No one is above the law— except the NYPD?

A viral twitter video that has recently racked up over three million views shows NYPD officers shoving a young man and forcibly removing him from the subway platform after he asked them to wear their masks. This comes as no surprise to most New Yorkers, who have become accustomed to seeing police officers routinely flouting the MTA regulation of wearing masks inside subways and indoor platforms. This 35-second video, however, points to a deeper problem in the NYPD— its belief that its officers are above the law. 

Even within this short video, we have multiple examples of this belief. The officers refuse to provide their badge numbers, in clear violation of the 2008 Right to Know Act. And, the decision of the officers to respond to the young man with physical force is questionable at best.

We are reminded of this life-threatening problem in an especially painful way as the city begins a judicial inquiry into the killing of Eric Garner at the hands of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. While attempting to take Garner into custody, Pantaleo used a chokehold that was prohibited by the NYPD in 1993. Even after a coroner’s report showed that the chokehold was the cause of death, Pantaleo was not indicted on any charges. Furthermore, Pantaleo’s position with the NYPD was not terminated until five years after this well-documented incident. While waiting for this determination, Pantaleo continued to collect an annual salary of more than $97,000. 

The examples of NYPD officers flouting the law are numerous and continue to come out. Propublica recently published an exposure of a secret “No Fly” list of cops who were suspected of helping friends and family members “fix” tickets, or make them go away. Although the list was intended to warn prosecutors of police officers with damaged credibility, ProPublica found that these officers faced no clear additional scrutiny. In fact, they found that half of the 164 “No Fly” officers currently on the job have been promoted in the decade since they were flagged, many to detective positions. 

The socialist candidate for mayor, Cathy Rojas, says “Time and time again, the NYPD harasses, threatens and violates the rights and humanity of Black and Brown people, immigrants, women, LGBTQ+ folks and young people all over the city. They do not protect us and they do not serve us. The city budget continuously prioritizes policing as solutions and expands the policing budget, throwing tax dollars at a racist institution. This is a waste of valuable resources. It is illogical to put more money into a corrupt institution.” 

Abusive, corrupt, and violent police officers need to be held accountable for their actions. And the force that supports them needs to be held accountable to. That’s why the Rojas administration, we say defund the police, we mean that we must build alternate and better solutions to policing- including community-based violence intervention programs and fully funding basic social services like after school programming for young people.