NYPD act of protest at funeral displays ignorance

Evan Sawires, asst. opinions editor

We all remember Officer Friendly. Throughout our years in elementary school, he/she came in every so often with some pretty solid suggestions on how to survive the streets of Glenview: don’t open the door for strangers when you’re home alone; don’t get in strange vans regardless of the candy you’re offered; stop, drop and roll. These exciting breaks in our regular schedule helped us establish a trusting relationship with the police early on.

Throughout my life, and probably many of ours here at GBS, that trust has been well-placed and my few interactions with cops have been fine. In many communities, there are deep rifts between police departments and the people they should protect. This distrust is incredibly destructive.

On Dec. 20, New York Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot dead in their patrol car by a gunman seeking revenge for mulitple police killings of hundreds of unarmed African Americans throughout the country, according to the New York Times.

Meanwhile, Bill de Blasio, New York Mayor, critiqued the police in his comments regarding one particular non-indictment, that of Eric Garner’s killer. According to CBS News, Garner was a Staten Island man killed by an officer using an illegal chokehold.

They were interacting because Garner was allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes and was resisting arrest, the punishment for which is apparently execution in a split-second decision by one man. The whole thing was caught on video, and Garner audibly said “I can’t breathe” 12 times before passing out. It was ruled a homicide, and there was no indictment.

De Blasio’s comments were controlled. He spoke about his 16-year-old, biracial son, saying that “because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.”

That’s all it took. Claiming these comments were contributing to an anti-police environment in the city, hundreds of cops turned their backs on de Blasio during his remarks at Ramos’s funeral.

“[Cops] were out there doing a difficult job in the middle of the night, protecting the right of those to protest, and the mayor was behind a microphone like this one throwing them under the bus,” spokesman Patrick Lynch said in a press conference.

I understand that the police were defensive at being generalized, but they should have recognized the legitimacy of de Blasio’s comments. Yes, it’s a difficult job. But anyone who has been paying attention can realize there is a history there.

They may be protecting the rights of select groups of protesters, but police in the US have also killed an average of 400 people per year, according to journalistsresource.org. While it’s true that some of those were justified, that’s a huge number. De Blasio has every right to fear for his son’s safety, but instead of acknowledging this, the New York Police Department (NYPD) declared war.

The city’s police commissioner called for politics to be kept out of Ramos’s and Liu’s funerals, but this was never really an option given the deep distrust that already existed between police and civilians. However, there’s something significantly more dangerous about this police “protest” than the protests for a less violent and less racist police force.

Besides intentionally derailing Ramos’s service, these cops did what they do best: turn their backs on criticism. It’s an incredibly worrying display of their moral conviction in their right to kill people. There needs to be dialogue if there is going to be systemic reform, but how can there be discussion when one side claims they’re under attack after any criticism?

I honestly don’t know what the heck we can do to fix this. Most of the GBS community and I speak from a place of privilege when we discuss this, but there has to be recognition of the necessity of change in our police forces, legally and culturally. We have to understand that de Blasio’s comment has a strong foundation, something the NYPD clearly does not in the slightest.