Officers Turning Their Cheeks
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio lambasted the hundreds of police officers who turned their backs on him outside the funeral of assassinated officer Wenjian Liu in the same defiant spirit displayed outside the funeral of Liu’s partner, Rafael Ramos. On Monday, Hizzoner called this act of silent protest “disrespectful to the people in this city, who in fact honor the work of the NYPD.” Likewise, police Commissioner William J. Bratton berated the back-turned police for their “selfishness.”
Earlier, The New York Times editorialized against police turning their backs as “acts of passive-aggressive contempt and self-pity,” a “petty look-at-us gesture” and a “snarling sense of victimhood.” That’s funny; those are exactly the terms I’d use for many New York and Bay Area police protesters.
Let me posit that there are problems with the attitude of the angriest of New York’s finest. An apparent work slowdown, if it continues, threatens to endanger public safety. After the December shooting of the two officers, police union chief Pat Lynch declared that there is “blood on many hands” and that it “starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.” It’s true de Blasio was overly supportive of protests following the failure to prosecute police after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But the mayor didn’t fire the gun that killed Ramos and Liu; the killer was a madman who later committed suicide.
Here’s where de Blasio went utterly wrong. Ditto The New York Times, which happily lauded “peaceful protests for political reform.” Protesters frequently blocked traffic and transit and thus impeded the right of New Yorkers to go to work. (Remember Rosa Parks and when the ability to go to work freely used to be a civil right?) Outside New York, activists torched Ferguson, Missouri, and trashed businesses in Oakland, California — giving rise to the media phrase “mostly peaceful protests.” The “nonviolent” protesters whom de Blasio and others hailed as the good activists had little respect for those who did not join them. Worse, they’ve served as enablers for the inevitable thug activists.
Seven enlightened spirits assaulted two officers on the Brooklyn Bridge. A rump of activists were caught on tape chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want them? Now.” You cannot say that these protests did not encourage the man who shot Ramos and Liu. He attended an anti-NYPD demonstration and wrote on Instagram that he was about to put “wings on pigs” before the shooting.
Then there are the protesters who have taunted police officers, especially African-American officers. Here’s the worst part: If the police truly were the racist crackers whom protesters suggest they are, only very stupid people would dare challenge them. It is particularly galling to watch anti-police leftists style themselves as if they’re heroes when the latest robbery shooting of two New York cops makes plain which activity — protest or policing — requires the most courage.
In a sense, the officers who turned their backs on de Blasio were continuing their behavior of turning their cheeks when protesters tried to rile them and make them lose self-control.
Some cops are angry that de Blasio warned his biracial son, Dante, about “the dangers he may face” with police. I think that’s realistic. A black kid cannot expect the same benefit of the doubt that a white teen might expect — and that a white kid might or might not find. Activists say they want to have more discussions about race and law enforcement; I’m on board. I don’t know everything about race relations in America. I don’t think de Blasio’s pal Al Sharpton does, either. An actual conversation, rather than a lecture, should be healthy.
Yes, racism persists, but New York isn’t Selma, Alabama, circa 1965. Activists who charge police with brutality are protesting in multiracial cities with diverse departments that believe in community policing. Ramos, 40, was taking classes in the hope of becoming a chaplain. He spoke Spanish when talking basketball with his sons. Liu, 32, the only child of immigrants from China, was drawn to law enforcement after watching the heroism of police during 9/11. It’s impossible to believe they joined law enforcement because they thought “NYPD” equals “racism.”
Email Debra J. Saunders at [email protected].