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The Real Outrage

December 19, 2011

By Heather Mac Donald

Does anyone besides the cops care about black victims of crime?

According to a bill recently introduced in Albany, heroic Police Officer Peter Figoski, killed last week responding to a robbery, wasn’t fit to serve the city. Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, the bill’s author, would ban anyone who lives outside the five boroughs from starting a career with the NYPD. Figoski, a 22-year decorated veteran of the department, lived in Suffolk County — for Jeffries, a place of apparent ignominy whose residents are less likely “to understand our community.”

Figoski’s distinguished career resoundingly refutes such thinly veiled racial profiling: Up to the very moment that he gave his life, he courageously protected the residents of one of New York’s poorest and most crime-filled precincts.

The idea of a residency requirement periodically surfaces in response to racially tinged controversies. This time, the trigger was the discovery on Facebook of hostile comments by NYPD officers about the West Indian American Day Parade. The affair provides a window into the painful realities of inner-city policing.

A Facebook group that described itself as NYPD officers “forced to be victims themselves by the violence of the West Indian Day massacre” used contemptuous language to refer to the shootings and stabbings that have plagued the parade over the last decade. “Welcome to . . . Liberal NYC,” ran one post, “where if the cops sneeze too loud they get investigated for excessive force but the ’civilians’ can run around like savages and there are no repercussions.” Said another: “They can keep the forced overtime,” because the safety of officers comes “before the animals.” One writer suggested: “Let them kill each other.”

Predictably, politicians jumped to condemn the Facebook page, which The New York Times had highlighted on its front page. “Disgusting,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “Reprehensible,” chimed in Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president. Brooklyn beep Marty Markowitz deemed the comments “racist.”

Indeed, if the comments were aimed at the entire West Indian or black community, they were ugly and totally unacceptable. But the hyperventilating pols never addressed an obvious question: How exactly should one refer to someone who, from atop a parade float, shoots into a group of spectators and kills one, as happened in 2003?

Let’s review the recent history of violence at the parade. This September, in the predawn celebrations, known as J’ouvert, that open the event, one man was fatally shot, crowds were sprayed with gunfire and several people were stabbed. A 6 a.m. shooting at a McDonald’s triggered a stampede. The police repeatedly had to break up mobs that formed after the gunfire.

According to a bill recently introduced in Albany, heroic Police Officer Peter Figoski, killed last week responding to a robbery, wasn’t fit to serve the city. Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, the bill’s author, would ban anyone who lives outside the five boroughs from starting a career with the NYPD. Figoski, a 22-year decorated veteran of the department, lived in Suffolk County — for Jeffries, a place of apparent ignominy whose residents are less likely “to understand our community.”

Figoski’s distinguished career resoundingly refutes such thinly veiled racial profiling: Up to the very moment that he gave his life, he courageously protected the residents of one of New York’s poorest and most crime-filled precincts.

The idea of a residency requirement periodically surfaces in response to racially tinged controversies. This time, the trigger was the discovery on Facebook of hostile comments by NYPD officers about the West Indian American Day Parade. The affair provides a window into the painful realities of inner-city policing.

A Facebook group that described itself as NYPD officers “forced to be victims themselves by the violence of the West Indian Day massacre” used contemptuous language to refer to the shootings and stabbings that have plagued the parade over the last decade. “Welcome to . . . Liberal NYC,” ran one post, “where if the cops sneeze too loud they get investigated for excessive force but the ’civilians’ can run around like savages and there are no repercussions.” Said another: “They can keep the forced overtime,” because the safety of officers comes “before the animals.” One writer suggested: “Let them kill each other.”

Predictably, politicians jumped to condemn the Facebook page, which The New York Times had highlighted on its front page. “Disgusting,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “Reprehensible,” chimed in Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president. Brooklyn beep Marty Markowitz deemed the comments “racist.”

Indeed, if the comments were aimed at the entire West Indian or black community, they were ugly and totally unacceptable. But the hyperventilating pols never addressed an obvious question: How exactly should one refer to someone who, from atop a parade float, shoots into a group of spectators and kills one, as happened in 2003?

Let’s review the recent history of violence at the parade. This September, in the predawn celebrations, known as J’ouvert, that open the event, one man was fatally shot, crowds were sprayed with gunfire and several people were stabbed. A 6 a.m. shooting at a McDonald’s triggered a stampede. The police repeatedly had to break up mobs that formed after the gunfire.

Several of the Facebook posts commented on that mob behavior: “We were widely outnumbered. It was an eerie feeling knowing we could be overrun at any moment.” And: “Why is everyone calling this a parade? It’s a scheduled riot.”

Later that day, a shootout near the parade route killed its intended victim and a 55-year-old mother standing nearby; the two officers who responded were also shot. Police also arrested someone in the parade vicinity who shot off several rounds without hitting anyone. In addition, officers removed 15 guns from spectators.

Past parade violence includes a man shot in the leg in 2007, another leg shooting and a stabbing in 2006, a man shot to death in 2005 and in 2003 (besides the fatal shooting from the float) a stabbing in the neck.

To the extent that the Facebook posts were directed at the perpetrators of such violence (as they obviously were), why were they inappropriate? And why did none of the outraged pols have a word to say about the lethal violence that gave rise to those comments?

The mentality evidenced in the posts is going to be hard to dislodge so long as two facts hold true: the extreme racial disparities in crime rates and the impression officers often have that they are the only ones who care about the black victims of black crime.

Nearly every day, the police experience a reality that is kept assiduously out of public awareness: the overwhelming disproportion in crime. In 2009, for example, blacks, who are 23 percent of the city’s population, committed 80 percent of all shootings, according to reports filed by the victims and witnesses. Whites, who are 35 percent of the population, committed 1.4 percent of all shootings.

It only adds to officers’ frustration when some residents of poor neighborhoods seem to deliberately thwart their efforts to get criminals off the street — whether by blocking an officer’s hot pursuit of a perp or by refusing to provide evidence that would solve a crime.

The priorities in the courtroom don’t help. Last month, a jury acquitted a man who’d been carrying a gun during the 2010 J’ouvert celebrations because, in essence, his arresting officer was a member of that NYPD Facebook group. (That officer happened to be black, a fact not disclosed in the Times’ coverage.)

We rightly expect the police to live up to the highest standards of behavior, including treating all individuals as individuals. Most officers do. They routinely distinguish the “good people” in the community from the “knuckleheads” who make things miserable for the good people.

By all means, we should condemn police behavior that deviates from that norm of equal treatment. But the unfinished business in improving police-community relations is to lower the black crime rate. Doing so requires the same community stigma against violent behavior as is regularly applied against perceived police misbehavior. Jeffries’ residency bill, which is supported by City Councilwoman Letitia James, Rep. Yvette Clark and other Brooklyn politicians, is a sad irrelevancy to that pressing need.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/the_real_outrage_Qq9eH8H9FKmIEVKMzn0pXL

 

 
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