NYPD’s tactic: strike while still getting paid

When police begin to behave as an armed force unaccountable to civilian authority, it presents something of a moment of truth for many conservatives and Republicans who must decide which comes first for them, being pro-police or pro-rule-of-law.

Turning its back on elected and appointed civilian authority, New York’s paid constabulary has unilaterally reduced its writing of traffic tickets and minor summonses by 94 percent [New York Post] The job action hits New York City government in the pocketbook by stopping the lucrative flow of tickets, a tactic that has also been observed in other cities’ police labor disputes [Glenn Reynolds] It comes at a time when the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is angling for higher pay from the city [NYDN on an earlier stage in the tensions], and, even more remarkably, when unions have been pushing a bill that would further insulate cops accused of wrongdoing from city disciplinary authority [E.J. McMahon, New York Post] “It amounts to a public act of extortion by the police,” contends the New York Times in an editorial [via Scott Greenfield, who also comments].

Does the ticketing strike endanger the city public? The answer could be embarrassing for the police unions either way: either it does, in which case the police have put public safety at risk as a bargaining chip, or it does not, which would tend to support Reynolds’ comment that much of “‘law enforcement’ is really just a system designed to squeeze money out of the citizenry.” [Conor Friedersdorf, who argues that conservatives in particular should spot what’s wrong with “an armed, organized army rebelling against civilian control”]

In the past Republicans have tended to give police unions a pass for political reasons, but that may be changing [Lucy Morrow Caldwell, National Review; David Brooks, New York Times; Eleanor Clift, Daily Beast; Coyote] James Taranto at the WSJ recalls how some Wisconsin police refused to enforce the law against occupiers intent on taking down Gov. Scott Walker. Amity Shlaes, whose books include a biography of Calvin Coolidge, recalls Coolidge’s role as governor of Massachusetts in breaking the Boston police strike, which made him a national hero.

Earlier on unions’ role in impeding oversight of excessive-force claims. In 1992, protesting NYPD officers “blocked Brooklyn Bridge, tramped on cars, and assaulted reporters” [New York Times via @nickconfessore] while in 2011 some of their ranks attacked cameramen trying to cover ticket-fixing arraignments. Also from Memory Lane: the time Mayor Bloomberg, in one of his most irresponsible moments, urged police to strike to force policy changes.

A different view: Talking Points Memo hears from a self-described progressive cop in suburban New York. [edited shortly after posting to add new introduction] More: NPR (blue flu, “depolicing”, “rulebook protest”).


  • The job action hits New York City government in the pocketbook by stopping the lucrative flow of tickets

    It also might cut back on the amount of overtime that the city pays to cops.

    And if overtime is affected, I would guess that this will be a very temporary job action.

  • I’ve heard and understand the arguments from some libertarian friends that most of the ticketing was bad news and New Yorkers are better off without it. But the question is a different one, whether the officers should be turning on or off the ticket flow against the orders of their civilian supervisors for perceived advantage. Whatever the right level of ticket-writing, it should not be a question we delegate to PBA president Patrick Lynch and friends, for use as leverage against the city’s taxpayers and voters.

  • Parking tickets (as distinct from towing fees if inflated) are much less resented as a revenue source than moving violations. They are moderate (perhaps twice the amount of a commercial parking garage, no court fees, and no insurance surcharges), predictable, and do not involve a potentially dangerous interaction with a cop. IIRC, Boston MA gets about 25% of its revenue from parking tickets.

  • By including a mention of Governor Coolidge breaking the Boston police strike in a paragraph about Republican sympathies for the police, you’re implying that he acted against a Republican interest group. This, of course, is completely wrong as the Boston police of 1919 were overwhelmingly Democratic, as would be expected from an Irish Catholic dominated group at that time.

  • No such implication was intended. Coolidge is one of the 20th century presidents most admired by committed Republicans, so the episode serves to remind us that a strong stand on this issue was historically popular within the GOP during one of its times of greatest national ascendancy, as opposed to more recently.

  • It is a shame that police union rhetoric suggests that a mayor has an obligation to defend his police officers like a defense attorney. The mayor’s obligation is to defend the rule of law. I mentioned early on the Mr. Garner’s ability to say “I can’t breath” 11 times proves that air was getting into his lungs to be expelled over his vocal chords. But the decisive observation for me was that the ambulance crew did not give Mr. Garner CPR. Thus the police officer did not chock Mr. Garner to death as was asserted by many protesters and CNN pundits. The video of Mr. Garner’s arrest shows a very efficient take down of a very large man who was resisting arrest. Mr. Garner received no baton blows a la Rodney King. The mayor had an obligation to speak against mob rule and tribalism. He failed miserably! Commissioner Bratton talked sense in this matter.

