People To NYPD Commissioner Bratton: #NoRoboCops
June 10, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — Bill Bratton, the embattled NYPD Commissioner who took over after the exit of his embattled predecessor Ray Kelly, rolled out a plan earlier this year to take the NYPD into the future. He wants to create the Strategic Response Group, or SRG.
This elite squad of 350 of New York’s Finest will be equipped with all the latest toys of modern warfare, with more than enough firepower to take on all threats. Their mission – keep New York City safe from the threat of terrorism … and protesters.
In response, the call has gone out over Twitter to oppose the half-man-half-machine unit by using the unifying tag, #NoRoboCops. While Bratton’s “advanced disorder control” model was first made public in January, funding the SRG is now up to Mayor DeBlasio. The upcoming decision has hashtag activists urging the Mayor to deny funding.
With America finally catching on that the militarization of police forces has turned our cops into soldiers, Commissioner Bratton has demanded more and bigger weapons. They are totally necessary to fight the amorphous fear-cloud of terrorism. You don’t like terrorism, do you?
However, only a special kind of idiot would conflate a terror threat with a protest. And Bratton appears to be just that kind of idiot.
“[The Strategic Response Group] is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris,” Mr. Bratton said, referring to the terrorist attacks in India in 2008 and in France [in January], both carried out by small groups of men wielding assault rifles.
In the same breath, Bratton proposed using the SRG both to deal with people exercising their right to free speech, as well as dealing with something like Paris, where terrorists murdered Charlie Hebdo journalists for exercising their right to free speech. It would fit nicely into the old horseshoes and hand-grenades adage, that is, if Americans had a constitutionally protected right to play horseshoes.
Terrorism will always be a difficult political topic. In a hostage situation, how is the NYPD supposed to do its job with a meager $5 billion annual budget and an already-existent arsenal of SWAT teams, tanks, and guns at their disposal? The NYPD currently has military capabilities on par with numerous countries. Past Mayor Michael Bloomberg once crowed that he commanded the seventh biggest army in the world. Let us disavow ourselves of the notion that the NYPD needs even more modern artillery to protect us from the terrorists.
If not the terrorists, what about the protesters shaking the security of New York to its very core? While protesters and terrorists may share the emotion of anger, there is a vast difference in weaponry (and everything else). Terrorists, by definition, have weapons and the intent to violently use them. Protesters, by definition, have grievances and the intent to constitutionally voice them. Lately, in New York, those grievances have mainly been directed at the NYPD for the deaths of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley.
These protests have had a natural tension to them. The NYPD probably isn’t thrilled about large groups of people asking them to stop strangling and shooting people. The protesters probably do not like being strangled and shot. Adding rapid-fire guns to this kind of protest environment only has the potential to create a situation that no one, not the protesters, not the cops, not Bill Bratton, wants. High-powered weaponry only increases the level of tension, on both sides. Cops who perceive a threat, real or imagined, have been known to open fire. If that were to happen, do we really want the cops toting machine guns?
Bratton could have seen the tangible outrage and done some serious departmental soul-searching. He could have implemented reforms to reduce the tragically consistent need to protest. He could have, but he didn’t. He saw those protests and learned a very different lesson. He learned that his cops need bigger guns to keep the protesters in line and out of earshot. With any luck, the guns and tanks that surrounded the protesters last time might deter them from speaking up the next time. Rights are apparently fine as long as they don’t get too loud.
Terrorism is random and will not be deterred by giving machine guns to 350 more cops. However, the next time the NYPD guns down an unarmed kid, those who take to the streets to voice their discontent might be met by robocops. At that point, at least we know that Commissioner Bratton won’t be terrorized by having to listen to the city telling him that he is doing his job poorly. Terrorism is, in fact, a state of mind.
Main image via Flickr/Miguel Vera León