The other day my friend posted on Facebook, “The Cops need to do their jobs and go back to writing summonses!” To which I replied, “Ralph, you’re a NYC cab driver. You beg me for a PBA card every year because you’re always getting pulled over. Why not just enjoy the free ride, while it lasts?”
What my stoner friend Ralph was referring to was the current slowdown by NYC police officers.
This past New Year’s Eve, over a million revelers gathered in Times Square to watch the ball drop and party. Do you know how many summonses were written that night? Zero…not a one. Even I was surprised to hear that, and I was a cop!
It’s an amazing show of unity by the NYPD rank and file who are furious with the Mayor over statements he made following the verdict in the Eric Garner case, and his handling of the protests that soon followed.
Under the Taylor Law, police officers are prohibited from going on strike, otherwise, believe me, they would have.
Morale on the job is at an all time low. The NYPD feels like two decades of crime reduction and significantly lower homicide rates — from over 2,000 murders a year to less than 400 — have all been forgotten. They’re pissed off…and when cops get pissed off at City Hall, they slow everything down. They make fewer arrests and write virtually no summonses. As a result, the City loses millions and millions of dollars.
Back in the day, I was part of two slowdowns. Both were unorganized and neither lasted more than a week. Once the big bosses at One Police Plaza got wind that we weren’t writing tickets and saw the “numbers” dipping, they would order the Commanding Officers of every precinct to take action. Denying vacation days and setting up checkpoints were big motivators in breaking up a slowdown.
Checkpoints were set up using those orange cones to stop traffic in order to check whether the driver was intoxicated, if everyone in the vehicle was wearing a seatbelt, if the driver was a licensed operator, and if there were any suspensions on his/her license — all arrest-able and/or summons-able offenses. Regardless of the weather, every officer was ordered to stand outside until each one had written a summons or made an arrest.
The reason why this current slowdown is so effective is because the job is sticking together. This argument is not about a few percentage points on a raise, these officers are literally fighting for their lives. The murders of P.O. Liu and P.O. Ramos were sad proof that the Mayor’s provocative and dangerous rhetoric made it seem like open season on cops.
Back in the day, I took part in a couple of slowdowns…but nothing like this. Then, our grievances were over percentage points on a contact. Now, it’s about drawing attention to dangerous working conditions.
Yesterday, while driving around the City, I did see several cars get pulled over — a sign that maybe this slowdown is just about over. Lets hope that Mayor de Blasio and PBA President Lynch can mend these broken fences, because the people who suffer during a police slowdown are the people who need first responders the most.
It’s time to get back to rebuilding trust between our communities and the NYPD.