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Last Men And OverMen

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Is New York City Now a Police State?

     This is what you have to wonder with the spectre of them publicly turning their backs on the Mayor of New York City. My old buddy and Diary of a Republican reader checked in with some real concerns:

     “Im really getting concerned about the behavior of cops….. everywhere. There seems to me to be no real interest in reigning it what looks like a policy of giving them a gun and letting them decide when to use it. They are not allowed to be questioned, they continually fall back on how “dangerous” their job is and act as if citizens should just STFU or they are gonna see what police brutality looks like. “

       “This, to me, IS the key issue of our time. This is how the neoliberal nightmare gets its chance to fully come to fruition. Once municipalities are starved of tax revenue and services are privatized, formerly public employees are now personal care assistants for the plutocrats. These cops will take their marching orders not from Mayors but from the guys who are really paying for things. “

      “The contempt for average people that these cops and their supporters are expressing lately is quite disgusting and this is coming form deep down too. We are a very sick nation and we are allowing many of our least democratic minded people carry guns and “enforce order”. I’m getting VERY concerned.”

      “How this all plays out in NY will be very important to what the rest of the country does I think. I hope deBlasio can hold up. He’s got some sharks circling and they want more than him, they want every major metro area.”
       What is going on is that the tragic murder of these two police officers is being used to advance a political agenda. De Blasio is being used as the lightening rod to advance this agenda. The police don’t like the recent outpouring of concern and criticism of all these cases of cops who seemed like they might have used excessive force being giving a pass when the victim is a Black man. I mean it’s more than just that you can’t get a cop convicted of excessive force or wrongful death-you can’t even get a simple trial.  While the grand jury system seems to be a major part of the problem, in Wisconsin they have a new process which recently yielded the same result. 
          A big part of the problem is this idea that has been deliberately developed by some of the police unions where ‘you’re either with us police or you’re against us and with the Mayor and the protesters’ which is really wrongheaded but again this is clever politics.  Again, it’s changing the discussion from proper police procedure and the use of necessary but not excessive force to ‘Why does de Blasio hate the police?’ a scurrilous and baseless charge. 
        When those who claim that de Blasio has ‘thrown the police under the bus’ are asked what it is concretely that the Mayor has actually done or said wrong,  these folks never have a clear answer. Some say it goes all the way back to his campaign which they suggest somehow was virulently anti-police, some suggested that he was attacking the police in speaking out against stop and frisk. I find such a claim telling as stop and frisk was actually something that these same police unions criticized as onerous ‘quotas’ on the department when Bloomberg was Mayor. 
        I can’t help but think of Zizek here where political debates aren’t really about content but something else. How else can the police unions criticize stop and frisk but when the Mayor does it’s anti-police? 
        What this all seems really about is to put a chilling effect on the ability of citizens to engage in lawful protests-by suggesting that all protests are really just about ‘whipping up hatred of the police’- as well as perhaps hobbling a duly elected Mayor with a large amount of support from the people of NYC. 
        I share Greg’s concern: for the conduct of the police: to refuse to recognize the Mayor seems like they don’t recognize civilian control of the city and right of the people to elect their own Mayor. Do the police believe they serve not the people of this city but something else? If so then basically this is a police state. You can disagree with de Blasio as an officer but you don’t have the right to put yourself above him and above the law. This is the heart of the protests-the police in enforcing the law must not put themselves above it. 
       I think the NY Times puts things very well here: the nefarious use of the two slain officers for a political agenda against de Blasio and the protesters has really hurt the reputation and standing of the NYPD. What should have been a time for the public to rally with in support with the cops has instead created a very nasty ‘us against them’ scenario. 
      “Mayor Bill de Blasio has spent weeks expressing his respect and admiration for the New York Police Department, while calling for unity in these difficult days, but the message doesn’t seem to be sinking in.”
    “When he spoke at a police graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden on Monday, some in the crowd booed and heckled him. This followed the mass back-turning by scores of officers when the mayor spoke on Saturdayat the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos; the virtual back-turning the day before by an airplane-towed banner (“Our backs have turned to you”), and the original spiteful gesture by officers on the night Mr. de Blasio visited the hospital where Officer Ramos and his partner, Wenjian Liu, lay dead.”
   “Mr. de Blasio isn’t going to say it, but somebody has to: 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.
     “These are disgraceful acts, which will be compounded if anyone repeats the stunt at Officer Liu’s funeral on Sunday.
     “The New York Police Department is going through a terrible time, and the assassinations of those officers only underscore the dreadful dangers that rank-and-file cops face every day. And, in truth, there is some thanklessness to being a cop. Officers often feel beleaguered, jerked around by supervisors and politicians, obligated to follow rules and policies that can be misguided, held responsible for their mistakes in ways that the public is not, exposed to frequent ridicule and hostility from the people they are sworn to serve. It has always been that way with cops.”
      “But none of those grievances can justify the snarling sense of victimhood that seems to be motivating the anti-de Blasio campaign — the belief that the department is never wrong, that it never needs redirection or reform, only reverence. This is the view peddled by union officials like Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association — that cops are an ethically impeccable force with their own priorities and codes of behavior, accountable only to themselves, and whose reflexive defiance in the face of valid criticism is somehow normal.


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