As 16 NYPD officers were arraigned at a Bronx courthouse yesterday to face charges related to the department's massive ticket-fixing probe, around 500 off-duty police officers, including paralyzed NYPD officer Steven McDonald, showed up to voice their support for "professional privilege." According to the Times, the officers shoved away television cameras and jeered at people receiving public assistance at a benefits center across the street. According to the Daily News, some of those assembled shouted "you piece of sh*t!" at prosecutors. Ahh, the sweet sounds of CPR.
While many off-duty officers and PBA members held signs that bore slogans of, "It's a Courtesy Not a Crime," ticket-fixing charges weren't the only ones aired in court: grand larceny, drug charges and unrelated corruption were also found in the probe. Four of the policemen charged helped a man escape assault charges. Flatscreen TV-loving Jose Ramos, who is at the center of the probe and was the only cop charged who remained in jail on $500,000 bond, was caught on a wiretap saying, "I stopped caring about the law a long time ago."
When some Bronx residents, who were waiting in line for government assistance next door, shouted "Fix our tickets!" the officers and supporters responded with a ugly chant of "E.B.T." "To be ridiculing people in the welfare line across the street doesn't endear you to the public eye," an unnamed official said.
"It's hard to see an upside in the way the anger was expressed, especially in Bronx County, where you already have a hard row to hoe in terms of building rapport with the community," a professor of police studies at John Jay College tells the paper. "The Police Department is a very angry work force, and that is something that should concern people, because it translates into hostile interactions with people." Indeed, it's been recently reported that morale in the NYPD is at rock-bottom due to a litany of scandals.
Daily News columnist Joanna Molloy called the incident yesteday "a disgrace," writing that it was "ridiculous" to refer to ticket-fixing as a "courtesy" because "the cops who erased parking tickets did so mostly for their girlfriends, their cousins and their buddies, leaving the rest of us to pay up." She continues: "When 16 cops act as if they are above the law—and 500 more turn up to support them…they ruin it for the rest of the 35,000 cops on the force."
Mayor Bloomberg took the same tact in his radio broadcast on Friday, saying "it's a tiny percentage of the people" who serve in the NYPD that were indicted. Interestingly enough, even that "tiny" group of people got something that even eluded Dominique Strauss-Kahn: they got their perp walk "fixed," and were loaded into black vans, away from the media's lenses.