Brace yourselves for a weird night. There might be a little extra drama when the ball drops in Times Square, thanks to one of the more confusing political protests in recent memory.
On a night when more than a million potentially lawbreaking, probably tipsy revelers will be crowding the most densely-populated city blocks in America, all eyes will be on the city cops stuck with holiday duty.
Furious at embattled mayor Bill de Blasio, and at what Police Benevolent Association chief Patrick Lynch calls a “hostile anti-police environment in the city,” the local officers are simply refusing to arrest or ticket people for minor offenses – such arrests have dropped off a staggering 94 percent, with overall arrests plunging 66 percent.
If you’re wondering exactly what that means, the Post is reporting that the protesting police have decided to make arrests “only when they have to.” (Let that sink in for a moment. Seriously, take 10 or 15 seconds).
Substantively that mostly means a steep drop-off in parking tickets, but also a major drop in tickets for quality-of-life offenses like carrying open containers of alcohol or public urination.
My first response to this news was confusion. I get why the police are protesting – they’re pissed at Mayor de Blasio, and more on that in a minute – but this sort of “protest” pulls this story out of the standard left-right culture war script it had been following and into surreal territory.
I don’t know any police officer anywhere who would refuse to arrest a truly dangerous criminal as part of a PBA-led political gambit. So the essence of this protest seems now to be about trying to hit de Blasio where it hurts, i.e. in the budget, without actually endangering the public.
So this police protest, unwittingly, is leading to the exposure of the very policies that anger so many different constituencies about modern law-enforcement tactics.
First, it shines a light on the use of police officers to make up for tax shortfalls using ticket and citation revenue. Then there’s the related (and significantly more important) issue of forcing police to make thousands of arrests and issue hundreds of thousands of summonses when they don’t “have to.”
It’s incredibly ironic that the police have chosen to abandon quality-of-life actions like public urination tickets and open-container violations, because it’s precisely these types of interactions that are at the heart of the Broken Windows polices that so infuriate residents of so-called “hot spot” neighborhoods.
In an alternate universe where this pseudo-strike wasn’t the latest sortie in a standard-issue right-versus left political showdown, one could imagine this protest as a progressive or even a libertarian strike, in which police refused to work as backdoor tax-collectors and/or implement Minority Report-style pre-emptive policing policies, which is what a lot of these Broken Windows-type arrests amount to.
But that’s not what’s going on here. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing enlightened about this slowdown, although I’m sure there are thousands of cops who are more than happy to get a break from Broken Windows policing.