The NYPD Officers Who See Racial Bias in the NYPD
In any other context, conservative commentators would jump on a credible report from 24 public employees within a single bureaucracy, all alleging serious, systemic misconduct by rank-and-file workers (enabled or encouraged by lax supervisors). But the Reuters report was all but ignored by right-leaning sites that generally side with the police in the culture wars, as if support for Broken Windows policing and disdain for Al Sharpton somehow requires one to ignore or dismiss allegations of racial bias and a culture of retaliating against whistleblowers. It is myopic to do so given how closely the allegations dovetail with past critiques.
Before Officer Pedro Serrano joined the NYPD he says he was unfairly targeted by its officers. “As a Hispanic walking in the Bronx, I’ve been stopped many times, and it’s not a good feeling,” he told CNN last year. “As an officer, I said I would respect everyone to the best of my abilities. I just want to do the right thing.” After 9 years in uniform, he cited his youthful experience as a motivating factor in his decision to report a superior for ordering him to target “male blacks 14 to 21” for stop-and-frisks. “So what am I supposed to do: Stop every black and Hispanic?” Serrano said in a conversation that he simultaneously recorded on a hidden audio tape. “I have no problem telling you this,” his superior replied. “Male blacks. And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem to tell you this, male blacks 14 to 21.”
It’s on tape.
If a teacher’s union staged a public school walkout or a work slowdown because they felt disrespected by the rhetoric of a politician like Michelle Rhee, conservatives would be apoplectic that they shirked their duties to play politics.
Yet in the course of defending the NYPD, the right is now lending credibility to the notion that harsh but totally nonviolent criticism of public employees makes one partly responsible if they are attacked by a lunatic-as well as the idea that public employees who feel disrespected by elected officials ought to be appeased with an apology. As City Journal takes well-desserved shots at Sharpton, condemns the rare protestors who disgustingly chant for dead cops, and publishes plausible defenses of Broken Windows policing, it would do well to start regarding misbehaving police with as much concern as it routinely marshals for misbehaving teachers, rather than proceeding as if cops are the one category of public employees who can do no wrong, despite ample evidence to the contrary and even as police unions openly intervene to keep the worst cops from being terminated.
Consider the fact that the overwhelming majority of Stop-and-Frisk encounters involve people who’ve committed no crime and are sent on their way without arrest or citation. NYPD defenders are fond of arguing that every statistic about racial disparities in arrests and stops are explained by the fact that blacks tend to live in more dangerous neighborhoods and commit crimes at higher rates. What of the large majority of blacks who are following the law when police mass in their neighborhood? Their liberties seem to be regarded as collateral damage.
In fact, police who mass in the same neighborhood day after day have a heightened responsibility to make sure that their attempt to catch criminals and increase order doesn’t continually violate the rights of innocent residents-the NYPD is, after all, obliged to abide by the 4th Amendment. They make a mockery of “reasonable suspicion” when the people they purportedly suspect are doing no wrong 8 or 9 times out of ten. How many times would you need to be stopped and frisked while doing no wrong to develop resentment of the officers detaining you? NYPD defenders never assign any responsibility for the rift that results to police, even though any community of any race subject to Stop and Frisk would resent it. Imagine how Wall Street bankers would react if subjected to it for a single week.