Police officers appear suddenly reluctant to police, according to a new report in the Post showing significant drops in low-level crime arrests over the past few weeks. This—when coupled with recent cop behavior that includes turning their backs on Mayor de Blasio at the funeral of slain NYPD officer Rafael Ramos and booing the mayor at an NYPD graduation ceremony yesterday—doesn't do much to make the already contentious department look good, particularly in the wake of a tragedy that has elicited widespread sympathy for the NYPD.
According to the Post, overall arrests were 66 percent lower last week than they were a year prior, with traffic tickets and low-level offense summonses plummeting by 94 percent. There were only 587 traffic violation citations issued last week, and 300 summonses for violations like public urination, as compared with 10,067 traffic citations and 4,832 low-level summonses in 2013.
Earlier this week, police sources told the tabloid some cops were letting minor crimes slide following the execution-style shootings of officers Ramos and Wenjian Liu earlier this month. "I’m not writing any summonses. Do you think I’m going to stand there so someone can shoot me or hit me in the head with an ax?" one cop told the paper. Cops are also deploying more than one patrol car to 911 calls in the name of safety, following a number of threats made against police officers following Ramos and Liu's deaths.
This apparent slowdown follows an alleged memo from the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association calling for cops to cut back on arrests, though the PBA has denied issuing such a directive. It also aligns with an ever-widening rift between the NYPD and the mayor, with many cops—and, certainly, PBA mouthpiece Pat Lynch—blaming de Blasio for murders committed by a reportedly crazed gang member from out of town. "Guys are on edge," one police supervisor told the Daily News. "They're still angry at the mayor and they're not about to do anything they don't absolutely have to do."
So, now some police officers feel they no longer need to perform the jobs for which they are paid, just as some police officers feel they no longer need to respect the elected official to whom they report. The Times Editorial Board addressed this in an op-ed today, arguing that the NYPD's apparent collective temper tantrum is "squandering the department’s credibility, defacing its reputation, shredding its hard-earned respect" during a period that would be better spent reminding New Yorkers of the day-to-day dangers cops face.
The Times isn't alone in censuring cops for behavior better befitting a playpen full of cranky toddlers: The New Yorker ran a piece decrying the NYPD's turned backs and arguing that frustrations felt by cops and protestors alike "would be better expressed by moving toward people—the officers’ families, the communities they live in, even the Mayor—rather than showing their backs."
Of course, a police force is necessary to maintain order, as the Wall Street Journal so helpfully points out in its editorial today. Police work is dangerous and often thankless, and in this world, there are good cops, there are bad cops, and there are cops who fall somewhere in between. It is true that de Blasio didn't come out swinging in favor of a grand jury's decision not to indict the cop who killed Eric Garner this summer, and that's a problem in the eyes of many in the NYPD and beyond. In today's polarized political climate, he could either side with those outraged by the jury's decision or offer blind support for a police force that increasingly reveals a dire need for reform. De Blasio tried to show respect for police while also demanding that they do their jobs better, and that's exactly the sort of nuanced stand that, these days, gets drowned out by the noise from extremists on both sides. Oh well, maybe 2015 will be more reasonable.