The Policing Crisis in New York City

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses media while accepting 250,000 face masks donated to city health workers by the United Nations to help with the coronavirus outbreak at U.N. Headquarters in New York City, March 28, 2020. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The city is sinking into lawlessness, and the mayor blathers on about ‘sensitivity.’


n Tuesday afternoon in Manhattan, cops carried out a routine arrest of an 18-year-old New York activist who is suspected of disabling police cameras by spraying paint on them. The person is suspected of this for very good reason: There are videos starring the perpetrator carrying out the act in question. (Allegedly.) The arresting officers were plainclothes members of the NYPD. The video of the arrest, in which plainclothes officers and uniformed police using bikes as barriers efficiently collar the subject, went “viral,” meaning it became attractive to stupid people who evidently have never seen Serpico or The Wire and insisted this was a “kidnapping” carried out by “stormtroopers,” presumably acting at the behest of Darth Trumper.

Plainclothes officers, in vehicles, are an essential crime-fighting tool and have been deployed for a very long time. Even a lintbrain such as Mayor Bill de Blasio, or Governor Andrew Cuomo, knows this. Yet what did they both do? Explain to the public how policing works? Of course not. They both denounced the police.

Cuomo was especially obtuse, calling the cops’ actions “outrageous,” because when you’re governor of New York, you’re at a remove from municipal police activity. But de Blasio should know better than to react as he did, which was to mewl support for the leftist street agitators of whom the arrestee was one. De Blasio has been badly burned before for issuing various no-confidence votes in the police force[yet he called the arrest “insensitive,” adding that “we’re in a particular historical moment where there has to be sensitivity where folks are understandably worried about what they’re seeing coming out of Washington about the defense of democratic rights.”

Huh? This wasn’t a federal bust. “Washington” had nothing to do with it. De Blasio can’t pin this on Trump. It was his own police force. Moreover, what is a “sensitive” arrest supposed to look like? Cops descended stealthily because they thought the suspect would run away if marked police cars were deployed.

But if de Blasio had acknowledged that municipal police are allowed to make plainclothes arrests, he might have been led down the path of logic to recall that federal officers are allowed to do the same, which means the similar Portland arrests, by federal officials, were also a nothingburger, and Trump’s administration isn’t breaking any norms in this area. And being on the Trump administration’s side of anything, especially far-left activism and rioting, is anathema to de Blasio. “We’ve seen the chaos the secret police are creating in Portland,” de Blasio tweeted with his typical idiocy on July 20. “We won’t let it happen here.”

The tangible effects of de Blasio’s approach are everywhere. De Blasio has a vision for the city, and the cops are determined to let it be realized. At Broadway and 40th Street, junkies are shooting up in plain sight, in daytime. (Around the corner from where Rent used to dazzle Giuliani-era tourists by painting a picture of shambolic life in pre-Giuliani New York). The police shrug. In a protest at City Hall park, one activist smacked a New York Post reporter in the face with a two-by-four in view of police, and the police initially yawned, making an arrest only after the Post ran a story about the matter. Compared with last year, homicides are up 24 percent, burglary is up 46 percent, and shootings are up a breathtaking 69 percent. New Yorkers sense the city, already reeling from the virus and the economic effects of the lockdown, is sinking into lawlessness. De Blasio’s answer has been not to make amends with the police but to send crime counselors out into the street to advise people not to do bad things. Step forward, “violence interrupters.” I’m sure such “community groups” will talk the thugs out of shooting babies in their strollers.

With police already jumpy about getting engulfed by angry mobs, Molotov-cocktail attacks, and having their vehicles set on fire in even the toniest neighborhoods, they see de Blasio’s policy actions and public comments as gratuitous insults. Police unions have been buying full-page ads in the Post blasting de Blasio’s disastrous leadership, and one such union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, has taken to ripping de Blasio in social media. Cops are lining up to hand in their retirement papers.

The city’s two big moves to placate protesters after the death of George Floyd have been to cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget and to ban “chokeholds,” which turned out to mean banning a variety of arrest techniques including placing a knee on a suspect’s back. Cop leaders have pointedly explained that in the process of arresting someone, no one can predict exactly how it’s going to unfold. What if officer and suspect go down to the ground in a heap? Can anyone guarantee no officer’s knee will ever touch a suspect’s back? And any arrest might well be photographed by onlookers. The new law is so nonsensical that the district attorneys of both the Bronx and Staten Island have pushed back against it, saying cops obviously should not be charged with a crime for accidentally kneeling on someone’s back during a lawful arrest. Assistant Police Chief Kathleen O’Reilly went so far as to say, “Chief, but we can’t put our people in harm’s way unnecessarily,” defending police reluctance to make difficult arrests given the new law. Her superior, Chief of Department Terence Monahan, essentially replied that police should continue as usual because he had secured promises from the five city DAs not to prosecute cops in such an incident.

How can police be sure of that, especially in such a politically charged environment? The law needs to be rewritten or repealed, if de Blasio wants to get a handle on crime in the city. It’s more likely that de Blasio will continue to antagonize the cops, and everyone who lives or works in the city will have to deal with the fallout. Police “are tired,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said on June 22. “They are stressed. And right now they feel unappreciated.” How could it be otherwise given the leadership of New York City?

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