The false narrative about the need for hyper policing has come crashing down and police themselves destroyed the well-cultivated propaganda. The awful truth which black people were well aware of is now out in the open for all to see. Police departments in the United States exist for the purpose of maintaining white people’s prerogatives as the group in control of everyone else. Enhancing public safety is a secondary consideration.
Under the Michael Bloomberg administration the New York City police department (NYPD) was infamous for its stop and frisk policies. Up to 575,000 people, almost all of them black or Latino, were stopped by police annually at the height of the stop and frisk program. A mysterious designation such as “furtive movement” was a reason for any person of color to be searched and harassed. Precinct commanders were pressured to meet quotas for stops, summonses, and arrests while also lying about the real crime rate in order to make the mayor and the NYPD look good.
All of that changed in the past two weeks. The NYPD have all but ceased writing summonses and making arrests and they have done so with the same zeal they once used in acting as the modern day slave patrol. The police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) ordered the slowdown in order to punish current mayor Bill de Blasio. The behavior seems odd because the mayor reappointed as commissioner the architect of stop and frisk, William Bratton. Despite this and other pro-police actions, de Blasio doesn’t meet enough of the police terrorism threshold to please New York’s “finest.”
This scandal is an opportunity for many lessons to be learned. As a candidate the mayor used his bi-racial son in campaign commercials to fool black voters into supporting him. The reality of his administration is in sharp contrast to the marketing which got him into office. After a bystander videotaped the police murder of Eric Garner, de Blasio’s most memorable statement was to warn against resisting arrest.
Emboldened by the people of Ferguson, Missouri, New Yorkers took to the street after Eric Garner’s killers went unpunished. These righteous acts only served to make the NYPD angrier. They became the target of public animus and scorn and they didn’t like the fall from grace.
After two policemen were killed by a mentally ill vengeance seeker de Blasio asked protesters to stand down. Appointing Bratton didn’t help in the eyes of the police mob. Telling people who have the right to protest not to do so didn’t help either. The police want their way or no way and have gone all out to punish de Blasio even though he acts as the junior partner in police criminality.
At the first policeman’s funeral, nearly every officer present turned his or her back on the mayor as he entered the church service. Days later at a police academy graduation ceremony, hecklers were heard interrupting the mayor’s speech.
In order to punish de Blasio and the city further, the PBA ordered a work slow down. Suddenly the number of arrests dropped 66% from the same period one year earlier. Parking and traffic violations and summonses for low level offenses all fell by more than 90%. So far none of these declines in enforcement have had an impact on safety in the city.
Ironically, the police proved the point that many of their critics have made for years. The hyper policing inflicted on black communities is a sick farce, serving only the purposes of making white people feel comfortable about the numbers of black people in jails, and adding to the mass incarcerations system with the ancillary benefit of raising revenue and prison profits.
It is very good news for black people that the number of arrests has plummeted. The system catches some violent criminals but more often people committing minor offenses who were down on their luck. A majority of inmates in New York City jails are not there because they are dangerous, but because they can’t pay bail.
We don’t need nearly as many police as we have in order to insure public safety. If we lived in a just society, there would be serious discussions about the need for law enforcement, and more importantly about how to keep them under community control. Instead we have a “liberal” mayor who danced to their tune only to be treated little better than the people they victimize.
The mayor is part of a larger political problem. In our system elected officials have little incentive to fight for their constituents against the police state. There is no City Council member or state legislator who risks losing his or her office by genuflecting to the NYPD. In fact, they risk their positions if they are seen as opposing the established order that makes black people the victims of brutality. The number of black politicians who spoke out strongly when Eric Garner was killed may be counted on just one hand. The number who felt compelled to give condolences to the two officers was much larger.
No one knows exactly how many Americans are killed by police, but reliable estimates by concerned groups and individuals indicate approximately 1,000 deaths every year. We should keep that number in mind when we are told that other nations violate their citizens’ human rights.
If the police can cut the number of arrests they make by 66% because they are feuding with the mayor, they can do it again. If New Yorkers don’t feel afraid despite the work stoppage, perhaps we can begin asking serious questions about why and indeed if we need the police force that we have. For once we may owe the police a bit of gratitude.