Jazz already wrote the definitive take on the grisly execution-style shooting of two New York City police officers and the role that irresponsible commentary from elected leaders – particularly Mayor Bill de Blasio – might have played in that attack.
Jazz is right to question the part that the mayor’s self-indulgent and unhelpful rhetoric might have played in this incident. Hours after a Staten Island grand jury’s decision to issue no-bill for the death of Eric Garner, de Blasio went on an ill-advised tear in which he impeached the NYPD based solely on his prejudices.
“That should never have to be said,” the mayor said of the protesters’ rallying cry, “black lives matter,” Though he conceded that it raises a question which “our history, sadly, requires.”
The mayor went on to indict the police force over which he presides when he confessed that his family had taken steps to ensure that his mixed-race son does not antagonize the trigger-happy city cop. “We’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers,” he said.
De Blasio added that his fear for his son’s life is a concern shared by millions of city residents. “Is my child safe?” he asked, channeling these millions. “And not just from some of the painful realities — crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods — but are they safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors?”
It was a speech more expected of a public advocate, the office de Blasio held just prior to moving into Gracie Mansion, rather than the mayor of America’s largest city on the eve of crisis.
While it is appropriate to question what role rhetoric played in this shooting, it is probably not a course in which conservative should become overly invested. In the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), the left and the press engaged in frenzied speculation about how the tea party had likely inspired the attack.
They were wrong and reckless, and hindsight demonstrates how clearly those accusations were founded only in the left’s political distaste for the tea party. Similarly, conservatives’ dislike for liberal elected officials may end up coloring the dissection of their unhelpful rhetoric.
It is, however, perfectly appropriate for the right to demand an accounting from the left for their one-sided attacks on the culture of law enforcement in the wake of the shooting death of Ferguson teen Michael Brown. What began as a constructive conversation about foresightedness of local police forces deploying soft-skinned armored personnel carriers to disperse peaceful demonstrators has careened into self-reinforcing and insular discourse in the media about reining in the American cop. As is always the case, the “conversation” died, and the absolutists have taken over.
Some on the left appear concerned that their preferred “conversation,” one that more resembles the lecture about racial disparities in the criminal justice system which has been ongoing virtually unbroken since 1994, could evolve into something they can no longer so easily control.
“The deaths of those two officers should be mourned. Justice should be brought,” political commentator and Morehouse College African-American studies professor Marc Lamont Hill wrote. “But let’s not get confused or distracted from the big picture.”
“Yes, ‘all lives matter,’” he added, “But BLACK LIVES are the ones called into question on legal, cultural, psychological, [and] epistemological levels.”
What is the basis for insisting that there is no “big picture” to be examined in the execution of two NYPD officers? The danger that the police face are always present, and the shooting of officers in the line of duty is tragically not uncommon. A police officer was shot and killed while investigating a suspect in Tampa just hours ago. What happened to these two NYPD officers is entirely different, and if it temporarily derails our precious “national conversation,” in which liberals display and demand fealty to shibboleths, it is the very least that America owes these public servants and their loved ones.
Moreover, the conversation that conservatives are demanding might actually be a productive one. The New York City police union gave up on their mayor long ago, not merely because of the adversarial rhetorical signals he has been sending but because of his actions in office.
“For six years, Rachel Noerdlinger, who serves as chief of staff to first lady Chirlane McCray, has been living with boyfriend Hassaun McFarlane,” The New York Post reported in September. “While McCray, accompanied by Noerdlinger, enjoys attending high-level NYPD CompStat meetings, her top aide’s boyfriend has plenty of serious crime stats of his own — a rap sheet that includes homicide, conspiring to run a cocaine operation, and nearly running a cop off the road in Edgewater, NJ, last year in an incident that was later pleaded down to disorderly conduct.”
Rather than condemn McFarlane and his social media posts calling police “pigs,” the de Blasio administration went on the defensive and insisted that they would never even consider letting Noerdlinger go from her post.
The police in America’s quintessential metropolis have lost all faith in their commander, and that’s dangerous. God forbid we have a “conversation” about that disturbingly suboptimal condition. It might distract from the endless array of familiar grievances Americans are treated to ad nauseam about police conduct.
Just as there was in the wake of the frustrating grand jury decision in the Garner case, there is an opportunity in this horrible period to engage in a clarifying dialogue. Let’s hope the least helpful voices among us take the next few days off while responsible actors engage in it.