Police Abuse

Why Bill De Blasio's Comments on Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision Are Full of Shit


De Blasio et al

Here's what Bill de Blasio, New York City's Democratic mayor, said today about the grand jury decision not to indict the cop who put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold:

These goals – of bringing police and community closer together and changing the culture of law enforcement—are why we have introduced so many reforms this year.  It starts at the top with Commissioner Bratton—a strong, proven change agent. We have dramatically reduced the overuse and abuse of stop-and-frisk. We have initiated a comprehensive plan to retrain the entire NYPD to reduce the use of excessive force and to work with the community. We have changed our marijuana policy to reduce low-level arrests, and we have launched a new pilot program for body cameras for officers to improve transparency and accountability.

You can read the rest of his bloviating here. Keep in mind de Blasio is not a community organizer or even a council man, he is the mayor of New York City, the chief executive of the municipal government. In days gone by, you could say the buck "stopped with him."

Bill Bratton, the NYPD commissioner, was also a commissioner during the tenure of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a very different kind of "change agent" than the kind needed to bring about police reforms. As for body cameras—if the NYPD has the resources to deploy plainclothes officers on Staten Island that keep an eye out for loose cigarettes, it surely has the resources to put a body camera on every cop.

More specifically, however, de Blasio has already rejected the kind of reforms that would substantively improve police-community relations—changes that would roll back New York City's nanny state and the laws that bring cops into often contentious interactions with residents, over things like loose, untaxed cigarettes, barbecuing in front of the house, or, yes, possession of a little bit of marijuana.

From my column on de Blasio's comments in the wake of Eric Garner's death:

In a press conference this week New York City's progressive mayor, Democrat Bill de Blasio, insisted the police department would continue to "strictly enforce" such laws as the ones that led to the series of controversial police interactions. "The law is the law," the mayor said. These kinds of laws, however, disproportionately affect the same kind of people—the poor and marginalized—that De Blasio and his ideological fellow-travelers adamantly claim to defend. Absent brutal encounters with police violations of petty laws can lead to thousands of dollars in fines, multiple court appearances, and even jail time. What amounts to a "minor inconvenience" in the eyes of the privileged political class that pushes these laws can have profound negative effects on the lives of normal people. Coupled with the threat of bodily harm or even death during the initial police encounter, such "petty" crimes become anything but for the people the government targets in its enforcement efforts.

At the same press conference, meanwhile, de Blasio's "agent of change," Bratton, insisted New York City residents "correct their behavior" when being approached by cops, explaining that that's what democracy was. 

Reason is your voice in debates about politics, culture, and ideas. Our annual Webathon is underway and your tax-deductible gift will help us fight against big government, crony capitalism, the drug war, and so much more. For details on giving levels and swag, go here now.