Opinion

Is Society Emasculating Our Police Departments?

In Manhattan on March 16, in a spot-on example of de-policing, several NYPD police officers walked away from a degenerate collection of hecklers who were using racial and other slurs, taunting the police to fight, and threatening to beat up an officer.

A video of the incident has gone viral and illustrates what the police are forced to endure when they cannot trust their leaders to back them if they become involved in a controversial incident.

The lack of respect shown for law enforcement in this video is astounding. The hecklers know the cops can’t confront this behavior without risking department discipline. It is similar to when our agency took away our ability to pursue auto thieves if the only crime was auto theft. After the policy was implemented, an officer told me about a stolen car he’d located. He said the suspect actually leaned out of the car’s driver’s window, flipped him off, shouted, “you can’t chase us,” and then sped away.

(Credit: Facebook/POW!!skateboards)

Seeing the cops in that video back down emboldens criminals. It also sends shock waves of fear through bystanders who rely on police officers to protect them from those kinds of people.

You can’t see the hecklers in the video, as one among them is apparently shooting the footage. But you can hear several threats and taunts that are hurled at the officers. Here’s a sample of the acerbic crowd’s less than sublime repertoire:

“You felt threatened because he’s black.”

“Get the f**k out of here, bro.”

“You come back here later, piggy.”

“So, take off the badge!”

“I will beat the s**t out of you!”

“Suck my d**k then get the f**k out of here!”

“C**ksuckers!”

“F**king pigs!”

And finally, the oh-so-clever, “Get out of here Jackie Chan” (said to an Asian officer).

Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said, “I spoke to several cops, and they didn’t want to get involved in anything or take any police action because they felt if they did the department would go against them.”

City and police officials bristle at the suggestion that de-policing is occurring in their agencies. They can bristle all they want because de-policing is happening. After reading about this incident, how could it not? Today, cops can lose their jobs over situations just like this.

I know an officer who used no force and said please at least 19 times while trying to get a man to give up the golf club he’d been swinging menacingly. The chief fired her. I know another officer who punched a suspect one time after she’d kicked him in the face, to bring her under control. It worked. The department’s top defensive tactics instructor reviewed the incident and said the officer performed “perfectly.” The chief fired the officer.

When I was in the police academy, our instructors told us not to worry about discipline as long as we did our jobs right and in good faith. Sadly, there are too many examples like those mentioned above that show this is no longer the case.

Often an officer will do exactly as trained, but his or her correct actions will not be deemed “wrong” until after an incident. Because if an incident escalated to violence, of course, it’s the cop’s fault, right? The officer must need more or better training, or the training should be changed, because an officer should never have to use force—ever! Does this sound fair to you? Realistic?

I felt bad for those officers. To watch a group of punks publicly emasculate those cops—NYPD police officers, no less—is embarrassing. But I’m not saying the officers did anything wrong. In fact, considering the anti-cop climate we live in today, they probably did the right thing.

Police work is no longer only about mental and physical survival; now, it’s also about career survival. And that’s exactly what those members of New York’s finest did that day. But don’t we have to worry about the broader ramifications when people feel so free to disrespect and abuse police officers? After all, that thin blue line is thin enough already, isn’t it?

Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including Is There a Problem, Officer? and the upcoming De-Policing: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. He served as a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and as a precinct mountain bike coordinator. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys riding his Harley and hiking and cycling with his wife who is also an English major as well as a retired firefighter.

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