NYPD Union Chief Shoots the Messenger

NYPD Union Chief Shoots the Messenger

For a police department demonstrated to systematically profile citizens based on the color of their skin, New York City’s police union sure has thin skin. For years, the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy has targeted people of color to an exponentially greater degree than whites. It was ruled unconstitutional in federal court, necessitating reform.

Against that backdrop, NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner with an illegal chokehold. Ruled a homicide by the coroner, the killing was essentially in response to Garner protesting officers for profiling him. Before gasping “I can’t breathe,” over and over, his final words were,

“Get away [garbled] … for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. Why would you…? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me (garbled) Selling cigarettes. I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. Please please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me.”

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, replied to the killing,

“[U]nfortunately Mr. Garner made a choice that day to resist arrest.”

Garner’s objection to being arrested cannot justify the illegal chokehold that killed him. It is profoundly authoritarian to levy “resisting arrest” as the sole charge that resulted in an unarmed man’s death. Yet, under Lynch, the police union is as guilty of resisting protest as Garner was of resisting arrest.

His reaction to the shooting deaths of two NYPD officers by a deranged man was to blame protesters,

“There’s blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the streets under the guise of protest to try to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. We tried to warn, it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated.”

Coming from a representative of government officers, the idea that protest is “a guise” for “violence” is deeply unconstitutional. This statement is an attempt to suppress protest against police. The nascent “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” protest movement against the failure to indict Pantaleo is the inevitable result of “broken windows” policing run amok in New York City. It demonstrates that reform of NYPD should have started a long time ago. But, under Lynch, the police union’s official attitude is that protesters have ‘blood on their hands,’ that protesting police is the same as killing police. There is an implied threat to the black community behind that statement: you think stop-and-frisk was bad before? Protesting collective punishment will be met with greater collective punishment.

Lynch’s statement resists the federal court’s ruling that NYPD needs to be reformed post-haste. It is a declaration of hostility toward the protesters who peacefully carry the same message as the court. Lynch implicitly declares hostility not only to the constitutional necessity to reform the police, but even more chillingly, to the constitutionally protected freedom of speech. He implicitly warns protesters to stay home or expect to be treated as a violent criminal. This is shooting the messenger. This is not the justice of a community police department. This is the justice of an occupying force.

Lynch also trained his fire on Mayor Bill de Blasio,

“That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the Mayor.”

The Democratic Mayor, who campaigned on the promise of reforming police, is persona non grata at the police union. What began essentially as a labor dispute, became political, and has turned into all-out war. Lynch’s blitzkrieg is causing collateral damage city-wide and attracting the attention of prominent New York Republicans who are piling on de Blasio.

The Mayor unfortunately asked protesters to stop protesting until after the funerals. This may seem reasonable, but it cravenly succumbs to Lynch’s lie that the protests are equivalent to violent crime. It accepts Lynch’s conceit that the protesters just need to shush. It demonstrates that no one in New York City has the guts to stand up to Lynch’s thuggish rhetoric. The increasingly malevolent Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is managing to silence its critics and dismantle efforts at reforming its unconstitutional approach to policing black communities.

Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.

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Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App