On December 20 in New York City, two police officers were shot and killed while sitting in a police car. Two days later, the PBA, the police organization authorized to collectively bargain with the City on behalf of its members, began an aggressive campaign aimed at the Mayor.
The PBA became angered with New York Mayor de Blasio for comments he had made to his bi-racial son regarding how to conduct himself any time a police officer stopped him. The Mayor is a Caucasian man married to an Afro-American woman.
PBA President Lynch blamed the Mayor for the shooting of the two police officers. He said their blood was on the hands of the Mayor. Lynch claimed the Mayor’s advice to his son and subsequent release of that information to the public was inflammatory and abusing as regards police officers.
In addition to the blood comments, New York City police have turned their backs on the Mayor whenever he has been speaking or at a public event.
There is another reason why Lynch and the PBA are conducting themselves in this fashion. The PBA is without a contract with the City. It ran out. A new one has not been agreed to. Negotiations are presently underway to agree on a new contract. Some quarters believe Lynch and the PBA are conducting themselves as they are in order to gain leverage in the negotiations.
Some believe there is an additional threat. If the Mayor does not submit to PBA demands, an armed organized rebellion against civilian control could occur. Sounds far-fetched. However in today’s police/citizen climate, anything is possible. The PBA has been quick to remind that they are 35,000 strong, that they have more members than the FBI.
A police stoppage has occurred since December 22. Police are performing their duties not as before and not as normal.
Traffic tickets are off 94 percent. Down from 10,069 to 587. Summonses for low level violations are also down 94 percent. Down from 4,831 to 300. Parking tickets are off 92 percent. 14,699 to 1,241.
The Mayor is the civilian head of the Police Department. Just as the President is commander in chief of the armed forces. Public officials in New York State have no right to strike. They do have a right to bargain for benefits. The strike leverage is not available to them. Nor are work stoppages.
Calvin Coolidge was Governor of Massachusetts in 1919 when the Boston police went on strike. He said, “There is no right to strike against the public safety, anywhere, anytime.” More recently recall President Reagan in 1981 with the air controllers. The controllers went on strike. Reagan said no way could public employees strike. He gave them two days to return to work or they were fired. Most continued to challenge Reagan. Eleven thousand were fired.
Interestingly, people thought Reagan would not deal so harshly with the controllers. How were planes to fly in our busy air corridors? Reagan called their bluff and the planes continued to safely fly.
New York State has had on its books for years the Taylor Law. It covers the relationship of management and labor regarding civil employees. The Taylor Law is clear. It prohibits work stoppages and strikes. Union officials violating the Taylor Law are subject to arrest. The charge is criminal. Additionally every officer participating in a work stoppage or strike can be fined $2 for every $1 of earnings.
An all out confrontation has not yet occurred. de Blasio is keeping his cool while Lynch is ranting and raving. If push came to shove and work stoppages continue, the Mayor could ask the Governor to send in the National Guard to perform police functions.
I think Lynch and the PBA are wrong. The Mayor is in charge. He is the civilian authority. I view what the PBA is doing as an arrogant assault on democracy. A further dilemma arises. If the police do not follow rules, why should the people?
Much has been written and spoken in and by the media regarding this confrontation. I have not found one article completely supportive of the PBA’s position. Those siding with the PBA generally acknowledge the PBA’s conduct is wrong. However, they encourage the Mayor to apologize. Seemingly an apology would settle the situation.
Most of the articles written refer to the police conduct as treasonous, rogue, mutinous, exploitative of the two police killings, a coup in the works, the usurpation of the Mayor’s authority, an all out assault on the Mayor, and defiant.
Strong characterizations. However if the shoes fit, Kelly and the PBA should wear them.
A perfect fit from my perspective.