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Holiday Blog Posting: Comment on Police Union Protests Against NYC Mayor

policeEarlier, I read the following editorial posting at the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/30/opinion/police-respect-squandered-in-attacks-on-de-blasio.html?_r=0.

As former counsel to a prominent police union, and as the recipient of an award for my services to police labour efforts, I feel that I need to comment on the recent efforts made by the police unions representing police officers at NYPD.  First, I will reaffirm my extraordinary respect for most police officers:  I have seen first-hand the difficulties of police in both attempting to protect the public, as well as to maintain respect from the public and — as members of unions — the management of police agencies.  There are incredible demands placed upon these women and men.

That being said, and without treading into the recent, serious human rights issues arising from allegations of improper use of force against members of minority communities.  One issue arose from a videotaped death of an innocent black male at the hands of an member of NYPD in Brooklyn.  NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio addressed these issues in sensitive fashion — recognizing the potential abuse of minority rights.  In other words, he did not simply blow the normal horn that is protective of police actions — even bad police actions.

I am extremely troubled by the NYPD police union’s attacks on Mayor DeBlasio — both from a reality-based and a political direction.  First, it is extremely poor politics for the union to attack a mayor who has traditionally been extremely supportive of labour rights.  Effectively, the union has turned against perhaps its strongest government advocate.  Why?  In order to protest DeBlasio’s failure to stand by a cop who — on videotape — appeared to clearly abuse his authority by continuing to pummel, to death, a prone black male?

This then segues into the interrelated second issue — the reality of the situation.  Although there may have been occasions to question some union “PR — public relations” moves, I do not recall my Florida-based police union ever standing up for a member — in the media — who appears to clearly violate the standards for use of force.  Certainly, the union is required to protect its members when they are subject to administrative discipline and/or criminal prosecution.  However, it is unfathomable for a union to publicly attack — viciously and repeatedly — a public official (and one traditionally viewed as a supporter of police union rights and issues) who refuses to simply tow a political line under circumstances where there is nothing to tow.

As a result, the head of the NYPD Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, a branch affiliated with my former client-union, the Florida Police Benevolent Association, has squandered its relationship with both City Hall and the public.  The NYPD PBA has — in the long-term — undermined its strength by choosing to pursue a questionable and dubious public relations strategy.  By doing so, I believe that it has not strengthened the union, but undermined it, its members, and other police unions through the United States.  In the meantime, Mayor DeBlasio should arise from this fight with his honour and political standing well-intact.


2 Comments on This Post
  1. NYT follow-up editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/31/opinion/when-new-york-city-police-walk-off-the-job.html?_r=2

    The Times has issued, in my opinion, another effective condemnation of police reaction to Mayor DeBlasio’s policies and rhetoric. Now, apparently, there appears to be a fair suggestion that police — in protest — are refusing to enforce low-level offenses. Law enforcement refusing to enforce the law after its Mayor calls out unlawful policies and practices …. Unfathomable.

  2. H.M.

    The whole situation is shocking, really. I have never seen such a public display of insubordination, and it’s very concerning. The police are effectively making the point for the concerned members of the public that they are far too comfortable behaving as thugs and bullies and treat their occupation as though they are a gang. Their lack of professionalism given the circumstances is an unconscionable disgrace and as you correctly point out, has undermined their stature with the public.

    If our police forces were to disobey orders or publicly disrespect a prominent elected official, one would hope they would do so for good cause. The fact that they would behave this way, to essentially exercise their right to brutalize and slaughter minorities in the streets
    without question or comment that is not slavishly party-line, is an act of intimidation not only of the elected official in question (or others like him who may ever feel inclined to express public misgivings about horrific human rights abuses on the part of those expected to “serve and protect”) but the entire general public for whom they are purportedly meant to serve.

    With the ever-increasing militarization of the police in North America, these people need to be put in check. A mob mentality combined with the absolute right to use lethal force and penchant for abuse of power is very dangerous, and this egregious act of defiance on their part is a harbinger of worse to come.

    There was an episode of Da Vinci’s City Hall (previously known as Da Vinci’s Inquest – great show) which this situation brings to mind for me. Usually that show was loosely based on true events that happened in Canada, I wonder if something similar has happened here in the past. If it has, I can’t imagine it would be on the scale of the shameful display we are seeing in NYC.


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