    I wish that the grand jury session transcripts were publicized.

    Put yourself in a pre rule of law community in Africa or Iraq. If an opposing community gets hold of you you are in trouble. I believe that inherent fear leads to blacks resisting cuffing at arrest and makes black parents have that talk with their sons about surviving an encounter with police. For the Mayor of New York to go along with this tribalism is shameful. Same way with our President and AG.

    The rule of law is a great improvement over tribalism – think Iraq, think Pogrom. But as is proven in this blog, rule of law is fragile and has taken a beating recently.

  • William Nuesslein ,

    I hope and pray that you never get in a situation where you cannot get enough air and feel as if you are suffocating. Those who suffer from asthma can still talk and are in danger. People who suffer heart attacks can talk but are in danger because of a lack of air. Furthermore, why would the EMT’s perform CPR as Garner’s heart had not stopped beating?

    The officer may not have been guilty of a crime in his use of a hold that was banned by the NYPD, but he should lose his job over it. That is above and beyond the question of why Garner had to be taken to the ground to begin with.

    I agree with you that both “sides” have behaved as if there is only one resolution – that of vindication for their point of view. The fact of the matter is that there are too many officers that are out of control and power hungry. At the same time, there are too many wanna be lawyers and agitators who aren’t interested in making the situation better, but seeking only to ramp up the tension because they want to be on YouTube or whatever.

    If the police are saying “we aren’t going to issue parking tickets,” they are acting like petulant children. They are being no better than the petulant children who block a road or store and scream when the police try to move them.

    We seem to be living in a nation of whiners and perpetual victims all armed with lawyers.

  • God. There’s nothing to see here. Police unions with the power of the purse punish political opponents. The headline writes itself. The startling thing is that actual grownups let this happen. And further, now they’re complaining about it.

  • @gitarcarver

    My understanding is that arrestees complain a lot while being cuffed or subdued, but I will take that Mr. Garner was under rel duress. That does not overcome the fact that the ambulance crew did not provide CPR, and that says absolutely that the officer did not chock Mr. Garner to death. By CPR I mean any procedure to induce normal breathing.

    The New York City police department was concerned enough about excess deaths that a particularly bright young man was assigned to figuring out some way to get the death rate down. That young man became a professor and testified at the Amadou Diallo trial. He wrote the book on how to police. While the homicide rate for New York City dropped from 2,500 a year under David Dikins to about 500 under Rudy Giuliani, police killings dropped even more percentage wise. So any suggestion that the New York City police department is fascistic is calumny.

    As to some officers being too aggressive is probably so. But the best that can be done is to minimize such officers. The Civilian Review Board and other mechanisms are in place. Commissioner Bratton tells the truth that the New York City Police Department is terrific. In my opinion, the protests against police is simple minded tribalism, equivalent to the acquittal of OJ Simpson.

  • William Nuesslein,

    I am trying to follow your thinking on the CPR and the EMT’s actions. The police call the EMTs which would seem to me that they realized that Garner was in distress. So which is it? Was Garner in distress and in need of medical attention? Or was he not?

    Secondly, the idea that there was not a choke hold used is contrary to the video as well as the coroner’s report which said the choke hold and the compression of Garner’s chest exacerbated other medical conditions.

    There was a choke hold used on Garner which was against NYPD policy. I have read that this was the second time this officer had used the hold against policy. Please explain why he is still employed because I cannot figure it out. If someone in my company does something wrong, gets reprimanded for it and does it again, they no longer have a job. That is on regular actions – not actions like the officer’s who are going to cost the City of New York and taxpayers millions of dollars.

    Citizen review boards are despised by the police and police unions. As we speak a couple hours south of New York, the City of Baltimore is dealing with a fight between the Mayor and City Council who want to increase the influence of the citizen review board and the police department / police union who wants the CRB abolished. As it stands right now, the CRB cannot demand officers appear before it, can only make recommendations and is a toothless paper tiger.

    Even NY City’s CCRB has massive problems with accountability when officers are found to have violated policy or committed what may be considered a crime. For more on this, please read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/30/nypd-accountability_n_5630665.html

    While you may be correct in saying the protests against police are nothing but tribalism, what about the protests by the police? What about their attitude to not enforce the law as the original post indicates? Isn’t that tribalism as well?

