting a rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio, who drew attention after criticizing the non-indictment of a New York City police officer for killing Eric Garner with a chokehold. “What parents have done for decades, who have children of color, especially young black men of color, is train them to be very careful when they have a connection with a police officer, when they have an encounter with a police officer,” de Blasio told ABC News’ This Week. “It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country.”
The NYPD took de Blasio’s comments personally. Following the Dec. 20 shooting of two NYPD officers (Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos), Patrick Lynch, president of the NYPD’s union Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said there was “blood on the hands” of the mayor. On Dec. 27, thousands of police officers turned their backs on de Blasio as he spoke at officer Ramos’ funeral. On Dec. 29, de Blasio was booed during a speech for an NYPD graduation ceremony. And then on Jan. 4, thousands of police officers again turned their backs as de Blasio spoke at officer Liu’s funeral (the funeral was delayed to permit Liu’s family from China to make the trip to New York). Now, to top things off, it is becoming apparent that the police are working as little as possible in New York – according to the New York Post, arrests were down 66 percent for the week of Dec. 22 compared to the same time last year. What’s really going on? And how should the Mayor respond?
The Explanation (250 or Bust)
Let’s be absolutely clear about one thing. Police officers are the living embodiment of the law. Attacks on police officers, in many ways, are attacks on the law itself. And we, as a civilized society, should mourn their deaths at the hands of the lawless. But that is not what the recent animosity between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD is about. In refusing to work, booing during a graduation ceremony, and turning their backs on de Blasio at multiple police funerals (strong emphasis on funerals), the NYPD is carrying out a campaign of victimhood.
“They really do feel under attack, rank and file officers and much of American police leadership,” NYPD Chief Bill Bratton said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “We have a lot of talking we’re going to have to do here to understand both sides of this issue.”
But what, exactly, are both sides of the “issue”? The NYPD, if we take it at its word, has a problem with de Blasio’s criticism of an instance of police brutality. Regardless of whether you think the officer involved in Eric Garner’s death should have been indicted or not, Eric Garner did not deserve what happened to him. That is not “police bashing” or “anti-cop.” No sane person could treat police brutality as anything other than a one-sided issue. Are we supposed to believe, as the NYPD seems to want us to believe, that no cop, anywhere, is ever at fault for anything? Are we to think that the cops are an ethically impeccable force, accountable only to themselves?
For all intents and purposes, de Blasio’s comments in the wake of Eric Garner’s death were rather restrained. Particularly in comparison to other commentators. His response to the NYPD’s gross insubordination should not be so restrained. The NYPD has a right to voice their dissatisfaction in a leader. But when members of the NYPD refuse to do their jobs and decide to take the somber, solemn occasion of saying farewell to a fallen comrade as an opportunity to make a political statement, they are acting more than merely disrespectful. They are committing a crime.
Under New York law, “Any person who, being a police commissioner or any officer or member of any police force in this state . . . [u]ses or threatens or attempts to use his official power or authority . . . to control, affect, influence, reward or punish, the political adherence, affiliation, action, expression or opinion of any citizen . . . is guilty of a misdemeanor.” A copy of that statute should be pinned to the wall of every precinct. But more importantly, the statute should be enforced. Bill Bratton needs to be fired from his post, and the NYPD must discipline the insubordinate and undisciplined rank-and-file police officers who are abrogating their responsibility to the city and its people.
Enough is enough.
No word count this week.
The Five Best Things We’ve Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles we read this week:
- Mock Away. Security forces are on the hunt for masked gunmen following a massacre at a French satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo. The following quote from Christopher Hitches on a related controversy in 2006 is on point: “We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt.” Christopher Hitchens in Slate: The Case for Mocking Religion.
- Jury Duty. “Nearly two years after the Boston Marathon tragedy, the trial of one of the accused bombers is set to open – the final chapter of a saga that will be forever ingrained in the city’s history.” From Milton J. Valencia in The Boston Globe: Marathon Bombing Trial to Start Today with Jury Selection.
- Racial Profiling. “Reuters interviewed 25 African American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving. All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling.” From Michelle Conlin in Reuters: off Duty, Black Cops in New York Feel Threat from Fellow Police.
- How You Live. Stuart Scott, one of ESPN’s most talented anchors, passed away last weekend. This makes this an appropriate time to watch his powerful ESPY’s speech: “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live . . . When you get too tired to fight, then lay down, and rest, and let somebody else fight for you.”
- From Poop to Potable. “I watched the piles of feces go up the conveyer belt and drop into a large bin. They made their way through the machine, getting boiled and treated. A few minutes later I took a long taste of the end result: a glass of delicious drinking water.” From Bill Gates: This Ingenious Machine Turns Feces Into Drinking Water. Here’s how it works:
And in case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. This past week we took a second look at the hacking of Sony Pictures last November. Read the Column – Growing Body of Evidence Suggests North Korea Wasn’t behind Sony Attack.