NOT REQUIRED

In the era of downsizing, we all secretly fear our employers discovering that we are expendable. You take a couple of weeks off for a vacation, family leave, illness, or whatnot and the company finds that things worked just as well without your presences as they do when you're around. Of course in a bad job market this is possible because some other poor sap got stuck with all of your responsibilities in your absence without any additional compensation. Imagine if instead they found out that 90% of what you do is completely unnecessary. The company has been paying you to spend 10% of your time running payroll and the other 90% writing songs on the accordion. When you're absent, suddenly they realize that maybe a company that makes HVAC equipment doesn't need an accordionist at all.

Even if 2/3 of the work you do was found to be superfluous, the logic of the free market would have your employer showing you the exit door in short order. The situation is different in the public sector where people are harder to fire, but you would expect roughly similar logic to apply. So sometime in the next week I'm assuming we'll see about half of the NYPD laid off.

Using a technique as old as organized labor (or even disorganized but disgruntled labor) the officers of the NYPD have been engaged in a slowdown, although some media incorrectly call it a "work stoppage." They're showing up to work but making only arrests deemed "absolutely necessary." Which, you know, raises the question: How many arrests have they been making all these years that don't meet that standard? Has the largest metropolitan PD in the country not basically admitted that the vast majority of the arrests they make have almost no bearing on public safety?

Simply put, if the NYPD could cut its arrests by 60-80% without adversely affecting the city – and by all accounts New York has hardly noticed the difference – why in the hell haven't they already done it?

A police slowdown does not prove, as cops might wish, that America turns into Thunderdome without them. It proves that they're making an awful lot of arrests and issuing a huge number of citations that collectively accomplish absolutely nothing beyond raising money and trapping people in the Sarlaac pit of the justice system? To the first point, did anyone notice during the Michael Brown ordeal that the Ferguson PD gave out ten thousand more arrest warrants in 2013 than there are people in Ferguson? Ten thousand. Start with one non-violent crime, let the administrative fees and fines pile up, and the next thing you know you're wanted. The police then set out to arrest you because you haven't handed over enough money from the last time they arrested you. Repeat ad infinitum.

State and local budgets are pinched, your State Legislature doesn't have the political balls to raise taxes, and there are huge surplus populations that the economy decided it doesn't need and who need to be warehoused or at least Kept in Their Place. So the police do the municipal version of a bake sale, except instead of cookies they hand out thousands of expensive fines for petty crimes. Those who pay are a lucrative source of income, essentially off-the-books tax collection. Those who don't pay – well, there's another bucketful of violations you can use to drown them.

Ideally this would be a Teachable Moment for our society, an opportunity to reflect and ask ourselves some important questions about what we value. Is it possible we have too many laws? That rabid enforcement of those laws isn't making us any safer? Are candy-assed old white legislators trying to look tough by passing the most punitive laws they can imagine doing more to harm our cities and towns than the crimes themselves? Have police departments completely lost focus on the meaning of "public safety" in favor of writing as many citations and making as many arrests as possible? Light bulbs should be appearing over our heads, collectively: "The cops stopped making most of the arrests they make and it hasn't made one goddamn lick of difference. What the hell have we been doing all these years??"

That's a pipe dream, though. Some people know perfectly well, though they would never admit it, that they see rounding up poor people as the entire point of law enforcement. Keeping the dark people and the mulleted hillbillies away from our nice homes on whatever pretense can be concocted is precisely what the police are supposed to do. How depressing it will be over the next few weeks to realize that for some of our fellow citizens will applaud when the NYPD resumes the majority of arrests deemed unnecessary when they want to make a political statement.

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52 Responses to “NOT REQUIRED”

  1. FMguru Says:

    I'd love to see de Blasio take this as an excuse to just cut NYPD overtime to the bone in the next contract negotiation. Or just invoke it unilaterally – well the 219th Precinct is processing 70% fewer arrests so no OT will be authorized until further notice. Most cops (and firefighters and bus drivers and other working-class civil service employees) absolutely rely on overtime to make ends meet (or at least, live a proper middle-class life) so this would kick them square in the nuts.

  2. J. Dryden Says:

    There's a statement in desperate need of a prepositional phrase: "Absolutely necessary"…for WHAT, exactly?

    Seriously, how would one of the non-participants characterize a "necessary" arrest? Or, to put it another way, perhaps we should examine the much-reduced arrests and determine what they have in common–what made them make the cut-off?

    Sure, I'm guessing there are some reasonable ones: violent felon caught mid-rampage, etc. But I believe those will represent a fraction. So…what do we want to bet that the "necessary" arrests are determined by a pretty clear-cut algorithm of neighborhood (wealthy), perpetrator (black, Hispanic) and victim (white)? Not "severity of crime," so much as "severity of consequence to my job/rank in the event that I sit on my hands"?

