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by Peter Moskos

April 17, 2014

Common Sense from the NYPD (X2!)

I love any memo that instructs police officers to "use discretion and common sense" and the arrest "as a last resort."

This is the type of common sense one would expect from Bratton because jaywalking in NYC is not a "broken window."

It's actually quite poetic. Whoever wrote this should be promoted to editor of Spring-3100!

The second bit of common sense to come out of the NYPD is the decision to give 200 cops in Staten Island naloxone (aka: narcan). This saves the lives of people ODing on heroine. From the Times: "the initiative went straight to the heart of 'what we want to do, save lives.'"

According to the Times, paramedics have saved 42 people on Staten Island this year, and police in one precinct 3 people.

Administering a life-saving drug to people about to die should be a no-brainer, but not much about the war on drugs involves brains. So unless you're a paramedic, saving the life of a addict is considered controversial, even when the alternative is certain death.

When I was a cop, this was an injection (and cops didn't give it). Now it's a nasal spray. From my experience, watching somebody get this drug come back to life is a great spectator sport... but not for the reason you'd think. He or she whose life was saved wakes up really pissed off! It's ha-larious, in a you-had-to-be-there kind of way.


Kyle W said...

How do you feel about the Wong situation? It seems to me like it was his own fault that he got hurt. Even lightening up on how you handle pedestrians, if you write one a citation and they start to walk away, you can't just let them go...

PCM said...

I wasn't there. So it's hard to talk about this specific incident. But I have plenty to say in general...

It is never the fault of an 84-year-old man for getting hurt at the hands of police for something non-criminal and non-violent. Why? Because he's 84.

Yes... different rules apply to people who are 84. And in a wheelchair. And mentally handicapped (just to name three... not group them together). This is common sense.

So you've got an 84-year-old man jaywalking in NYC. How about not giving him a ticket at all? This might not be understand by non-New Yorkers, but jaywalking is OK in NYC. You do it in front of cops. Cops do it. Everybody does it.

You will not get a ticket for jaywalking in NYC. Nor should you. Such is the culture of our city. And it's good.

[Jaywalking may even be good, collectively, for pedestrian safety here. It keeps cars from going too fast because pedestrians walk like the own city, because they do. Individually it can be good for safety to jaywalk when there are no cars coming. If you wait for the walk sign, then cars also get the green light who can and do turn into you. If the choice is between crossing with no cars and waiting for the light and putting myself at great risk, you should always cross when it's safest.]

Last year there were 531 jaywalking tickets issued. For the whole city. For the whole year. That's 531 citations out of 8 gazillion incidents of jaywalking (By comparison there were about 23,000 misdemeanor marijuana arrests.) This year jaywalking tickets were up to 10 a day. So *if* you want to to be one of those 10 lacking-in-common-sense not-living-in-NYC officers who choose to write a jaywalking ticket, don't friggin' pick an 84-year-old man to write up! I guarantee there were a dozen other jaywalkers during that light cycle alone.

Police could also, as they did under Giuliani, simply refuse to summons people for jaywalking (unless somebody jaywalks while flipping the bird or something).

But let's say you do choose, for whatever reason, to write a ticket to an old man. Then you, as a young officer, need to remember you're dealing with an old man. He can be restrained, if absolutely necessary. He should not be pushed to the ground. Why? Because he's 84!

At some point, if push came to shove, because he's 84, he could simply be allowed to walk away. Why? Because he's 84 and we're talking about a the non-offense of jaywalking. Unlike letting some young thug walk away, this old man is not and will not be a threat.

Clearly this was bad policing. I just can't be certain if it happened early in the situation (deciding to ticket an old man), in the middle of the situation, at the end, when things got physical, or all of the above.

Remember this truism: If you are a young guy, you cannot win a fight with an 84-year-old man. Period.

If he wins; you lose. But even if you win, you *still* lose. And a smart cop would never put himself into a situation he couldn't win.

R Johnson said...

The decision to put naloxone in the hands of emergency responders is one that will indeed save lives. It really should be a no-brainer as you say.