Patrick Lynch, chairman of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and head spokesbaby for the inconsolable id of the NYPD, gave a private speech to his union last week. Bill de Blasio "is not running the city of New York," he said in response to a series of perceived slights from City Hall. "He thinks he's running a fucking revolution." The raging toddlers in attendance howled and smacked their tiny palms together in approval.
Among the grievances that apparently caused the collective temper tantrum was a statement the mayor released regarding the alleged assault on two NYPD officers in the wake of the Eric Garner non-indictment. The police union presumably had no objection to de Blasio's calling the incident "ugly" and "unacceptable" violence that has "no place whatsoever" in New York, or his warning that the protesters involved should "expect immediate arrest and prosecution." Similarly, the mayor's urging that cops across the city be "commended for the professionalism, dedication and restraint" they've displayed during demonstrations was unlikely to leave any police feeling rankled. No, the union representing New York's finest was enraged by a single innocuous word: allegedly. Said the mayor:
However, an incident today on the Brooklyn Bridge, in which a small group of protestors allegedly assaulted some members of the NYPD, marks an ugly and unacceptable departure from the demonstrations thus far.
"When cops are the accused, the word 'alleged' never enters into the discussion," said Michael Palladino of the Detectives Endowment Association, the union representing NYPD detectives. Ed Mullins, Palladino's counterpart in the Sergeants Benevolent Association, concurred, calling the mayor a "nincompoop" for his word choice.
The outrage was borne of either stupidity or willful ignorance: "alleged," as Mullins should know, is a procedural word that's routinely used to refer to crimes that have not yet been proven in court—incidents, in other words, just like the one on the bridge. As de Blasio said in a follow-up statement: "There will always be due process, so events are alleged until we have all the facts."
We have a word for the kinds of people who are so eager to feel like their sandcastle's been kicked over that they'd turn a statement of aggressive support into an offense worthy of multiple public screaming fits. The word is crybaby, and New York's law enforcement unions—representing beat cops and prison guards on up to detectives and sergeants—are filled with crybabies of the highest order.
Capital New York published excerpts of Lynch's "fucking revolution" speech, which also directed officers to enforce the law "with [City Hall's] stupid rules, even the ones that don't work" and to "use extreme discretion in every encounter." The instructions are a thinly veiled encouragement to cops to make themselves useless by patrolling like rulebook-obsessed pedants: City Hall thinks cops who choke unarmed men and beat up 12-year-olds need to rein themselves in? We'll show them what reined-in really looks like.
The union's response recalls a story about Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. At one point during a 1954 recording session, Davis asked Monk, who was playing in his band, to "lay out"—that is, to stop his famously energetic playing for a few measures to open up the band's sound—and Monk responded just like the police union did: by getting up from his piano entirely while the band was still playing. You want restraint? I'll show you restraint. Monk was a trailblazing, peerless musician, of course, and it's likely that he was also a human being who suffered from bipolar disorder.
Last week's speech in Queens wasn't the first time the police union leadership demonstrated its essential crybabiness in the wake of the Garner unrest. Earlier this month, the PBA's website began displaying the following message urging officers to sign a form barring de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Vivertio from attending their funerals should they be killed in the line of duty:
Dec. 12, 2014—DON'T LET THEM INSULT YOUR SACRIFICE! Download and sign a request that Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito stay away from your funeral in the event that you are killed in the line of duty. Completed forms may be given to your PBA delegate.
In addition to the "alleged" fiasco, the petition was launched in response to a speech de Blasio gave immediately following the grand jury's failure to indict Daniel Pantaleo. It included a moving anecdote about discussing with his son Dante the kinds of interactions he might have with NYPD officers as a young black man, which angered the unions as well: The NYPD, biased against young men of color? Where did the mayor get a crazy idea like that?
To be fair, that particular speech was pretty anti-cop. As well it should have been! A white cop murdered a black man on video and was not punished for it. The NYPD as an institution is demonstrably, categorically racist, and it deserves to be called out publicly for it in the harshest possible terms. Screaming infants are known for a lot of things—sleeping, making weird faces, shitting all over the place—and the ability to soberly reckon with their own flaws is not one of them.
New York cops are virtually unparalleled in their ability to make noise and throw things until they get what they want, but they do have one close contender: New York correction officers. Thanks to some considerable political strongarming from the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, a bill that would give the Queens District Attorney's Office authority over court cases alleging abuse by Rikers Island guards currently sits on Andrew Cuomo's desk awaiting approval. The union believes that the Bronx DA, which currently handles such cases, is too tough on guards—and it was willing to effectively halt the city's entire court system from operating for one whole day last year in retaliation. From the New York Times:
Last year, the same union effectively shut down the court system in the city for a day, an exercise in a different kind of power. Led by Norman Seabrook, the president of the union, correction officers claimed every single bus for transporting prisoners was unfit to drive or could not be moved. What were they up to? Well, the shutdown took place on the day a man being held at Rikers Island was supposed to be delivered to the Bronx courthouse to testify at the trial of two correction officers accused of assaulting him. The prisoner, and 750 other people due in courts throughout the city, were not able to go.
But the idea the Bronx DA is unnecessarily tough on guards—that it's interested in prosecuting correction officers at all, really—is completely farcical. In 2012, Terrence Pendergrass, a former Rikers captain, stood by and did nothing while a mentally ill man died from ingesting poison in his custody. Several other guards brought the inmate's increasingly worrying attention to the captain's attention, but he brushed them off, telling them not to bother him "unless someone is dead." Pendergrass was convicted of a crime last week, but only after the U.S. Department of Justice intervened in his case. Bronx prosecutors previously found that he'd done nothing wrong.
Law enforcement unions in New York have gotten so infantile over the past several weeks that even police officials are distancing themselves: this week, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton called the funeral petition an "unfortunate" "personal attack" on the mayor. If New York cops want the people they supposedly protect and serve to think of them as anything other than squealing, vindictive monsters, they'd do well to follow the top cop's lead.
[Image via AP]