Are NY police turning their back on crime?

Police protest at funeral Image copyright AP

If you're inclined to park illegally, or jump a red light, or exceed the speed limit, has there ever been a better time to be in New York?

For that matter, you could say the same about being a criminal in New York.

And why? Well, I'm going to give you two statistics that unless you have really good jaw muscles should cause your mouth to spring open.

Since the horrific and brutal murder of two police officers in Brooklyn before Christmas, the number of parking tickets and summonses issued for minor offences has fallen by a staggering (and yes, jaw dropping) 94%; the number of arrests is down by an equally astonishing 66%

Now this could be explained by the fact that criminals woke up one morning in mid-December, rubbed their eyes and decided that from now on they were going straight, pursuing a life of simple virtue.

While New York drivers, instead of choosing between the Lincoln or Holland Tunnel, decided they would take the long road to Damascus, and never speed, never drink/drive, never park illegally again. Yep. That could be one explanation.

Image caption Easy target?

But seriously, let's consider a more likely scenario.

Put crudely it is this - since those two officers were cut down in cold blood, the police who are at war with the mayor, Bill de Blasio, are de facto on a go-slow. The headline in the New York Post is this: "It's not a slowdown - it's a virtual work stoppage"

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has told officers to put their own safety first and not to make arrests "unless absolutely necessary".

The average NYPD cop is apparently incandescent that Mayor de Blasio, in their view, gave succour to opponents of the police by expressing concern following the death by chokehold of Eric Garner.

The police, you will have probably seen on the TV, have not lost an opportunity to turn their back - literally - on the mayor. It happened first when he went to Woodhull hospital on 20 December where the fatally wounded bodies of patrolmen Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu had been taken after the shooting.

If that was a spontaneous outpouring of anger, it looked a lot more rehearsed by the time the funerals came round and the same thing happened again.

So what was it that De Blasio said to provoke such fury? After the grand jury rulings in both the case of Eric Garner and Ferguson shooting victim Michael Brown, he said he would have to warn his mixed race son about the "dangers" posed by cops.

Image copyright AP
Image caption De Blasio and son Dante hug at the mayoral election victory

The police muttered that there was a causal relationship between those comments and the two police officers being murdered.

Wow. That is a big accusation. I guess the acid test for a comment like that is would De Blasio repeat it today given the anger it has provoked. Almost certainly not. It was politically dumb and insensitive to the police. But can he really, honestly be blamed for the deaths of those two patrolmen?

Perhaps though something else is going on here.

The powerful police unions have been simmering with rage ever since Bill de Blasio was elected.

He came to office on a platform of reforming the police; of changing the way they work; of renewing the way they interact with the public.

The police, because they are the ones who are putting themselves in harm's way every day, risking their lives, and in the case of those two Brooklyn patrolmen losing them, believe they know much better than a liberal politician how to keep New York safe.

But Bill de Blasio believes he has something that gives him legitimacy to pursue these reforms - it's called a mandate.

It may not exactly honour the uniform they wear but really who cares if New York cops turn their back on the mayor? And it may not be the most sophisticated of political protests, nor the appropriate place at a funeral, but it has made a point.

But if they're turning their backs on the fight against crime, then that is something else.

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