    The real problem is that it is always the “other guy” who is wrong and needs to change. Police say that the protesters, the mayor and citizens are wrong. Citizens say the police are wrong. The reality is more in the middle where there are bod cops and bad citizens.

    What we have to do is come up with a better way of getting rid of bad / rogue cops and support those who are good in their daily interactions with people. We have to support people who are harassed by the police for simply not bowing down to the cops and at the same time, tell criminals to get out of communities and have the police arrest them.

    The sad part is that incidents have led to the point where police no longer trust citizens in their communities and citizens no longer trust the police carte’ blanche.

  • Has anyone verified these statistics that show a “virtual work stoppage”? I’m just curious. The New York Post reported it but didn’t substantiate it, and I don’t mean to concern troll here but I haven’t seen any verification of these supposed drops in tickets, arrests, etc. outside the Post. Maybe I missed something.

  • @gitarcarver

    Yes, the police take down occurred before Mr. Garner ran into medical problems. But we must beware the post hoc ergo propter hoc error. There is no reason to believe that the very quick take down of Mr. Garner was fatal in itself. Chock holds used to be used as a matter of course for many years. Almost every person subjected to that technique was OK. The hold was discouraged because there were occasional deaths. But the “chock hold” was a non material part of the arrest. Because the grand jury procedure is under seal and local media have no interest in questioning the mob, we do not know about the fight involving Mr. Garner. Couldn’t the excitement from the fight have contributed to his resistance to arrest?

    There is some tribalism among those who hold that the mayor has to defend one of their own no matter what. But the mayor did the exact opposite when he too readily went along with the mob’s tribalism.

    My tribalism theory explains the strange talk every black parent has with his son. The talk does not stress good citizenship, but stresses instead the problem of being captured by a foreign tribe. That talk would be appropriate if ISIS was the opposing tribe. The New York City police department is not ISIS.

  • Eric Garner´s death was ruled a homicide by the Medical Examiner.

    Pantaleo was and is a loose cannon who should have been assigned to the rubber gun squad pending the outcome of investigation.

  • William Nuesslein,

    You are free to create whatever fiction you want to justify the actions of the police in the Garner death. The fact of the matter is the medical examiner concluded the choke hold and the compression of Garner’s chest led directly to medical complications which caused Garner’s death. The death itself was labeled a homicide, which is defined as “death at the hands of another.”

    We cannot know whether the choke hold alone led the to death of Garner or whether the chest compressions alone led to the death of Garner. We do know the two combined led to his death. The choke hold and the compression of the chest were actions done by the NYPD. The choke hold was against policy because of the exact reason you gave – it lead to the deaths of others.

    Yet Pantaleo (who used the hold) is still on the job. Why is that? How can that possibly be justified?

    It is ludicrous that you only see “some tribalism” in those who defend the police at all costs but see tribalism in those who want the police held accountable for their actions. An example of that “tribalism” you seem to support is here:

    The New York Times notes that, from 2009 to 2013, the Citizen Complaint Review Board (an independent agency tasked with investigating the behavior of NYPD officers) has received 1,022 chokehold claims. Of those, only nine resulted in administrative trials. Former NYPD chief Ray Kelly declined to discipline the cops involved in eight out of those nine cases. The punishment of the last officer was the loss of some vacation days.

    Source: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/07/pantaleo-has-been-accused-of-misconduct-before.html

    It is clear that the police in some cases see themselves as being above the law. When police violate their own policies without repercussions, how can the average citizen have any confidence in them? Why shouldn’t a parent have a talk with their child that in essence says “be careful when the police approach you because they are not only above the law, they are above their own policies?”

    How bad is the “protection” the police demand and receive? In my little town, it is against City Council policies to speak out against the police in a public City Council meeting. You can make comments about your neighbors, services, the beach, etc, but you cannot say anything negative about the police. If you do, you will be removed from the meeting – by a police officer of course.

    You are correct that the police are not ISIS and no one ever claimed they were. Such an argument is a red herring.

    Your claim of “tribalism” may be true, but you seem to dismiss what happened in the Garner case and others. While you are condemning the “tribalism” in others, you are failing to see that the police themselves have contributed to this fiasco, and continue to contribute to it. In short, the police are adding to the “tribalism,” not addressing it.

  • Southern Beale — The NY Post is not alone in its reporting. Here is a Jan. 6 New York Times story saying that “parking and traffic tickets…dropped by more than 90 percent.”