As Ryan noted on Tuesday, data reported by the New York Post seems to indicate that the New York Police Department’s activity has dropped dramatically over the past week or so, following the assassination of two cops in Brooklyn and the growing rift between the department and Mayor de Blasio. Over the week Decemebr 22 to 28, summonses for minor offenses like public urination dropped 94 percent versus the same time the year prior, as did traffic stops — and even issuance of parking violations.
The last data point suggests this is more about a revolt against the mayor than it is about officers’ being skittish in their work — which is exactly the possibility that the Post’s conservative editorial board takes the police to task for today.
Their editorial begins:
New York’s Finest have no bigger booster than The New York Post.
We understand what it must be like for cops to hear protesters calling for “dead cops” or likening police to the KKK. We appreciate how they must feel themselves under siege, especially after the cold-blooded executions of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. . . .
Yet if cops are responding with a work slowdown — as seems the case — they’re making a huge mistake.
[The Post‘s numbers about arrests dropping] come in the wake of police-union leaders saying every call must be answered by at least two cops and no arrests should be made unless absolutely necessary.
This is a highly dangerous game.
To ignore crime — even low-level offenses — only encourages disorder and invites a return to the bad old days. The people of New Yorks have a right to expect their city policed and their laws enforced.
Historian Amity Shlaes offered some similar points this week in an NRO piece on how then–Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge handled the Boston Police strike of 1919. “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime,” Coolidge wrote in a telegraph to respected national labor leader Samuel Gompers. While it’s not clear that’s what the NYPD is doing in effect, the Post’s warning is in effect an updated warning along these lines.
Amity’s take on the right response:
The real problem is that voters who dislike the mayor’s policy are not campaigning to get the mayor to change his position. Instead, news events are allowed to drive policy, with each side desperate to catch the other in a “gotcha” snapshot of killing or wrongdoing. The longer-term damage of letting incidents drive policy is that voters forget that they have power to change the situation. Voters could, for example, call their representatives and take their fight to City Hall. De Blasio might tell these critics that it would be political suicide for him to support anyone but minorities in New York. But again, de Blasio might be wrong in his estimate. He might gain votes that would offset any he lost. And of course, decisions should not merely be about votes.
If voters doubt that Mayor de Blasio will ever change his policy, they should concentrate on electing a new mayor.
Not a short-term solution, of course, but it’s better than a strike.