With tensions continuing to rise between police and certain communities they’re hired and trained to protect, nowhere is this trend seemingly more pronounced than in New York. In fact, the tensions are so bad after the tragic killings of two NYPD officers, that police unions are encouraging their members to engage in unofficial “work stoppages” or a reduction in arrests and ticketing for “minor” offenses.
There’s a political opening here for police unions to take advantage of as they attempt to squeeze New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for pay raises and other concessions during ongoing contract negotiations. One can make the argument that union outrage and “bloody hands” condemnations are really about bitter contract disputes that had plagued the mayor’s relationship with his police department for quite some time.
Still, ThinkProgress’ Kira Lerner and Igor Volsky think the work stoppage directive from unions is kind of cute in a must read piece entitled “How Low Income New Yorkers Are Benefiting From The NYPD’s Work Stoppage:”
Although it’s not the intended goal of the work stoppage, the decline in arrests could save New Yorkers money. The city residents who are normally hit with tickets for minor violations tend to be low income individuals who are forced to pay up a hefty portion of their paychecks.
That’s a cogent argument: excessive punishment of low-income communities as a slick way to plug police department deficits can contribute to overall distrust and resentment of law enforcement. Just ask Ferguson, Missouri about that. And it gets worse when the communities are much poorer and are faced with an unsustainable fee-a-day model that burns holes in limited household budgets.
But active work stoppages, however, add a whole new ugly dimension to the dispute and could create a slippery slope towards bad police practices in New York City and beyond. That ventures into a future no one would want and no one benefits from: a scenario where distressed and underserved communities are left to fend for themselves once police departments consider “quality of life” crimes as too much hassle and not worth the headache. Is that where we’re headed? A world where police, who already know the dangers and risks of their profession, suddenly want to skip out or provide lower levels of service because they feel under-appreciated and targeted? Not sure if it’s a good idea to get comfortable with that.
Anyone who grew up in a working class urban neighborhood can tell you how minor offenses and “broken windows” can quickly add up into crime-ridden nightmares for the residents. Policy makers should figure out a approach that’s less punitive on folks who can’t afford it. But allowing the dramatic slashing of local police presence out of police fear and arrogance is an insane proposition. Maybe it’s time to simply identify and work through a balanced broken window approach rather than eliminating it completely out of political considerations.