WASHINGTON, December 27, 2014 — The murder of two police officers in New York City has focused attention on the anti-police rhetoric which helped create the atmosphere in which these shootings could take place.
The gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, wrote in social media that he intended to kill cops. He was angry about the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who were killed by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri and New York.
New York police believe that Mayor Bill de Blasio helped create an anti-police atmosphere in the city. After two police lieutenants were attacked by protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge, de Blasio described them as having been “allegedly assaulted,” terminology which many police officers found offensive.
There have been other instances in which the mayor’s comments have antagonized the police. Earlier in December, de Blasio spoke to George Stephanopolous of ABC News about his fears for his biracial son.
“It’s different for a white child. And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, ‘Look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don’t move suddenly, don’t reach for your cellphone,’ because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.”
This echoed previous statements the mayor had made, going back to a campaign ad in which he pointed to his Afro-wearing teenage son to explain his opposition to the New York Police Department’s controversial “stop and frisk” tactic, which entailed stopping hundreds of thousands of people a year for “suspicious” activity.
The vast majority of those targeted were nonwhite and innocent of any crime.
de Blasio, the first Democrat to be elected Mayor of New York in 20 years, represents a sharp turn from the close alliance between his predecessors, Rudolf Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, and law enforcement. Recriminations against de Blasio began within hours of the news that officers had been shot as they sat in their patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, and that the gunman had been motivated to kill them as retribution for the deaths of black men at the hands of police.
A video of the arrival of de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton at the hospital where officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos had been taken showed dozens of police officers silently turning their backs.
“There’s blood on many hands,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the largest police union. “Those who incited violence on the street in the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on, it shouldn’t be tolerated. That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.”
Former New York City officials are critical of what they call the “anti-cop” environment created by the White House, activists like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and Mayor de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Holder.
“We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police,” said former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. “They have created an atmosphere of severe, strong, anti-police hatred in certain communities, and for that, they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Former New York Governor George Pataki said that de Blasio and Holder have frequently used divisive “anti-cop rhetoric.” Relations between de Blasio and uniformed police officers have become so strained that “he probably needs an intermediary to go between himself and the unions, maybe a religious leader,” said former New York police commissioner Ray Kelly. “I don’t know how receptive the unions would be.”
Steven Cohen, a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, says, “The mayor needs to understand he’s not an advocate anymore. He’s an executive, and that means he has to act more as the mayor of the entire city than as the leader of a faction that helped him become mayor.”
The fact is that the effort to stir hostility to the police, particularly in minority communities, is both divisive and based on a misunderstanding of reality. This does not mean that there are not occasional missteps by police officers, some of which have a racial element. These should be investigated and prosecuted when appropriate. The larger picture, however, is quite different.
Neither of the police officers killed in New York was white. The officers in the patrol cars of New York City come from 50 countries and speak scores of languages. The Police Department, The New York Times reports, “looks more like the city than ever. In two generations, as the city was becoming ever safer, the Police Department utterly changed its makeup.” Minorities make up the majority of the New York Police Department.
Heather MacDonald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes in City Journal,
“a lie has overtaken significant parts of the country, resulting in growing mass hysteria. That lie holds that the police pose a mortal threat to black Americans — indeed that the police are the greatest threat facing black Americans today … President Obama announced that blacks were right to believe that the criminal-justice system was often stacked against them … Eric Holder escalated a long-running theme of his tenure as U.S. Attorney General — that the police routinely engaged in racial profiling and needed federal intervention to police properly. In an editorial justifying the Ferguson riots, The New York Times claimed that ‘The killing of young black men by police is a common feature of African American life and a source of dread for black parents from coast to coast.'”
In fact, MacDonald points out,
“Police killings of blacks are an extremely rare feature of black life and are a minute fraction of black homicide deaths. The police could end all killings of civilians tomorrow and it would have no effect on the black homicide risk, which comes overwhelmingly from other blacks. In 2013, there were 6,261 black homicide victims in the U.S. — almost all killed by black civilians — resulting in a death risk in inner cities that is ten times higher for blacks than for whites. None of those killings triggered mass protests; they are deemed normal and beneath notice. The police, by contrast, according to published reports, kill roughly 200 blacks a year, most of them armed and dangerous, out of about 40 million police-civilian contacts a year. Blacks are in fact killed by police at a lower rate than their threat to officers would predict. In 2013, blacks made up 42% of all cop-killers whose race was known, even though blacks are only 13% of the nation’s population. The percentage of black suspects killed by the police nationally is 29% lower than the percentage of blacks mortally threatening them.”
Prior to leaving New York to attend a White House summit on policing, Mayor de Blasio told the press that a “scourge” of killings by police is “based not just on decades but centuries of racism.”
After the Staten Island grand jury declined to indict an officer for homicide in Eric Garner’s death, de Blasio declared, “People are saying black lives matter. It should be self-evident, but our history requires us to say ‘black lives matter.’ It was not years of racism, but centuries of racism.”
He said he worries “every night” about the “dangers (his biracial son Dante) may face from “officers who are paid to protect him.”
The mayor seems to misunderstand the reality of today’s New York City. There is no institution more committed to the idea that “black lives matter” than the New York City Police Department. Thousands of black men are alive today who would have been killed years ago had the data-driven policing under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg not brought down the homicide levels of the early 1990s.
The police in New York fatally shot eight people last year, six of them black, all posing a risk to the police, compared with scores of blacks killed by black civilians.
Al Sharpton, who now is pictured standing as a key advisor beside both President Obama and de Blasio, first rose to fame falsely promoting the story that a black teenager, Tawana Brawley, was sexually assaulted by white law enforcement officials. There was not a word of truth to this story.
Sharpton has never stopped his racially divisive agitation. Yet now he is welcome at the White House and at City all. At one New York protest, marchers chanted, “What do we want? Dead cops.” Two public defenders from the Bronx participated in a rap video extolling cop killings. At a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, a group of people tried to throw trash cans onto the heads of officers of the level below them.
Social media are filled with gloating over the deaths of the two New York officers. A student leader and a representative of the Afro-American Studies Department at Brandeis University tweeted that she has “no sympathy for the NYPD officers who were murdered today.”
In Heather MacDonald’s view, “The only good that can come out of this wrenching attack on civilization would be the delegitimation of the lie-based protest movement. Whether this will happen is uncertain … The elites’ investment in black victimology is probably too great to hope for an injection of truth in the dangerously counterfactual discourse about race, crime and policing.”
Historically, contempt for those in uniform who protect us and keep society safe is nothing new. In his poem “Tommy,’ about the poor treatment received by British soldiers — except when “it comes to fightin'” — Rudyard Kipling wrote, almost as if he had contemporary police officers in mind:
O makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken dodgers when they’re goin’ large a big
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red lines of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red lines of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.