Pigs Fly And Pat Lynch Isn’t Totally Wrong
October 27, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Whenever the president of the New York City PBA speaks, it’s important to remember that he has a job to do. And contrary to popular belief, if he doesn’t do the job cops demand of him, he could be out on his butt, forced to go back to work if he hasn’t amassed a sufficient dowry from adoring fans.
It’s not that Pat Lynch is stupid. Oh no, not by a long shot. He just says stupid things, but with great forethought, knowing that if gender studies profs can convince college students to neuter themselves in the name of equality, he can certainly persuade the public to be obsequious to his cops.
All policing should be community policing. Police officers and residents work together every day, because it’s the only way to keep the streets safe. Over the past 30 years, though, whenever there has been a need to heal a rift between the police and the public, this basic principle has gotten watchword status.
We face such a rift today, particularly in New York City’s African-American and Hispanic communities, largely because of Police Department policies that inhibit true community policing and set harmful quotas for arrests and other police activities, like “stop, question and frisk.”
What’s fascinating is that Lynch can do what pretty much no other NYPD officer can do: he can openly admit that cops are forced to satisfy quotas, to make numbers, to fulfill the promises of their higher-ups, when it’s all malarky. Sure, the big bosses wrap their community policing solutions in pretty ribbons, because it’s not like the citizens have a clue what it means, or what’s really happening behind the scenes. Spew happy talk and people are happy.
Lynch can spill the beans that would get any other cop a desk in missing persons for the rest of his career.
But Lynch is still Lynch. He’s still got a job to do, and that job is to inform you that his cops are New York’s Finest.
Unfortunately, our elected leaders and the courts have too often ignored these failed management policies, focusing instead on saddling police officers on the street with additional burdens and scrutiny. In doing so, they have advanced the false narrative that New York City police officers are, as a group, bad actors motivated by personal racial prejudice. This narrative has made our jobs far more difficult, and has further damaged the relationship with the New Yorkers we serve.
Cops under court scrutiny? Are your eyes welling up with tears yet? How can they protect and serve, how can they love you long time, when elected leaders and courts are harshing their mellow? So Lynch finally reaches his point:
Now the city is once again calling for community policing as a means of repairing the damage, and once again some officers on the street and community members are skeptical. We have seen similar strategies, such as the Community Patrol Officer Program from the 1980s, tried out and eventually abandoned. In order for the current iteration of community policing to succeed, it must be given the proper staffing resources. It must also treat police officers as professionals and allow them the discretion to effectively carry out the strategy in the real world.
See what he did there? I told you he wasn’t stupid. Forget the adorable name of the tactic (which just recycles old names that have played well with the groundlings). The answer is more
union members cops and letting cops do whatever they please exercise “real world” discretion.
The kicker is that he’s kinda right.
The department may want officers at every precinct community council meeting, participating in pickup basketball games, and stopping by local cookouts. But attending these structured activities goes only so far to address what the community needs. What most New Yorkers want from the police are not photo ops for the department’s social media channels, but for officers to listen and respond to their concerns when they have them.
Officers want to have those types of conversations. They let us resolve some situations without resorting to enforcement action while also learning who the truly bad actors are. It’s not enough for those conversations to happen only at formalized community policing activities.
The brass want to put on a dog and pony show for public consumption. Have happy cop faces at the right events and people will love cops again. Who doesn’t love videos of cops playing basketball with black kids to counter the videos of the same cops shooting the same kids? The brass sees this as a game to be played out for public consumption, since it’s not like the public can see what happens off camera when the cops do good. Or when the cops do bad, but let’s pretend that doesn’t happen.
Create a positive public image by directing cops to be at all the right places for a photo op and the public’s faith in them will once again be restored. But that means that the cops won’t be where they may be needed, at least from the cops’ perspective, to do their heroic crime-fighting job. Not nearly enough crimes occur at photo opportunities to justify fully staffing them.
Unfortunately, like the numerically driven enforcement model, the formal community policing strategy implies that officers cannot be treated as professionals, trusted to exercise proper judgment in any situation without micromanagement. It pressures them to produce documentable “activity,” paralyzes them with bureaucratic second-guessing and threatens to turn “community engagement” into just another box to check.
And then there’s the statistics, used by everybody to prove or disprove what a great job cops are doing. Shockingly, the brass has figured out how to create boxes on forms that make cops look like they’re doing great. The only problem is that everybody but the public and media knows it’s a lie. Lynch gets in his jab at “micromanagement,” the pressure to produce the right kind of numbers to meet the department’s narrative of how great they’re doing.
While Pat Lynch’s dream of people just loving cops again, trusting them, respecting them, dropping when they tell you to kiss concrete, may be nothing more than the usual union message of “cops are cool and you people are the enemy,” his characterization of the scam that the brass is trying to pull off to trick people into believing they’re making cops great again has merit.
No, Pat Lynch hasn’t become a great humanitarian. He still knows who butters his bread. But that doesn’t make him wrong about the department’s efforts to fabricate an image of good policing to soothe the savage breast. And we’re the stupid savages, believing that this time, this time, it’s gonna work.