The president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has some strong words for "the pundits and editorial writers" pillorying NYPD Officer James Frascatore, who slammed tennis star James Blake to the ground in a case of mistaken arrest.
"To all arm-chair judges," PBA president Pat Lynch begins in an open letter, "If you have never struggled with someone who is resisting arrest or who pulled a gun or knife on you when you approached them for breaking a law, then you are not qualified to judge the actions of police officers putting themselves in harm's way for the public good."
We of the armchair agree with Lynch that police work is difficult and sometimes very dangerous, and the acts of officers must be judged accordingly. But we dispute Lynch's claim that only officers are qualified to discuss the actions of the police. Who, then, would be qualified? The Civilian Complaint Review Board is the independent agency tasked with investigating complaints of alleged NYPD misconduct. By Lynch's insular standards, is the board "qualified"? Is a mayor qualified if he has not been a police officer?
Lynch's comment pushes the conversation deeper into dangerous territory -- but that's not surprising, coming from the divisive and bombastic PBA president. While Mayor Bill de Blasio, Commissioner Bill Bratton, and even former Commissioner Ray Kelly have spoken against the disturbing arrest, Lynch just deepens the divide.
The police should serve and protect the public, not the other way around. The public must be allowed to have a say about the way it is policed -- through elected representatives, Twitter accounts, and public comments. The media must weigh in on issues that affect their readers.
Blake's celebrity has given his case elevated attention, but many get missed. New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer highlighted the story of an 11-year-old girl in the Bronx who also appears to have been mistakenly identified and tackled by an officer. This interaction also was caught on video. Same basic details, no outrage. Dwyer brought the image to our attention.
We need more media vigilance on this issue, not less.