    As a side note: I am sick of hearing that "Cops have a tough job." You do, but A. you chose it, B. you chose it BECAUSE it was hard–kind of a point of pride with you fellows, isn't it?, and C. it is hard because it not only requires physical courage and stamina but also deep levels of self-control and consistent impartiality. That's why it's hard, that's why you're proud to do it, that's why people who kill you get the death penalty, now stop the poor/awesome me circle jerk and show some goddamned pride. (Note: I am mostly addressing your union representatives, who appear to be chosen by virtue of their willingness to appeal to emotions we should have sloughed off when we lost our scales and foreclaws.)

  3. FMguru Says:

    Also, there are lots of tough jobs out there. Coal miners have tough jobs, long-haul truckers have tough jobs, crab fishermen have tough jobs, slaughterhouse workers have tough jobs. Nobody sheds too many tears for them, so spare me the boo-hoo-hoo for Our Heroes In Blue.

    I will say one thing for cops – their job is 90% dealing with social problems that well-to-do white people want to make disappear but don't want to spend any money to deal with. So homeless people or mentally ill people in the street? Call the cops, have them deal with it. Teenagers hanging around? Call the cops to disperse them. Junkies shooting up in the alleyway? Call the cops. Black guy walking through your neighborhood? Call the cops. Neighbor and his wife are yelling at each other? Call the cops. And on and on and on. A proper society wold have programs and social workers to deal with these sorts of problems but they all got fired back in 1982 so now cops get to spend all day dealing with them. I'll bet that gets real old real quick, and that "Protecting And Serving" is mostly dealing with shit no one else wants to, and so I do have a sliver of sympathy for what cops put up with.

  4. Freeportguy Says:

    In this country, you can justify ANYTHING on the basis of security alone. People are paranoid! No wonder we have the greatest nuclear arsenal, military budget and the most gun nuts!

  5. Xynzee Says:

    FMGuru: second post NAILED IT!

    The irony is, that the most dangerous/threatening people are those having a psychiatric episode who with proper care won't—drum roll please—be having an uncontrolled psychiatric episode.
    With proper jobs and opportunities people won't have resort to crime…

  6. Xynzee Says:

    Out of curiosity: are NY's prisons in private hands? If so does this mean there's a minimum occupancy clause?

    If there is, then this may be where the police union is trying to apply pressure.
    To some degree that could be a good thing if it's handled correctly as it would shine a blazing light on what a sham privatised prisons are and the god awful minimum occupancy clause is.

  7. Major Kong Says:

    Car accidents and heart attacks kill far more police than any other cause.

    Statistically my job is more dangerous, although I'm well compensated at least.

  8. carrstone Says:

    " Is it possible we have too many laws?"

    Interesting observation, that; smacks a bit of early onset of libertarianism. There may be hope for you yet, Ed.

  9. skwerlhugger Says:

    Seems like an appropriate time to invoke the Reagan solution to troublesome government employees. Although I do recall hesitating to fly for a few years.

  10. Kevin NYC Says:

    It may take time to see the effect, but I doubt we will return to open air drug bazzars and wild parties in the streets… everyone is so serious these days.

    We may get some more peacefull marching that disrupts traffic. The police hate that. And I bet they will still ticket bicycles for not making a complete stop at a stop sign.

  11. Dave Dell Says:

    Montreal police strike of 1969 this is not. Don't think any NY prisons are private based on a quick search that shows they passed a law that wouldn't allow for profit prisons. I, too, would be very interested in a study of what laws are actually being enforced currently vs prior to the slow down.

    As always, the comments here are worth the time to read 'em. If that were true of all sites I'd never get anything done.

  12. Major Kong Says:

    This will deal a harsh blow to the economy of upstate NY, which largely seems to consist of locking up people from NYC.

    I frequently layover in Fishkill, which boasts 3 or maybe even 4 prisons. As far as I can tell half the population of Fishkill is incarcerated and the other half is getting paid to watch them.

  13. Dookie Says:

    I don't know…is it just me, or is Ed sounding more and more like a libertarian these days?

  14. Dial Tone Says:

    I don't think coming out against broken windows policing makes one a libertarian, it makes one a compassionate realist, the exact opposite of a libertarian.

  15. Dookie Says:

    "Ideally this would be a Teachable Moment for our society, an opportunity to reflect and ask ourselves some important questions about what we value. Is it possible we have too many laws? That rabid enforcement of those laws isn't making us any safer?"

    You either understand that libertarians have been making that very argument since the word libertarian came to be, or you understand nothing about libertarians.

  16. Misterben Says:

    This is a very interesting and thought-provoking post, but it needs some proofreading, I think. (First para, "without your presences", "need an accordionist"; a couple others.)

  17. marduk Says:

    @dookie @carrstone

    Yeah, that's the classic libertarian bait and switch. Don't you agree we have too many laws against smoking weed and driving while black? Then vote for me so we can eliminate the minimum wage, banking regulations, social security, and workplace safety laws!

  18. Xynzee Says:

    @Marduk: how could you forget the flagship laws libertardians hate so much? Those pesky laws that prevent the God given right of whites to own them darker races, and to shoot them as you see fit.

