Policing the Police

There is quite a mess brewing in New York City between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD. First there was the death of Eric Garner after a confrontation with the police over selling untaxed cigarettes. This was a more ambiguous situation than the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in that Mr. Garner had not physically attacked the police officers attempting to arrest him. He was resisting arrest, however, and the grand jury declined to issue indictments against any of the officers involved, probably reasoning that they had not intended to harm Mr. Garner and were only restraining him. Naturally, there were protests in New York, over this and Mayor de Blasio, who had run on a platform of restraining certain police procedures considered objectionable, seemed to side with the protesters, even after they were heard chanting that they wanted dead cops, and two cops were indeed killed. Many officers of the NYPD, especially the president of their union, Patrick Lynch, have come to believe that Mayor de Blasio is against them and they have been pointedly showing disrespect for the mayor and refusing to write tickets. As I said, a mess.

It is foolish and dangerous to take a blindly anti-cop position. The police have a difficult and often dangerous job that is necessary to maintain law and order. Those protesters may have cause to regret their wish for dead cops if they find themselves in the sort of anarchy that might result if the police decide not to do their jobs anymore. A police officer sometimes has to take action quickly on the basis of limited and conflicting information. For this reason, it is wise to be careful about second guessing an officer’s actions in a given situation. It is easy enough to state that he should have done this or that in the comfort of your own home. The officer may not have had the leisure to carefully examine the situation and ponder the best course to take. He must decide quickly if a situation warrants the use of force and he may well pay for a mistake with his life. It is for this reason that grand juries give the police a lot of slack.

At the same time, it is also foolish and dangerous to take a blindly pro-cop position. The police are not angels but human beings and subject to all the follies and iniquities as any other group of human beings. Great power is given to the police in order for them to do their jobs. If a violent suspect resists arrest, a police officer can use deadly force to prevent him from harming the officer or any civilians in the area. Being human, any police officer will be tempted to abuse his power and authority. We must be careful not to let that happen. The police must not be above the law. They must not have a license to kill or to steal. The police must not be worse than the criminals. An officer who abuses his power must be held accountable.

This is why I cannot altogether approve of the actions of the officers of the NYPD. It is gratifying to watch the progressive de Blasio founder as he discovers that his socialist ideology doesn’t work all that well when trying to run a great city, but there are larger issues here. Some have suggested that de Blasio should resign because he has lost the confidence of the NYPD. De Blasio was elected mayor in a fair and free election, as far as I know. This decision by the people of New York City may have been an unfortunate one, but it was their decision to make. The police department does not exercise a veto over the people’s choice, nor can they effectively go on strike by refusing to enforce the law. I can understand their frustration but the public’s safety must be the first priority, even if members of the public are not particularly grateful for the service rendered. I am afraid that the shows of disrespect for the mayor will only make it more difficult for the police and the mayor to resolve their differences and work together to run New York City. For his part, Mayor de Blasio needs to make some effort to show that he understands the difficulties that the average patrolman faces on the job. He has to somehow assure the NYPD that he can be trusted to stand up for them when things get tough. At the very least, he ought not to publicly associate with rabble rousers and criminals like Al Sharpton ( I will not call that scoundrel Reverend)  and he really shouldn’t make public statements implying that his biracial son is in danger from the police because of his race.

Calming a turbulent city is a task that will require tactful and patient leadership on every side. Too bad New York City doesn’t have that just now.


2013 Election

I ought to have written this earlier this week but I have been busy and more than a little tired. 2013 was an off year election so there wasn’t much to really talk about except for a couple of interesting elections. First there was the New Jersey gubernatorial election. Chris Christie won re-election easily with 60.4% of the vote against his opponent Barbara Buono who had only 38.1%. This was expected. Christie seems to have been an effective governor and has remained popular in New Jersey.The Democrats did not spend much money  in New Jersey, believing her candidacy to be a lost cause.

In Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe barely won the gubernatorial election with 47.7% of the vote verses Republican Ken Cuccinelli with 45.3%. This contest has been seen as a sign that the Tea Party has peaked and that only moderate Republicans have a chance to win in 2014 and 2016. I am not so sure. McAuliffe won, but by only a narrow margin. Obviously a large number of Virginians did not think that Cuccinelli was too conservative or extreme. Mark Levin believes that Cuccinelli could have won the race if he had gotten more support from the Republican Party at the national level. He could be right. It is increasingly obvious that the Republican establishment would prefer a Democrat to win rather than a Tea Party Republican. Conservatives who actually mean what they say about a small, limited government might disturb the cozy relationship they have with the Democrats.

I would also note that the Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis got 6.5% of the vote. If just half of the people who voted Libertarian voted for Cuccinelli, then he would have won. No doubt those Libertarians are congratulating themselves on not compromising by voting for the Republican, but the big government Democrat will be the next governor of Virginia. This is why a vote for the Libertarian Party is not just a wasted vote but is actually a vote for the Democrats. American politics is simply not set up for a third party and any vote for a third party turns out to be a vote for your ideological opponent.

I do not believe that the key to a Republican victory in the next elections is running “moderate” candidates. The problem here is that “moderate” candidates are usually the wishy-washy candidates who either don’t believe in anything, except getting elected, or are too cowardly to stand up for what they believe. Christie is not, in fact, all that moderate, except on social issues. Many conservatives suspect him because he has said nice things about Obama, but on fiscal matters, he seems to be quite conservative. More importantly, he does not shy away from confrontations. A Republican candidate for any office who is honest about his beliefs and willing to stand up for them, regardless of the inevitable hostility from the media, can and will win. Its these candidates who feel they need to apologize for being conservative that lose.

Finally, in New York City, Democrat Bill de Blasio won a landslide 73.3% vote to become the next mayor. This is unfortunate. de Blasio seems to be very liberal, even verging on Marxist judging from his support for the Nicaraguan Sandinistas back in the 1980s. His election may result in the undoing of all the work his two immediate predecessors have done in turning New York into a livable city. At the very least the class warfare rhetoric will encourage business to locate elsewhere and it seems likely that he will hobble the NYPD. Well, the New Yorkers wanted him. They will get what they deserve.