Several news items in the past couple of weeks clearly demonstrate two trends we've known for years to exist.
One is that the overwhelming majority of Americans support and respect their police—they don't commit crimes any more serious than pressing their luck with the speed limit on the highway, and they occasionally find ways to quietly show their support for police.
The other is that when the vocal minority who disrespect and don't support the police seize the narrative, it is those very same law-abiding citizens who suffer because criminals freely roam the streets with impunity, knowing that law enforcement officers will hesitate to engage them for fear of losing their jobs or their lives.
This week's column is practically a "part two" of last week's column—but I want to change it up somewhat with proper and appropriate recognition of those police supporters mentioned above.
Let's review some recent news of people showing their support, respect, and gratitude toward police—then we'll go negative.
Just today, we reported on an Illinois woman who took to social media to tell the tale of an interaction she had several years ago with Illinois State Trooper Nick Hopkins—who was recently killed in the line of duty.
Concluding a lengthy Facebook post, she wrote, "This is beyond my understanding. He was one of the good ones just making a living like the rest of us and building a legacy for his family. His kindness will forever live within my heart and I thank him. Rest in peace #NicholasHopkins."
Earlier this week, we reported on the effort of 6-year-old Arron Lomas, who upon learning of the murder of LAPD officer Juan Diaz began to take steps to hold an event to pay tribute to him.
Lomas approached the proprietor of the dojo where he studies mixed martial arts—a facility located just blocks from where Diaz was murdered by suspected gang members. Together the sensei and student—alongside several mixed martial arts stars from the 10th Planet fight team—gave away 500 backpacks to underprivileged kids in Diaz's name.
Also this week, we reported on the CSX Transportation Company's unveiling on social media images of a locomotive newly painted to honor law enforcement officers across the country.
The company said on Facebook, "Today we are proud to reveal the Spirit of Our Law Enforcement commemorative locomotive."
CSX Executive Vice President of Operations Ed Harris said on the company's website, "This is a moving tribute to the men and women who serve us every day and aligns with CSX's goal to connect military service members, first responders, and their families to the resources and support they need."
This week we also reported on three Good Samaritans who came to the aid of a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department who was in a potentially deadly struggle with a suspect who was reportedly attempting to take the deputy's gun.
Late last week, we reported on the Jack Daniels Distillery's presentation of a specially engraved bottle of its whiskey to the family of Officer Robert Pitts of the Terre Haute (IN) Police Department, who was killed in the line of duty in May 2018.
Late last week, we also reported on the Philadelphia Eagles football team honoring law enforcement officers during a pre-game ceremony on Thursday evening by gifting them commemorative footballs and announcing their names over the stadium loudspeaker at Lincoln Financial Field. The honor was given to officers who responded to a gunfight and barricaded gunman situation that occurred earlier in the month.
That's just in the past week or so—and that's just the ones we learned about.
It's an indisputable, undeniable fact that citizens show their support for police in ways that never make the news.
But because of the uptick in such stories popping up on my social media feeds, I'm led to wonder if the silent majority are finally beginning to raise their voices? Is this really a trend? Perhaps, perhaps not.
Regardless, the support is there. I remind you of these efforts by ordinary citizens to show their support to help offset just a little bit of all the negative stuff thrown at you—sometimes quite literally—day-in-and-day-out.
Now, for that negative stuff...
Early last week, we reported that New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill announced the firing of Daniel Pantaleo—the police officer accused in the death of bootleg cigarette salesman Eric Garner five years ago.
Following Pantaleo's firing, Patrick Lynch—the longtime president of the Police Benevolent Association—sent a strongly worded message to the agency's rank-and-file officers that could easily be construed as a signal of a work slowdown.
"We are urging all New York City police officers to proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed 'reckless' just for doing their job," Lynch said. "We will uphold our oath, but we cannot and will not do so by needlessly jeopardizing our careers or personal safety."
In last week's column, I wrote that the firing of Daniel Pantaleo may lead to the further spread of de-policing in the nation's largest police force, where Terry stops and other forms of proactive policing have already been dramatically cut.
"I very well could be wrong, but that sounds an awful lot like code for an order to stand down—or at least slow down—from proactive policing," I wrote.
Well, it turns out that I was anything but wrong.
People who know me well know that I'm very much the kind of guy to say, "I told you so."
I told you so.
This week we reported that the number of arrests and criminal summonses handled by NYPD officers last week plummeted compared to the same period in 2018
Arrests dropped 27% between August 19—the day Pantaleo was fired—and August 25 compared to the same period in 2018, with police making 3,508 busts compared to 4,827 in that same time period.
The number of criminal summonses issued fell nearly 29%, going from 1,655 to 1,181 over that period.
Law enforcement sources warn that this is the "Pantaleo Effect."
Multiple law enforcement sources told the New York Post that while there is no organized work slowdown, officers on the street feel that the department doesn't have their backs, so they are reluctant to do anything that would jeopardize their career.
In a move that was a surprise to no one, members of the New York Police Benevolent Association voted "no confidence" in Commissioner James O'Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Sadly, the passing of those measures is entirely symbolic.
I know from firsthand experience what New York was like back in the 1970s and 1980s because I lived in a nearby suburb and would sojourn into the city for what I perceived at the time as recreation.
I was once mugged at knifepoint in broad daylight in the middle of Times Square. I was witness to many other muggings, assaults, and robberies.
Simply put, the Big Apple was rotten to the core.
Then, Rudy Guiliani took over and things began quickly changing.
With officers utilizing the "broken windows" approach to patrol, aggressively cracking down on even the most minor of offenses—homicide dropped 73%, burglary 66%, assault 40%, robbery 67%, and vehicle thefts 73% during the 1990s.
From just last week's plummeting number of arrests, it appears that the so-called "Pantaleo Effect" is quite real, potentially putting New Yorkers in unnecessary peril.
The only way to reduce crime is to take criminals off the streets.
The fact of the matter is that a small percentage of the population engages in criminal activity. The vast majority of crimes are committed by career criminals with long criminal records.
If police further discontinue proactive policing activities in New York City, I'd predict that it's all but certain that the city will return to the bad old days of the '70s and '80s when crime was rampant.
In this instance, I would very much hate to say, "I told you so."