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NYPD fuels fight against mayor by 'striking' on the job

© Kena Betancur, Getty Images / AFP

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2015-01-07

It’s been described as a "strike while getting paid". In a latest move to defy Mayor Bill de Blasio over what they say is a lack of respect in the wake of protests against police, many New York police officers have launched a de-facto strike.

Arrests have been more than halved, summonses for minor crimes have been cut by 92 percent and parking fines are down by the same amount –– meaning some 7,000 people have dodged parking, public drinking and urination fines in the last week alone.

“If you've ever wanted to smoke a blunt while peeing next to a cop car parked in a bike lane, there's never been a better time,” NY-based magazine Gothamist wrote on Monday.

No official NYPD entity has claimed responsibility for the virtual work stoppage, which comes amid a fierce police revolt against Mayor de Blasio, whom they accuse of failing to support the city’s forces during mass protests over the police killings of unarmed men in Ferguson in Missouri and Staten Island, New York.

De Blasio at the time of the protests incensed officers by backing protesters’ claims that the NYPD is racially biased. Speaking of his biracial son, Dante, de Blasio said he advised him to take special precautions in dealing with police, “because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance [sudden movement or reaching for your cellphone] might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of colour”.

Ed Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) police union, described the comments as “really hypocritical and moronic”.

The deaths of NYPD patrol officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on December 20 further fueled the uproar. The two partners were shot in their squad car by a 28-year-old from Baltimore who claimed to be acting in revenge for the police killings. 

The president of another police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), blamed de Blasio directly for their deaths. “There is blood on many hands tonight — those that incited violence on the streets under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York police officers did every day. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor,” Lynch said.

The decision by hundreds of officers to turn their backs on the mayor during the funerals of Ramos and Liu forced a response from de Blasio, who chided the action on Monday as “disrespectful to the families involved, [and] to the people of this city”.

A welcome strike

De Blasio's rebuke failed to dissuade a group of retired officers from pursuing an aerial campaign designed to further embarrass him. Small planes flew across the Hudson River on Tuesday with banners reading: “De Blasio. You Failed All NY’ers. It’s Time. Resign.”

Public opinion is weighed against de Blasio on the issue. A survey released in December showed that 56 percent of New Yorkers disapprove of the way mayor is handling “relations between the police and the community”.

But neither are New Yorkers overwhelmingly sympathetic towards the police. December’s protests against police brutality drew tens of thousands of people; the largest such demonstrations against the NYPD in decades.

Many point out that the current stoppage is handing critics of the force what they have long been seeking –– a less heavy-handed approach to minor crime.

On Monday, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton promised to begin investigating the unofficial strike.

“I will look very specifically, precinct by precinct, tour of duty by tour of duty, sector car by sector car, officer by officer,” Bratton said at a press conference. “And we will deal with it very appropriately if we have to.”

Meanwhile, the city welcomed ever-lower crime rates, with the number of murders at its lowest in recorded history. Overall crime dropped 4.6 percent since de Blasio took office in January 2014.

The NYPD did not respond to FRANCE 24 when questioned about the current drop in arrests and summonses.

 

Date created : 2015-01-07

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