EDITORIAL

Accountability matters

Posted

It’s dangerous to be a cop. A dozen cops are injured on average every day within the New York Police Department, according to internal data, with officers facing serious injury more than twice a week.

That’s 4,260 injuries in just 2019 alone, including 21 here in the 50th Precinct. But they are not alone. Every day, 10 people facing arrest are injured by NYPD officers, with the serious injury rate about the same as it is for cops.

Those aren’t the only eye-catching stats. Police use physical force 19 times a day, on average, based on 2019 numbers. They use weapons like stun guns more than three times a day. They fire their gun once a week.

But looking at raw data doesn’t help tell the whole story. How did the officer get hurt? How did someone being arrested end up in the hospital? Did it have to happen? Was there another way it could’ve been handled?

Many cops feel they’ve been targeted unfairly by the Black Lives Matter movement. That they are being judged by the actions of a few, and that we should leave it to the police departments to clean their own house.

We’d be all for that, if police departments actually seemed to be rooting out these bad apples. They can’t understand why the public in general doesn’t believe them — but the answer to that is simple. There is no transparency in the process to deal with what some have described as bad arrests that have resulted in the death of someone — usually someone of color. And seemingly every few weeks or so, we turn on the television and have to learn about another tragic case.

Police need power to enforce the law, and no one is challenging that. But power can never be left unchecked, and we don’t have to tell you, but there’s no one guarding that station.

Wearing body-cameras is not fun. Having a public process to deal with complaints is not fun. Having people film you when you’re conducting an arrest is not fun. Having to share data on who you interact with and arrest — and how those arrests are conducted — is not fun. But it’s how we keep this power in check.

Someone who attended last week’s Blue Lives Matter march down Broadway told a reporter that if someone doesn’t want to be a victim, then they shouldn’t do something wrong.

Police unions have called its officers victims because the public simply wants to hold them accountable. But wouldn’t the same mentality exist? The only way an officer could become a victim of accountability is if he or she did something wrong.

Police are entrusted with power in return for serving and protecting the very people who bestowed it upon them. There is no divine right to that power. That power doesn’t provide immunity to the law, or give authority to violate the basic rights of individuals.

Use of force necessary? Great. Then there should be no problem explaining it — Publicly. Because numbers may not tell whole stories, but context delivered through accountability does.

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