The greatest, most heart-breaking disservice PBA head Patrick Lynch is doing for the men and women of the NYPD is encouraging them to believe that people like myself, who lobby for reform, hate them, that we’re the enemy. He is robbing them of having a decent and rewarding relationship with the public they serve.
If you see a family member or a friend making a mistake, does it mean you hate them if you point it out? Of course not. If I see one cop behaving badly and I say something about it, it doesn’t suddenly mean I HATE ALL COPS, or even that cop. It means I believe we need a way to address and reform the behavior I just witnessed.
I noticed while researching my book about the NYPD that an enduring complaint about “New York’s Finest” is their absolute dedication to the belief that they are, in fact, the best. “When it is assumed that this is true, then improvements are harder to come by,” the International Association of Chiefs of Police wrote in a study of the New York Police Department in 1967. If you refuse to even consider that there might be a better way to do something, how will you ever get better? Like, give me a break, who is perfect?? Who couldn’t use a little improvement here and there?
Unfortunately, I also noticed again and again the violent reaction from the NYPD to even the most friendly, polite and well-meaning criticism. It is so discouraging. It goes beyond disheartening when someone like PBA head Patrick Lynch not only encourages the police to view all criticism in the worst possible light, he leads them to their recent behavior which will never be looked at as their finest hour. They are better than this.
The relationship between the NYPD and the public is a complicated one. I remember after 9/11, I was standing on the corner of Christopher Street and the highway with tons of other people, and we were all holding up thank you signs and cheering the workers going in and out of the site. We were there every day and night holding up those signs. One night, two young cops came up to me and said, “Excuse me. We couldn’t help noticing that all of you cheer louder when anyone from the FDNY goes by, and not so loudly for us.” It was true. No getting around it. I also noticed we cheered less loudly for the sanitation guys. I spread the word and from then on we made sure all our cheers reached the same decibel level. The thing is, the FDNY have it easier, they only show up to save us. The NYPD is sometimes there to save us, but they also show up sometimes to arrest us, or to tell us not to do something, etc. It’s complicated. No one’s fault.
But it takes a leader of incredible strength and grace to maintain a good relationship in the face of all those potential minefields. Lynch is like a belligerent angry child, determined to keep the battle lines drawn. It’s like he doesn’t even want to think about how to improve the terrible situation we’re in now. This is not the leader the NYPD deserves. They need someone who wants to figure out how to fix the relationship between the police and the public and government. They deserve to feel every bit of respect and appreciation that most people do, in fact, feel for them.
The guy carrying this sign was walking in the street, down 6th Avenue (you can’t see him because he’s blocked by that car). I went to the site, fearing it would be hate-filled, but it wasn’t. I don’t agree with his conclusions, but what I read was reasonably stated.