With citywide crime at an all-time low and NY Post op-eds demanding total deference to the NYPD at an all time high, one police union has decided it's a good time for an experiment: What if New Yorkers were incentivized to live out their vigilante power fantasies with cold hard cash? What if Uber... but for street policing?
The exciting new gig, announced by the Sergeants Benevolent Association earlier this week, would offer bystanders $500 for helping assist cops who are struggling to make difficult arrests. State Senator Marty Golden supports the idea, which comes with the added benefit of discouraging people from recording instances of police violence, according to police union president Ed Mullins.
"Far too often we see police officers engaged in violent struggles with perpetrators while members of the public stand by and take videos of the incident with their cell phone cameras,” Mullins said in a statement. "This has got to stop, and hopefully this program will incentivize Good Samaritans to do the right thing."
The right thing, in this case, seems to involve regular citizens thrusting themselves into the most fraught interactions between cops and potential suspects—"violent confrontations with people resisting lawful arrest," as the SBA press release puts it. The $500 reward would be dispensed "in certain instances," though it's not clear how such a decision would be reached.
But there were legal considerations that went into this, apparently. In order to ensure that crowd-sourcing violent arrests doesn't lead to any trouble, State Senator Marty Golden plans to introduce legislation limiting liability for citizens who heed the union's call.
"What we decided to do is a bill.. that protects citizens in any situation where a citizen aids a public servant who's having a difficult time," Golden's Chief of Staff Jerry Kassar told Gothamist. "We're not just shooting from the hip here."
Faced with the prospect of thousands of New Yorkers becoming freelance cops, the department appears to be balking. "The NYPD encourages people to support their cops by calling 911," an NYPD spokesperson said in a statement. "The department doesn’t want to see people put in harm’s way unnecessarily to collect a reward."