There may be some trouble in paradise, assuming you can find a reason to consider New York City “paradise” these days. The Mayor’s office and the NYPD are raising complaints about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s deployment of the State Police, particularly when it steps on the toes of the city’s police forces. Some of the objections seem to be a bit on the shallow side, however. If there’s anything “wrong” going on here it seems to boil down to a few instances of the state troopers giving out traffic tickets inside the five boroughs. (New York 1, emphasis added)
The head of the Port Authority police union says Governor Andrew Cuomo is treating the state police as his own private army…
On Friday, a New York State trooper pulled over a driver on the West Side Highway. This is not something New Yorkers have been accustomed to seeing, but under Governor Andrew Cuomo, it’s been happening quite a bit lately.
Property on Church Street in Lower Manhattan is being refurbished for a new trooper barracks just blocks from One Police Plaza, meaning troopers are expected to become a more permanent force in the city, and that has rubbed some other law enforcement agencies the wrong way. And they’re making an explosive charge: they think the increased trooper presence is an expansion of Cuomo’s ego.
“It looks like the Praetorian Guard to me,” said Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association.
Something tells me that there’s more than a little hyperbole in some of these statements flying around the New York press. Private army? Praetorian Guard? With a lead like that I was expecting something a lot more juicy. But barring further revelations, this looks more like a turf war on two levels. One is the natural division of labor between the State Police and the various New York City cops, the Port Authority, etc. and the other is between the Mayor and the Governor.
At the lower level there’s always been cooperation between the troopers and the city and village cops in the various municipalities around the state. But the Port Authority representatives are making what’s generally an accurate observation. The State Police are usually deployed in the upstate regions while the city tends to its own law enforcement needs. That’s not to say that the troopers are legally barred from operating in the city, but there’s normally just less of a need. When a new trooper barracks suddenly shows up in Manhattan and they’re patrolling the airport the city cops have to at least wonder what’s going on.
But it might not have gotten to this level of verbal warfare if Governor Cuomo wasn’t feeding into it. Commenting on an incident last year at Kennedy Airport, Cuomo said that the first responders had “panicked” when there was a report of a gun at one of the terminals. That clearly got under their skin. But it’s clear that Cuomo really doesn’t have a problem with the cops. He just doesn’t get along with Mayor Bill de Blasio. Gotham media has been reporting on this for well over a year now. The two simply don’t trust each other and it’s turned into a private war between the two of them over who should control the agenda in the Big Apple on a variety of issues which go well beyond law enforcement.
Of course it didn’t help that both of them were under investigation for potential campaign finance abuses until Preet Bharara was fired earlier this year. These sorts of tensions have the making for a great tell all book if either of them ever wanted to come clean and write one. But in the meantime, there seems to be a bit less to this story than all the headlines would imply.