The New York City police officers who turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio at the recent funerals of two slain officers were within their rights — no matter how boorish others (we included) think that behavior. What members of the force aren’t entitled to is not doing the job for which they get paid. In refusing to enforce the law, the police are jeopardizing public safety and undermining any claim they have for respect from the community.
For two weeks in a row, the number of arrests and summonses throughout New York City has plummeted in what appears to be a work slowdown to show rank-and-file displeasure with De Blasio. In a seven-day period that ended Jan. 4, according to the New York Times, the city’s police made 2,401 arrests, down 56 percent from the same week a year ago. During the same week, only 347 criminal summonses were written, compared with 4,077 for the same week last year, and the number of parking and traffic tickets dropped by more than 90 percent.
A similarly sharp drop in arrests and summonses was seen for the week ending Dec. 28. This comes amid the tension between police and City Hall that followed the Dec. 20 slayings of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. Police union officials denied organizing any work action, and Police Commissioner William Bratton said other theories — the holiday season, a dip in 911 calls, the period of mourning for the dead officers — might account for the numbers. “We may see,” Bratton told the Times, “that things begin to return to normal on their own volition.”
We hope that is the case and that the return to normal policing is accompanied by a more responsible discussion of the issues facing police and the communities they serve. Police work is difficult, sometimes thankless and often dangerous, a point tragically underscored by the deaths of officers Ramos and Liu. Nonetheless, there are legitimate concerns — not unique to New York but felt throughout the country — about some aspects of policing, as amplified by recent cases of unarmed black men killed in encounters with the police. These bear scrutiny, and if that scrutiny can lead to useful reform, everyone, police included, should welcome the progress.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST