As a kid growing up between New York and Los Angeles, I understood what community policing was before it was a catchphrase for police reform. Police officers walked or drove their beat and interacted with the neighborhood kids.
LAPD used to hand out Dodger baseball cards with crime prevention slogans on the back, while NYPD foot patrolmen used to greet us and offer a joke. If you were caught in antisocial or minor criminal behavior, like writing graffiti, shoplifting or loitering on the corner … it was understood that those officers may grab you, put the fear of life in you, then bring you to your parents who would most likely do much worse when the officer told them what you were up to. You learned a lesson, sometimes physically, and hopefully didn't repeat it — without the lifelong scar of a criminal record and a clear understanding on what the role of the police was in the community.
Somewhere over the last 30 years, this all changed. When Mayor David Dinkins ran New York City, he introduced a Citizen Complaint Review Board, which put the careers of NYPD officers in the hands of politically selected civilians who had no law enforcement training. Los Angeles and numerous other cities established similar boards in the 1990s, and the result was a change in policing policies which limited discretion on community interactions, use of force and made arrests mandatory in any occasion where force or pursuit were required. This became a driver in mass incarceration and helped put the community at odds with the law enforcement officers who serve them.
Add the increased oversight on law enforcement that made their public interactions more "robotic" to a slew of mayoral quality of life agendas resulting in the perception of over-enforcement, and those on the frontlines of policing were put in a no-win situation. After all, if law enforcement are being deployed on a myriad of quality of life initiatives, but simultaneously being told not to defend themselves against a litany of abuse and spurious civilian complaints — how is trust going to grow between those officers and the communities they serve?
The erosion of fear of encountering the criminal justice system, combined with the use of police officers for regulatory activities like cigarette tax and COVID-19 closure enforcement has led to intentional attempts by the criminal and protest elements to bait law enforcement officers into physical encounters. This is highlighted in a June 25, 2020 letter sent to fellow union members, in which Lou Turco, President of NYPD Lieutenants' Union, explained how officers are called to respond to minor criminal offenses or quality of life complaints and are eventually entangled in civilian complaints and lawsuits. Turco explains, "Perpetrator(s) is/are now emboldened to combat police officers as a result of a catastrophically created and imposed criminal reform agenda," Turco writes, adding "A so-called "'innocent by-stander' will film the interaction between the officer(s) and the offender(s) and immediately post the video on social media."
What makes this situation continually untenable is the fact that through illicit selective enforcement policies, liberal district attorney offices drop charges on cases where viral videos are involved, decline to prosecute suspects making false allegations against police officers — including those with video evidence — while publicly announcing things like police misconduct tip lines. When these elected prosecutors do this, they further the false narrative that the police are the problem and not the criminal element bringing about the law enforcement encounter in the first place.
In New York, the system is so broken that suspects are advised to file civilian complaints against officer(s), then sue them, as they will not be indemnified by the city because when there is an open Civilian Complaint pending, even if that complaint is false. As a matter of policy, the City of New York, settles the vast majority of these suits and pay claimants without attempting to refute the claim, creating an incentive for criminals to make false allegations against police in America's largest police department.
Adding gasoline to this fire, numerous federal and state lawmakers are drafting legislation to make complaints against law enforcement public, so that these officers can't leave for a better department in a nicer city when they've had enough. While no law enforcement executive wants to have a "problem officer" on their job, one has to recognize the fact that it has been politically and economically expedient for the majority of municipalities to settle lawsuits against law enforcement agencies to keep them out of court. Therefore, if an officer is proactive and works in a high-crime environment, they normally incur spurious complaints and lawsuits during their careers, but may have never had the opportunity to defend themselves against them.
When the personal stakes are so increasingly high for enforcing minor offenses or violations, why should law enforcement officers risk their freedom and livelihood? Local politicians are demanding more and more of law enforcement daily, but shown consideration for the safety, due process and collective bargaining of the officers they meticulously vet, train and employ. The result? Law enforcement officers are leaving the ranks in droves, at a rate too quick to safely replace them.
Even more obvious is the fact that violent crime is skyrocketing in cities where leaders ran on the policies of virtue signaling to groups that believe in the false narrative that law enforcement officers are murderous and racist. The facts are, while there is an incredibly small number of law enforcement that are criminals, most of the criminals that they are arresting on a daily basis are, well … criminals. To pretend that flipping this narrative on its head with no regard to data or the constitutional right of due process is anything short of political would be asinine.
Don't believe me, follow the money. Just this week, New York City intends to cut the NYPD budget by anywhere from $240 million to $1 billion. Philadelphia, despite record high murders this year is defunding their police by $33 million. Meanwhile, both cities have had scandals involving missing or misused funds — both intended to the social agendas that were proposed in the campaigns of their respective mayors.
This begs the question as to the motives of the elected leaders who are sending their law enforcement officers into no-win situations, then politically profiting from their suffering.
A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his two and a half decade career on both sides the criminal justice system. Mannes served in both federal and municipal law enforcement in though the 9/11 attacks, D.C.-area sniper task force, homeland security exercises and natural disasters. Mannes' work in D.C. led to personal encounters with the D.C.'s unlawful personnel actions, unconstitutional gun laws and criminal justice inequalities, which led him to become an advocate for public integrity. Thereafter, Mannes served for nearly nine years as the Director, Office of Investigations for North America's largest medical board, as a Chief Compliance Officer, consultant, expert witness, nonprofit board member and political adviser. Read A. Benjamin Mannes' Reports — More Here.
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