On December 31, 2014, Matt Taibbi published an article at Rolling Stone titled The NYPD’s ‘Work Stoppage’ Is Surreal. The reason for the “virtual work stoppage”—or slowdown—is the anger that many NYPD officers feel toward the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio.
Furious at embattled mayor Bill de Blasio, and at what Police Benevolent Association chief Patrick Lynch calls a “hostile anti-police environment in the city,” the local officers are simply refusing to arrest or ticket people for minor offenses – such arrests have dropped off a staggering 94 percent, with overall arrests plunging 66 percent.
If you’re wondering exactly what that means, the Post is reporting that the protesting police have decided to make arrests “only when they have to.” (Let that sink in for a moment. Seriously, take 10 or 15 seconds).
Substantively that mostly means a steep drop-off in parking tickets, but also a major drop in tickets for quality-of-life offenses like carrying open containers of alcohol or public urination.
Matt Taibbi on the Police Slowdown in New York City
Taibbi said he didn’t know of any police officer who would “refuse to arrest a truly dangerous criminal as part of a PBA-led political gambit.” He said that—in effect—the police protest appears to be about hitting Mayor de Blasio “where it hurts, i.e. in the budget, without actually endangering the public.” He added that the police slowdown is unwittingly “leading to the exposure of the very policies that anger so many different constituencies about modern law-enforcement tactics.”
Taibbi continued by saying that the slowdown “shines a light on the use of police officers to make up for tax shortfalls using ticket and citation revenue.” He noted the more important issue was that of police officers being required “to make thousands of arrests and issue hundreds of thousands of summonses when they don’t ‘have to.’” Taibbi also pointed out the irony that the police had decided to abandon quality-of-life actions like public urination tickets and open-container violations…” because it was precisely those types of interactions that were “at the heart of the Broken Windows polices” that so infuriated “residents of so-called ‘hot spot’ neighborhoods.”
In an alternate universe where this pseudo-strike wasn’t the latest sortie in a standard-issue right-versus left political showdown, one could imagine this protest as a progressive or even a libertarian strike, in which police refused to work as backdoor tax-collectors and/or implement Minority Report-style pre-emptive policing policies, which is what a lot of these Broken Windows-type arrests amount to.
Jacob Siegel, writing for The Daily Beast, noted that cutting “off low level arrests was supposed to be a bargaining tactic for police officers in New York, but not all of them want the slowdown to end.” Siegel said that the slowdown—which may be coming to an end soon—will be an unhappy moment for some police officers who “never liked making the penny ante collars in the first place.”
Over the past few years, Taibbi said, he had met a number of police officers who “complained vigorously about things like the ‘empty the pad’ policies in some precincts, where officers were/are told by superiors to fill predetermined summons quotas every month.” Taibbi thinks it would be “amazing” if the police protest/slowdown in New York City “somehow brought parties on all sides to a place where we could all agree that policing should just go back to a policy of officers arresting people ‘when they have to.’”
The NYPD’s ‘Work Stoppage’ Is Surreal (Rolling Stone)
The NYPD Slowdown’s Dirty Little Secret (The Daily Beast)