The New York Times Sept. 13, under the headline, "How New York's Police Unions Embraced Trump," published an extensive article focusing on how the Police Benevolent Association, after more than three decades without a presidential endorsement, decided to give its backing to the incumbent.
After stating that PBA President Pat Lynch said he made the decision "because city and state leaders had been relentlessly scapegoating hard-working police officers and allowing chaos to reign on the streets," the piece argued that another motive should be considered. "Even as the Police Department has become more diverse and is now less than half white, the unions continue to be run mostly by white conservatives who live in the suburbs and increasingly echo the president's views."
It sounded plausible enough. But if that were the overriding factor, then why wouldn't Mr. Lynch and his largely white executive board have taken the plunge for Mr. Trump four years earlier, or for Mitt Romney in 2012 or John McCain in 2008 against Barack Obama? Or in George W. Bush's runs for the White House in 2004 and 2000, the year after Mr. Lynch was first elected to head the nation's largest police union? Back then, the PBA board was even whiter, and its membership was still majority white.
The piece, by a reporter who does not cover the NYPD, went on to state, "Like President Trump, Mr. Lynch and his colleagues have chosen to characterize the current round of protests not as a moment of historical reckoning over systemic racism, but instead as one of chaos sowed by the 'radical left.'"
It shouldn't be surprising that cops have a different perspective than the protesters, having been on the receiving end of violence that in addition to physical attacks by some at the gatherings included the torching of numerous NYPD vehicles. They have also been trying to thwart looters who did extensive damage in at least three boroughs, which probably didn't strike them as one of the finer "moments of historical reckoning" so much as mindless destruction, at least some by largely-white anarchists.
The piece then stated, "As they have done for years, the union leaders have set themselves against the momentum for change. They have fought a city law that made it a misdemeanor for police officers to use chokeholds during arrests, and tried to stop a state law that makes officers' disciplinary records public."
That sentence, by omission, highlights the fundamental flaw of the article. The unions fought the repeal of Section 50-a of the State Civil Rights Law that barred disciplinary records' disclosure. They also opposed criminalizing chokeholds, but not vociferously, mirroring the position of top NYPD officials who did not consider that too onerous a change.
What really bothered the PBA and other police unions, as well as commanders including Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, was a piece of the chokehold law prohibiting any maneuver by cops that "restricts the flow of air or blood by compressing the windpipe, diaphragm or the carotid arteries." All those officials said the possibility of criminal charges being brought for violations would have a chilling effect on officers trying to effect arrests, since it would be difficult to do so without contact with the diaphragm.
Yet the piece never mentioned an issue that figures to cause far more problems for cops—regardless of their race or skin color—than criminalizing of chokeholds, which were already banned by the NYPD, something that led to the firing a year ago of Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo for using one that contributed to the death of Eric Garner in 2014.
There are plenty of reasons—as we've previously noted—to question why Mr. Lynch's disaffection with the state and city Democratic political establishments ran so deep as to endorse a man who bends the law to his own purposes rather than respecting it. But to theorize that skin color and ideology motivated the choice, without even mentioning a more-compelling and clear-cut reason to take that step, falls somewhere between curious and oblivious.
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