Monday, 27 August 2012

So shoot me

“They sit and they pontificate and they complain, but they don’t do anything”.

That’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg ragging on the American Civil Liberties Union after the New York chapter sued the city’s cops over ‘stop-and-frisk’ (the program that permits police to harass black and Latino males with impunity). It’s a pity no one took the time to parse this peculiar outburst or ask the mayor what he was expecting the ACLU to do instead of exercising oversight of those who wield deadly force. Join neighborhood watch patrols? Form vigilante squads? Sew super-hero outfits and wear them to parades? The ACLU doesn’t want to replace the police force, but it does think policing can and should be done without violating the Constitution—what an odd notion.

Bloomberg was contrasting the ACLU’s annoying criticism with the brave actions of our rough-and-ready police force, which has distinguished itself this week in two shooting incidents. Unfortunately, the danger to the public in both cases may have been multiplied by the NYPD’s eager use of the collective trigger finger. The mayor is certainly right in these cases: when it comes to guys roaming the streets with weapons, our cops cannot be accused of idleness. When something happens, they sure don’t just sit back and pontificate; they take out their guns and fire away.

The famous case is, of course, the Empire State Building shooting in which a disgruntled ex-employee went up to his former boss and whacked him right in the street. According to reports, the police were alerted to the perpetrator, followed him and mowed him down when he drew his gun on them. Nine bystanders were injured by police bullets or shrapnel.

No one in his right mind would expect the cops to let this guy continue on his deadly rampage. But the fact that no one was killed or paralyzed by the NYPD fusillade was a lucky accident. It would be interesting to see a detailed report on how the officers reacted on the scene and whether all that shooting was needed. But with Bloomberg’s mentality dominating our terror-obsessed city, even raising the question will be denounced as disloyal meddling. The next group of bystanders may not be so lucky.

The other shooting incident was the Aug. 11 felling of a mentally deranged man waving a knife around in Times Square. Clearly, public safety was threatened. Then again, was it enhanced by a phalanx of officers firing 12 bullets into the guy? Maybe so, but it would be nice to have some cool-headed, external auditors looking at these two incidents and getting an unemotional hearing from the city fathers and the top cops.

That’s not likely, however, because Bloomberg also likes to say that he and the cops ‘have to get it right 100 percent of the time’. By that, he means that no violent plots can be allowed to hatch, even if it means a few innocent people get the short end, their mosques snooped at, their telephones tapped, their kids patted down and sometimes (accidentally!) killed. He also means—and says—that his critics are whiny jerks who don’t know the score. So don’t expect questions about how and when the cops decide to shoot.

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