Updated Apr 18, 2016
By MARK TOOR
|PATRICK J. LYNCH: A 'colosssal overreaction.'|
The president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association leaped to the defense April 12 of an officer who was suspended after he was filmed telling a driver he had ticketed to blame Mayor de Blasio.
“Mayor de Blasio wants us to give out summonses, okay? All right?” the officer said, leaning through an open window and resting his arm on the door. “I don’t know if you voted for him or not. I don’t live in the city. I wouldn’t have voted for him because this is what he wants, he wants us to give out summonses.”
Brief Media Sensation
The video can be seen at https://goo.gl/1CG2xg. The original video was posted April 9 but later taken down after attracting widespread local news coverage.
The NYPD said April 12 that the officer, identified as Joseph Spina, 28, had been suspended; the PBA said he returned to duty on modified assignment six days later. The encounter took place in the 46th Precinct in The Bronx.
Mr. Spina wrote tickets for excessive noise and driving without a valid license.
In his statement later on the 12th, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch implied that the officer’s tirade was inspired by Vision Zero, a plan by Mr. de Blasio to eliminate traffic deaths by lowering the speed limit, redesigning dangerous roadways and intersections, and stepping up enforcement.
“Vision Zero is an effort to save lives that boils down to police officers enforcing traffic laws,” he said. “Suspending a police officer for speaking the truth about the reality of Vision Zero is a colossal politically-motivated overreaction by the department. Truth is the ultimate defense and no formal discipline is warranted.
‘Limits Cops’ Discretion’
“Vision Zero limits officers’ discretion to issue warnings and puts further pressure on them to issue summonses, subjecting New Yorkers to expensive summonses that many cannot afford to pay. Vision Zero is a major reason that 89 percent of NYC police officers say that quotas still exist in the NYPD.”
Mayoral spokeswoman Monica Klein defended the policy, saying, “Vision Zero is saving lives. Traffic fatalities are down 22 percent since Vision Zero started, making 2015 the safest year on city streets since record-keeping began.”
In a meeting with the Post editorial board, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said the suspension was justified “by the damage he did to those other 36,000 cops” in the city. He said coverage of the incident around the country focused on Mr. Spina’s “unprofessionalism,” and that’s what the department considered in making the decision.
He also dismissed complaints of unfairness by some officers, who said Mr. Spina lost his paycheck although high-ranking officers targeted by a Federal investigation into allegations that they had accepted diamonds and overseas trips in return for favors to the Hasidic community were simply transferred or placed on modified duty, not suspended.
‘Live Evidence Here’
“We have a video,” he said of the ticketing case. “We have live evidence. There’s no dispute. The criminal investigation is a much more complex animal. It may take us longer to resolve it and ultimately get to a discipline level and whatever that level is, whether it’s criminal indictments, etc..”
The New York Post said that through February of this year, NYPD officers had handed out 181,892 tickets, an increase of more than 20 percent over the same period in 2015 and about the same as in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s final year in office, 2013.