Being a police officer is a job, a dangerous, often unpleasant and demanding job. It is not however a way of life, say like being a monk or a nun. Police officers are entitled to a life outside of their oath and duties. It would be nice if they were model citizens during their off-hours, but it’s not required. We, the public, can no longer be surprised by domestic violence, alcohol and drug use among officers. We’ve seen Al Pacino movies and NYPD Blue. We get it; the job does things to you man. And perhaps more importantly the people who are attracted to such a job are perhaps wired for action.
Chicken or egg aside, it is troubling to discover police officers on the wrong side of the law. It’s always upsetting to hear of an officer involved in a drunk driving incident. (Especially when we factor in how bad the incident must have been for it to have ever seen the light of day.) Moving or cashing in on illegal guns and drugs is equally disturbing. But the most recent incident to come to light, involving an attack on a motorist chills one to the marrow. Feelings about swarming motorcyclists aside, the notion that a cop would participate in terrorizing, chasing and attacking a man driving with his wife and child is shocking. To then run from the law (which is what not coming forward is) and lie about the degree of involvement is unconscionable. Maybe, just maybe, we could think; “Okay so this thug has evaded his superior’s detection. It’s an anomaly.” But see there were two officers involved in the rampage. And that second one? Well he was already on modified duty what with being charged in a domestic dispute.
For those few people who have not seen the video(s) of the rampage, be assured it was terrifying. Motorcyclists on the West Side Highway surrounded the families’ S.U.V. One of the bikers who cut directly in front of the S.U.V. slowed suddenly and the S.U.V. bumped the bike causing it to crash. The driver stopped his S.U.V. and the bikers swarmed. He drove from the scene and was chased, cornered and attacked. The bikers (including at least one of the officers) pummeled the S.U.V., broke a window, dragged out the driver and beat him.
The incident itself is very bizarre and Wild West. There are many things to fear in NYC and motorcycle gangs aren’t often one of them. The idea that police officers would not stop (let alone participate) in such barbarianism is simply unfathomable. Who exactly are we to call when we find ourselves transported into a horror movie?! Of course in our most rational moment we know these officers are not typical. There are 40,000 NYPD officers and it stands to reason that there will be some less than stellar employees. In my neighborhood alone there is a mounted officer who greets residents and allows tourists to pose with his horse and there are officers sitting in their car glued to their mobile phones. (Why uniformed officers need to or are allowed to carry their personal phones escapes me, but I also think theaters should make audience members check their phones.) Suffice it to say there are varying degrees of competency in any industry. But there’s a whole lot of real estate between incompetency and criminality. Exactly what kind of screening goes on in law enforcement? It’s a question posed often about the military, but do we ask it about domestic peace officers? Inciting a riot and terrorizing innocent people is one of the fundamental reasons we, the people, need law enforcement. After an incident like this, one as jarring for the amount of video as it is its content; we are entitled to ask these questions. New Yorkers need to be told exactly what happened (including attempts at a cover-up) why we should consider this an anomaly, and what kind of measures are in place to prevent future occurrences. These are the same things one asks of anyone who has betrayed a sacred trust.