Yes the New York police murders are heinous .. but what some officers did to Mayor de Blasio is unacceptable too!

Dec 28th, 2014 | By | Category: In Brief

The recent murders of two New York City policeman by an emotionally challenged young man, who claimed to be making a political protest, are without any shred of doubt altogether appalling and unacceptable.

Such acts are nothing more or less than high crimes, with no redeeming or any other kind of political content in a free and democratic society.

(And one might even argue that the young man who perpetrated the recent unacceptable high crimes of this sort in New York ultimately understood this, and that is why he took his own life after his deed was done.)

At the same time, another fundamental point may seem equally obvious in some quarters. But I feel compelled to at least applaud those who also feel compelled to, very circumspectly, quietly, and utterly nonviolently, raise a protesting eyebrow over the actions of some police officers at yesterday’s funeral of slain New York Police Department officer Rafael Ramos in Queens.

* * * *

I quote from the Associated Press report posted on the CBC News website : “Although mourners inside the church applauded politely as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke, hundreds of officers outside turned their backs on him in a show of disrespect for what they see as his support for anti-police protesters.”

Again, it may go without saying, but I do want to say it myself in this small public space. These  hundreds of officers who turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio are just quite dramatically illustrating what it is about the contemporary culture of police forces in many parts of North America today that worries many of us ordinary middle class citizens, who pay our taxes and play by the rules.

(And just for some perhaps required clarity, I live in Toronto, Canada, where we have had our own comparatively recent experience with police officers shooting and killing a not very threatening young man in highly questionable circumstances. So, for people like me, it is more than just a problem in the USA.)

To try to spell out the crucial point here, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been duly elected by the people of New York City. Those who work for the New York Police Department are ultimately employees of the same tax-paying people. No one elected them as a sign of support for their political opinions. They finally owe some primary loyalty and respect to the mayor. All legitimate armed force in a democracy must finally be accountable to the properly elected officials. That is a key principle of our kind of society.

What those police officers who turned their backs on the mayor — “in a show of disrespect for what they see as his support for anti-police protesters”  —  are saying to me is that they believe they are a law unto themselves. They are not required to respect the constitutional authority of democratically elected officials. In fact, if you push this logic to its ultimate limit, it is virtually illegal to criticize the police and how they may or may not be doing their jobs.

Bill be Blasio and family celebrate his November 2013 election victory at the Park Slope Armory YMCA in Brooklyn : “With 97% of the precincts reporting, de Blasio held a commanding lead of 74% to 24% — the largest margin of victory by a nonincumbent in any mayor’s race in city history.”

My own ultimate bottom line in all this is that I just do not want to live in the kind of society where police officers have this kind of unchecked power. And, like many others I know, I am worried that we are moving a little too close to such a state of the universe, in both the United States and Canada (and, it would seem, in such places as the United Kingdom and France as well — and perhaps many other countries too!). And I am also worried about the bullying and unwillingness to listen to any constructive criticism that seems so prevalent among so many police departments in the dying days of the year 2014.

It may be said that this is the wrong time to make such an argument — in the immediate wake of the Rafael Ramos funeral in Queens. But I think quite the opposite myself. Officer Ramos and his colleague, Officer Wenjian Liu, died in defence of the rights of the people in a free and democratic society.

Everyone who believes in this kind of society owes them an enormous debt. And no one who believes in this kind of society will countenance publicly supported armed forces that show blatant disrespect for the elected officials to whom they are accountable. That is a very disturbing trend — which all self-respecting citizens of democracies everywhere should rightly protest.

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