You've got union blue-collar workers, and the left that hate them. You've got union blue-collar workers, and the right says that says they can do no wrong. You've got an elected mayor cops (many non-residents) are saying doesn't represent the people of New York City (De-legitimize the mayor -- even though De Blasio got more votes than Bloomberg ever did). And you've a police union that other unions (mine included) do not like and insist is not a real union (de-legitimize the workers' voice). You've got some cops who would love to see crime go up, just to prove their anti-liberal political point. And these same cops aren't working too hard in the name of safety. Even though the worst thing for cop safety would be an increase in crime.
I love it when my head hurts!
And then you've got the Zero Tolerance vs. Broken Windows angle. This is important and will probably get lost in the shuffle. But right now the police are doing exactly what opponents of police (though they would prefer to be known as supporters of police reform...) have been advocating for years: having police do less. Because if you see police as overly aggressive tools (or, more extremely, state-sponsored tools of oppression) who do more harm than good, you welcome a police slowdown. If you think police have little or nothing to do with crime -- and many academics, generally those who hate Broken Windows, still believe this (it all goes back to root causes and society) -- there's no downside to fewer arrests and tickets. (Though I don't want to be too dismissive about fewer arrests and tickets. I'm all for police discretion and more informal enforcement of public order.)
A lot of what the NYPD has been doing the past decade or so is Zero Tolerance: write tickets, stop people, arrest people, no discretion. A lot of what police need to do is Broken Windows: problem solve, identify quality of life issues, reduce public fear, maintain public order, cite and arrest as a last resort.
If you, like me, think police matter, then you want the good without the bad. It's not easy, but it's certainly possible. You want police maintaining public order without stopping people without good causes. You want police discretion without police quotas (also known as "productivity goals"). You actually don't care so much about response time and are more interested in anything that gets police out of cars and dealing with the public -- good people and criminals alike.
So if cops stop making arrests that aren't absolutely necessary. That's fine with me. Arrests should never be a measure of police productivity! But if police stop policing.... well, that would be bad.
From Friedersdorf's piece, here's Scott Shackford from Reason.com:
Well, we can only hope the NYPD unions and de Blasio settle their differences soon so that the police can go back to arresting people for reasons other than "when they have to." The NYPD’s failure to arrest and cite people will also end up costing the city huge amounts of money that it won’t be able to seize from its citizens, which is likely the real point. That’s the "punishment" for the de Blasio administration for not supporting them. One has to wonder if they even understand, or care, that their "work stoppage" is giving police state critics exactly what they want-- less harsh enforcement of the city’s laws.And here is Friedersdorf's take on that:
That's how some policing reformers see it. Others, like me, don't object to strictly enforcing laws against, say, public urination, traffic violations, or illegal parking, but would love it if the NYPD stopped frisking innocents without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion, needlessly escalating encounters with civilians, and (especially) killing unarmed people, goals that are perfectly compatible with data-driven policing that targets actual disorder. Keep squeegee men at bay–and leave innocent black and Hispanic men alone.That last sentence there is good. And Friedersdorf concludes (read the whole thing):
The right should greet [pro-police rallies] with the skepticism they'd typically summon for a rally on behalf of government workers as they seek higher pay, new work rules, and more generous benefits. What's unfolding in New York City is, at its core, a public-employee union using overheated rhetoric and emotional appeals to rile public employees into insubordination. The implied threat to the city's elected leadership and electorate is clear: cede leverage to the police in the course of negotiating labor agreements or risk an armed, organized army rebelling against civilian control. Such tactics would infuriate the right if deployed by any bureaucracy save law enforcement opposing a left-of-center mayor.
It ought to infuriate them now. Instead, too many are permitting themselves to be baited into viewing discord in New York City through the distorting lens of the culture war, so much so that Al Sharpton's name keeps coming up as if he's at the center of all this. Poppycock. Credit savvy police union misdirection. They're turning conservatives into their useful idiots. If the NYPD succeeds in bullying De Blasio into submission, the most likely consequence will be a labor contract that cedes too much to union negotiators, whether unsustainable pensions of the sort that plague local finances all over the U.S., work rules that prevent police commanders from running the department efficiently, or arbitration rules that prevent the worst cops from being fired. Meanwhile, Al Sharpton will be fine no matter what happens. Will the law-and-order right remain blinded by tribalism or grasp the real stakes before it's too late? Look to National Review and City Journal before laying odds.