If you thought nothing could top Cleveland police union chief Jeff Follmer’s brazen defense of police authority – "the nation needs to realize, when we tell you to do something, do it" – you need to read this story about New York Patrolmen's Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch’s meltdown in the wake of criticism over the NYPD’s killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island.
Because Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t let cops do “what’s right,” Lynch tells his members to use “extreme discretion” when policing “our enemies” – which, in context, sounds like advocating a work slowdown.
“If we won’t get support when we do our jobs, if we’re going to get hurt for doing what’s right, then we’re going to do it the way they want it," he told his members in a meeting last Friday that was secretly recorded, and leaked to Capital New York. "Let me be perfectly clear. We will use extreme discretion in every encounter ...”
“Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies, extreme discretion. The rules are made by them to hurt you. Well now we’ll use those rules to protect us.”
He doesn’t define who the NYPD’s enemies are. He presumes his audience will know.
On the one hand, Lynch’s comments are good news – if police are really going to use “extreme discretion” – or as Lynch says, just follow “the rules” -- that’s what we all want. (A PBA spokesman says that’s exactly what Lynch was advocating: “The message I got was do the job right.")
On the other hand, the histrionic, self-pitying tone of his comments makes clear he’s urging cops to follow a ludicrous interpretation of “the rules” to the detriment of the communities they’re supposed to serve.
Here’s more of his comments.
“There’s a book they make for us where if you carried it with you, you won’t need to go to the gym," Lynch said. "Every time there’s a problem, they tell us what we can’t do. They tell us what we shouldn’t do. They never tell us what we can do. We’re going to take that book, their rules and we’re going to protect ourselves because they won’t. We will do it the way they want us to do it. We will do it with their stupid rules, even the ones that don’t work.”
Just follow the “stupid rules” doesn’t exactly sound like “do the job right.”
Lynch also trashed de Blasio. “He is not running the city of New York. He thinks he’s running a fucking revolution” – and repeated his call for officers to sign an affidavit memorializing their wish that if they’re killed in the line of duty, the mayor should stay away from their wake and funeral.
“If they’re not going to support us when we need ‘em, we’ll embarrass them when we can,” he said.
Lynch is right about one thing: We are seeing a revolution, of sorts – in police officers’ open defiance of civilian oversight. From St. Louis to Cleveland to now New York, cops facing criticism of excessive force, in the wake of the killings of unarmed black men, have responded by escalating the battle, either trying to muzzle their critics or “embarrass them.”
It’s worth remembering that these aren’t police chiefs but union heads making all the ugly noise – but in a way that’s even more depressing. These are guys – they’re all guys, of course – who feel insulated from the political ramifications of their defiance, unaccountable to civilian oversight and beyond criticism. It's some small comfort that presumably, there's a PBA member who disagrees with Lynch enough to leak his offensive comments.
I still think Cleveland’s Follmer wins a prize for instructing Americans on how to deal with police:
How ‘bout this? Listen to police officers’ commands. Listen to what we tell you, and just stop. That eliminates a lot of problems…The nation needs to realize, when we tell you to do something, do it, and if you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and if you’re right, the courts will figure it out.
Now Lynch has instructed police on how to deal with “our enemies.”
This will not end well.