Dermot Shea called it the end of New York City’s long-standing stop and frisk policy. On Monday, he reassigned 600 plainclothes officers to new jobs, closing the door on what’s been a very controversial period for the New York Police Department.
What police do always has been and always will be controversial. There are indeed times when the men and women committed to protecting and serving deserve that criticism, and other times when they don’t. While many aspects of law enforcement need to change, there are other facets that seemingly get forgotten in the rush to evolution.
One aspect we can never forget is that each member of law enforcement — from civilians to patrolman to detectives to the administration — put their lives on the line for each of us every day. They face danger so we don’t have to, and we sleep well at night thanks to their hard work and dedication.
Many have paid the ultimate price. Last year, 48 officers were killed as a result of what the FBI describes as “felonious acts.” Each one of these officers lost their right to live, ripped away from their families and friends who loved them most. We can never bring them back, and we should never forget them.
But in that same period, police shot and killed 1,003 people, according to an ongoing study by The Washington Post. New York accounted for just 23 of those deaths, compared to 108 in Texas, 135 in California, and 64 in Florida.
But 1,000 people? It’s hard to tell if this is bad compared to other countries because other countries don’t uniformly collect such data. In fact, states don’t uniformly collect such data. The Post’s figures are compiled by poring through thousands of various news reports.
Ultimately, that’s a huge stumbling block on the path to reform. If we can’t identify where issues exist, how can we ever expect to address them?
State lawmakers are on the right track. Gov. Cuomo has signed a number of bills into law requiring, among other things, new reporting in how police interact with the public. That includes reporting any weapon discharges within six hours, and requiring police departments and courts to track all arrest data, and include details like race and ethnicity.
But it can’t stop there. A police officer’s good name is sullied by a bad cop. Yet, it seems cops are more likely to defend abhorrent behavior than call it out.
When two Buffalo police officers were arrested for pushing an elderly protester to the ground and severely injuring him, dozens of fellow officers lined up outside the courthouse to greet those officers — charged with felony assault — with applause.
That’s disgusting, and good cops are forced to swallow those feelings out of fear of angering those who have lost their perspective of law and order.
No more. If good cops don’t want to be grouped with bad cops, then they must open their mouths and call out these atrocities.
It shouldn’t be “us versus them.” But it will be as long as good cops feel they have the right to remain silent.