Back during the early 1990’s, as the beleaguered city was reeling from decades’ worth of criminal siege, the New York City Police Department systematically disassembled the myth that crime and disorder were endemic. Block by block, cops wrested back control, and in 2013, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg proudly proclaimed New York America’s “safest big city.”
However, as the old aphorism goes, no good deed goes unpunished. While campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2019, Bloomberg was forced to apologize for the NYPD’s employment of suddenly-controversial “Stop, Question, and Frisk” (SQ&F) practices. The forced backpedal failed to impel his campaign, as the Democrats’ far-left wing had already taken the party hostage. It mattered little that shortly after the height of SQ&F employment in 2011 (685,724), 81 percent of New Yorkers viewed then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly favorably.
The woke brigade arrived that same year when progressive Bill de Blasio won in a landslide with 73.3 percent of the vote. Using his inauguration speech to rail at the NYPD, he lamented a Dickensian “tale of two cities.” His “solution” was disbanding the wildly-successful NYPD anti-crime unit he had once described as “elite” – the plainclothes officers who removed illegal guns from street. This ill-advised pander resulted in shootings increasing a staggering 205 percent. It appears that all the hard-earned gains that began under visionary Commissioner Bill Bratton were to be undone.
In one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the New York City mayoralty, de Blasio, who was also seeking the Democratic presidential nod in 2019, recounted from a Miami debate stage that “[f]or the last 21 years I’ve been raising a black son in America.” De Blasio, whose son is bi-racial, continued that he “had to have very, very serious talks with my son, Dante, about how to protect himself in the streets of our city…including the fact that he has to take special caution because there have been too many tragedies between young men and our police.” No doubt the 36,000 uniformed members of the NYPD were inspired by their leader’s calumny.
The 2020 death of George Floyd, while in Minneapolis police custody, led to a summer of civil unrest. Isolated incidents of police brutality were distorted and mischaracterized as “the norm.” No amount of applied facts, statistics, and context appeared to matter. The die was cast – cops (including the NYPD) were now being painted as “racist” and targeted for the uniform they wore. This has led to an undeniable “war on cops.”
Last year, the FBI reported the highest number, 73, of felonious killings since 1995. Among those murders, 25 were considered to be the result of “unprovoked” attacks – defined as an attack “not prompted by official contact at the time of the incident.” The NYPD in recent memory is no stranger to ambush-style attacks. Last January, Officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora were ambushed and murdered in a Harlem apartment.
In July of 2017, Officer Miosotis Familia was slain by an executioner who shot her in the head while she was seated in her patrol car – eerily similar to the December 2014 assassinations in Brooklyn of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. These incidents deeply impact all of us – especially the law enforcement community. My first partner in the FBI’s Brooklyn-Queens office in 1991 was a former Marine, Stephen Byrne, whose younger brother Edward was murdered on a jailed drug kingpin’s orders, while sitting in his patrol car in 1988.
This type of common valor certainly hasn’t precluded New York City leftists from defunding the police. The Floyd riots imposed a type of moratorium on proactive policing as disorder was allowed to proliferate, criminality surged, and Democrat politicians bailed out rioters. Bail reform in one-party-rule New York State has been an abject failure, ensuring revolving-door recidivism. New York’s city council punished the NYPD in 2020, slashing $ 1 billion dollars from its budget, despite the fact that some of its most crime-plagued communities are inhabited by minorities, and as 81 percent of African-Americans polled by Gallup indicated they want the same or more police presence in their neighborhoods. The NYPD is a majority-minority department and considered one of the “most restrained” as applies to lethal use of force. This is fact.
After spending most of my FBI career working alongside the NYPD, I retired in 2016 and set about to pursue a doctorate in Homeland Security at St. John’s University in Queens. My dissertation is focused on the past two decades of fatal force dispensed by the NYPD. And here where the narrative about police – and the NYPD in particular – runs afoul of the truth. A Biden judicial nominee, Nusrat Choudhury, has erroneously claimed that police kill unarmed black men “every day.” The Skeptic Research Center released findings indicating that over one-half (53.5 percent) of those identifying as “very liberal” believe that over 1,000 unarmed black men were killed by police in 2019. The Washington Post “Fatal Force” database lists the number as twelve.
Even if we accept this aggregation may be incomplete or the numbers underreported, it is worth noting that “unarmed” includes incidents involving violent struggles to avoid apprehension or attempts to disarm an officer. From 2015 – the first year The Post began compiling fatal police shootings data – to date, only one such shooting involved a black man, David Felix, in New York City. Diagnosed with schizophrenia and being sought for questioning about a robbery, he was shot and killed by cops on April 25, 2015 after striking a detective on head with handheld radio.
Noted Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer, Jr. published a 2019 study that determined that racial disparities do not exist in officer-involved-shootings, as relates to raw data or when taking important contextual factors into account – such as disparities in patterns of offending. What ultimately causes this distortion of reality is related to availability heuristic, a mental shortcut that impacts perceptions. The liberal mainstream media’s coverage of police shootings is predictably biased; fatal police shootings of white subjects are not nearly as newsworthy as ones involving person of color. The more we view something, the more we believe in its ubiquity.
Perpetuation of myths about the NYPD ignore its restraint modernization. In 1972, NYPD statistics highlight 994 firearms discharge incidents (which include intentional, unintentional, and unauthorized shootings, and dangerous animal dispatching). By contrast, in 2020, there were only 43 recorded – which represented a 17 percent decrease from 2019 and serves as the second-lowest number of police firearms discharges in NYPD history.
Democrats hold a 56 percent (D) to 26 percent (R) stranglehold on registered voters in New York City. This wide chasm continues to guarantee political control of the world’s greatest city. Since its 1845 establishment, the greatest police department which serves that city has suffered a staggering 1,068 line-of-duty deaths – running into harm’s way to keep New York safe. Maybe the NYPD should question its sacrifice. Better question: Does New York City deserve the NYPD?