July 11, 2016: 6:30 p.m.
By MARK TOOR
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch took issue with coming changes in quality-of-life enforcement, saying that they were confusing and that the city was “trying to handcuff us.”
Mr. Lynch made those comments during a June 28 interview with Marcia Kramer of WCBS-TV on legislation recently signed by Mayor de Blasio that would set up a parallel system of civil summonses for infractions such as public urination and violations of park rules.
Advocates of the civil summonses say they will save tens of thousands of New Yorkers from potentially life-scarring contact with the criminal-justice system.
Mr. Lynch, who is not a fan of the new program, told Ms. Kramer, “Not only are they trying to handcuff us, they’re trying to handcuff us to the fence so it’s not going to move at all.” She said he had characterized the new system as “confusing” to officers.
At a press conference July 1 after the graduation ceremony for more than 1,200 new police officers, Mr. de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton responded to a question about Mr. Lynch’s comments by dismissing them—in highly personal terms.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, a long time—45 years—and I think I know what I’m doing,” Mr. Bratton said.
He said the new program “was nothing more than what we’ve been doing with the Transit Adjudication Bureau,” a unit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that handles Notices of Violation given by police officers and transit personnel to riders who break the MTA Rules of Conduct. He had direct experience with the TAB when he was Chief of the Transit Police in the early 1990s, he said.
Training to End Confusion
Regarding the claim that police officers are confused by the new rules, Mr. Bratton said that they don’t take effect for a year and that by then officers will be trained on how to implement them. “If officers at the moment seem to be a little conflicted, it’s appropriate,” he said.
Mr. Bratton also downplayed the existence of quotas, which critics including Mr. Lynch claimed drove quality-of-life policing during the 12-year tenure of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Police Commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly.
Referring to the Chief of Department, the Police Commissioner said, “Jim O’Neill is pushing crime down because he’s moving away from activity for activity’s sake. What we want is precision policing.”
“Precision policing” is Mr. Bratton’s term for focusing enforcement on the few thousand New Yorkers who are involved in violent crime. It’s a change from the Bloomberg-Kelly emphasis on stop-and-frisk, which a Federal Judge in 2013 found to be overused and unconstitutional in the way it was being applied.
‘Still Have Option to Arrest’
He said the civil-summons system is merely another tool for police officers. Referring to public urination as an example, he said, “If in fact that issue were to start increasing, we would have the option to arrest.”
Mr. de Blasio, whose relations with Mr. Lynch are frosty, followed Mr. Bratton’s remarks with, “I’m so used to this pattern of people putting down the work of the NYPD…I’m never surprised when certain critics have to look for something they perceive as being negative even against a backdrop of the NYPD getting better and better…”
He ridiculed “the notion of a police officer who would see an offense and do nothing. I don’t know that kind of police officer…The notion they’re confused and will walk away, that’s a fiction.”
Mr. Lynch responded later on July 1, “Commissioner Bratton should be listening to the police officers who are out on the streets every single day dealing with this troubling decline in the quality of life.”
‘Growing Signs of Disorder’
“If he did, he would hear the same things we heard from our members in our recent survey,” he continued. “Ninety-one percent agree that signs of disorder are growing more prevalent. Ninety-seven percent agree police officers are reluctant to take action for fear of lawsuits or complaints. Eighty-nine percent agree that quotas are still a reality in the NYPD.
“New York City police officers are suffering through a morale crisis the likes of which this city has never seen, all because of the Mayor’s anti-police policies for which Commissioner Bratton provides cover on a daily basis.”
The survey Mr. Lynch referred to was released in March. A quarter of the PBA’s 24,000 members responded, rating NYPD morale at 2.45 on a scale of 10. The PBA described the survey as scientific, but most polling experts say it is more scientific to choose respondents by random sampling rather than accepting answers from whoever wants to submit them.
Ninety-six percent of those who responded said they disapproved of Mr. de Blasio’s job performance.
Garner Case Fallout
Relations between the Mayor and Mr. Lynch chilled in December 2014 after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a police officer whose use of what many believe was a chokehold after Eric Garner refused to be arrested for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes may have contributed to Mr. Garner’s death from a heart attack about an hour later.
Mr. Lynch said Mr. de Blasio had insulted police officers in his comments, responding to the grand jury decision. The Mayor talked about longtime mistrust of police in the black community and his own warnings to his biracial teenage son, Dante, to avoid confrontations with cops.
After Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were assassinated by an ex-convict who referred to the Garner case on social media before killing himself, officers turned their backs on Mr. de Blasio at the hospital to which they were taken. Hundreds of those outside the venues of both funerals repeated the action, then officers staged a two-to-three-week wildcat job action in which they cut back severely on quality-of-life enforcement.
Last fall the PBA was enraged by an arbitrator’s award that gave them the same one-percent-a-year raise for two years that was given to other police unions that accepted Mr. de Blasio’s seven-year contract pattern. And the union was angered by what it believed was an unfair bargaining position taken by the Mayor on an improved disability benefit for newer cops even as his support enabled Firefighters to get similar legislation approved in Albany.