New York Post
October 6, 2014

 

Cop-bashers’ bogus ‘bad apples’ bull

By Patrick J. Lynch

Photo: Stephen Yang
NYPD cars in Manhattan on September 30.

“Not all cops are bad.”

“The majority of police officers do the job correctly.”

“We shouldn’t let a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch.”

Sound familiar? If you’ve opened a newspaper or turned on the TV over the past three months, you’ve probably encountered a flurry of these statements.

They come from a variety of sources: politicians and activists looking to provide cover for their anti-police agenda; pundits feigning a fair-and-balanced take on the latest controversy; even sympathetic civilians futilely trying to reason with the hordes of cop-bashing commenters online.

The problem with this type of lukewarm “support” for police officers isn’t that it’s insincere, although it frequently is. The problem is that it’s rooted in an absurd logic that plagues law enforcement unlike any other profession in the world.

Proclaiming that “not all cops are bad” implies that rational people might somehow believe the opposite. It lends cop-haters a credibility they don’t deserve.

And it minimizes the dedication and professionalism that police officers display, day in and day out, by implying that it’s the exception rather than the rule.

There are “bad” individuals in every occupation. But when a patient dies on the operating table under dubious circumstances, elected officials don’t rush to reassure the public that not all surgeons are incompetent. If an airline pilot is caught drinking before take-off, TV talking heads don’t remind us that the majority of pilots are sober.

These things go without saying for most professions, but when it comes to police officers, people seem compelled to say them again and again.

Why? Because the repetition allows critics to dismiss the abundant evidence of police officers’ selflessness and courage without disrupting their carefully constructed image of police officers as abusive and out of control.

The cop who rescues a motorist from a burning vehicle, or who collars a gun-toting gang member wanted for murder? He or she is just “one of the good ones,” whose actions aren’t necessarily a reflection of the character of his or her colleagues.

The greatest damage comes when individual police officers are caught in the middle of a chaotic situation that leads to allegations of misconduct. By immediately deploying the “few bad apples” argument, leaders and opinion-makers isolate those officers from their colleagues, from their own past record of service and from the reality that policing is a difficult, dangerous task with outcomes that are sometimes impossible to predict.

As we’ve seen recently, the “bad apple” label is often applied before all the facts are in. Even when a full investigation reveals that an officer’s actions were lawful and appropriate, many continue to demand that the “bad apple” be separated from the rest of the bunch, and the officer’s career winds up being sacrificed for the sake of appearance alone.

For some of our political leaders, the condemnation of the cop on the street is extremely useful, because it excuses them from making tough choices about broader policing policy. We saw this most recently in the debate over the use of stop, question and frisk.

The PBA had warned for years that a single-minded focus on numerical “performance goals” was creating unnecessary friction between police officers and the communities we serve. But when the initial “reforms” to address this friction were handed down by the courts and the City Council, they overwhelmingly shifted the burden onto the NYPD’s rank-and-file.

Punishing police officers in this way does nothing to address the failed policies at the heart of the issue. But it does allow those responsible for setting those policies and enacting those laws to score a few points with police detractors.

This is why, when the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association speaks out to defend our members against the rising tide of anti-police rhetoric, we won’t plead that “the character of the many should not be judged by the actions of the few.”

Instead, we’ll simply demand that our members be afforded both the same due-process rights as every other American, as well as the recognition they deserve for their success in reducing crime and preventing terror in the world’s most challenging law-enforcement environment.

“Not all cops are bad,” and that should be obvious. But it should be just as obvious that all cops put their lives on the line to protect all New Yorkers — and for that they deserve the public’s support.