  19. Greg Says:

    It is entirely possible to question whether we have too many laws of a particular type without having to be a Libertarian. Traffic codes are so massive that Scalia admitted in Whren that they are available as pretext for stops because even a conscientious driver's going to violate them sometime, so if the cop says he saw a violation, and THEN he saw the drugs, it's perfectly plausible.
    Too many drug laws and not enough banking laws is the viewpoint of many a small-l civil libertarian liberal. Libertarians are useful allies in support of the Fourth Amendment but that doesn't make them right about everything.
    Also, Ed, can you please just come out as Carrstone, your provocateur alterego? Especially if you AREN'T?

  20. Xynzee Says:

    @Dave Dell: thanks

  21. Tim H. Says:

    Talked briefly to an officer and commented on overactive legislatures, got a "Don't get me started" look. And libertarianism should be looked on as a seasoning, a little is refreshing, too much is ghastly.

  22. Delbort Says:

    @Greg

    That would be the best long-form trolling I've ever seen in my life.

  23. Sally's Dad Says:

    @Marduk nailed it!

    Most libertarian's I've met would do well to take a course in Logic, paying particular attention to "weak inference", "propositional logic" & "formal/informal fallacy".

  24. sluggo Says:

    @greg

    I have been thinking the same thing.

  25. Dookie Says:

    Just pointing out something that was fairly obvious, and innocuous I assumed.

    Didn't intend to instigate mass liberal pant-shitting.

    Funny to watch you guys go on the attack over such a reasonable observation. You must be quite the joy to be around.

  26. Monty Says:

    I'll just leave this here…

    http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=229703

  27. marduk Says:

    @dookie

    Pointing out that libertarians are disingenuous clowns never gets old.

  28. Dookie Says:

    @marduk

    Clowns? Maybe…That's a matter of taste.

    Disingenuous? Not even close.

    If there is one thing I can say for libertarians, they are true believers, and pointedly consistent.

  29. marduk Says:

    @dookie

    Don't tell me you've fallen for the propertarianism/positivism smokescreen? There's nothing consistent about libertarian philosophy outside of IGMFY.

  30. mothra Says:

    Let me without delay motorola clutch your rss.

    I am going to start every post with that from now on (from the post below's comments) because it is so delightfully absurd. Spambots are so much fun.

    Oh, and I second that FMGuru nails it.

  31. Professor fate Says:

    Might I suggest a more accurate way of phrasing the observation of too many laws would be to the effect that there are "too many laws about selling loose cigarettes or sleeping under bridges and far too few for banks and the people that run them."

  32. anotherbozo Says:

    Here in NYC I take in the local news programs pretty regularly and have failed to catch anything much about a "work slowdown." Perhaps I was in the john when that report came on. At any rate they certainly soft pedal that one, and the visuals are all about police facing the wrong direction during funerals.

    Charles Pierce at Esquire points out that the national dialogue has turned on a dime from the killing of unarmed civilians to the heroism of police. The media, as usual, are complicit. But God, I hated to see a remorseful DeBlasio backpedaling like crazy. I know he can hold two thoughts in his head at the same time, and he shouldn't be catering to those who can't. Another apologetic "liberal", goddamit.

    Does Ed ever edit his posts ex post facto? The "for" doesn't belong here:
    "How depressing it will be over the next few weeks to realize that for some of our fellow citizens will applaud when the NYPD resumes the majority of arrests deemed unnecessary when they want to make a political statement."

  33. Kulkuri Says:

    Those who don't pay – well, there's another bucketful of violations you can use to drown them.
    Heard a report on NPR this morning about how in Wisconsin you can lose your driver's license for twice as long for unpaid minor violation like a burnt out light than for conviction of a hit and run. It's two years for non-payment of a fine and only one year for hit and run. Nine months for first DUI.

  34. Skipper Says:

    First, Ed, you don't really understand how modern corporations hire and "lay off" (fire) in their current binge-and-purge staffing schemes. They don't fire you because they deem you're unnecessary. They fire you for any number of reasons, chief among them that you make too much money.

    Corporate executives are told to cut $XXXX from the budget. So they take the payroll list, look in the salary column, and sees what salaries add up to $XXXX. Then they look to see who those salaries are attached to.

    If you're making $125K a year and they can get some recent grad to sit in your seat and not shit himself for $40K, you're history. Very often, they're firing in one room and hiring in another.

    When I was "laid off," I was doing the work of over two people and helping out in three departments — very successfully, I might add. In the round of "layoffs" that got me, everyone who went was a remote worker — because the new director was an insecure asshole who wanted to be able to see everyone. Also, he later admitted to someone I knew, after a few cocktails, that the reason for the layoff was that he "wanted to send a message to corporate" that he was serious about the budget. So, two birds with one stone.

    As far as libertarianism, in its classical formulation, it is a fatally flawed, unworkable utopian scheme. In its current common formulation — being promoted by the corporatocracy — it's just sucker bait for political and economic naifs. The corporations want it to eliminate taxes (on them) and eliminate regulations (on them) and screw everybody else. The biggest government intrusion in my life is the chartering of corporations, which have become monstrous creatures. Do away with the corporations and then we can talk about libertarianism.

    For those who are really attracted to it, may I suggest Somalia — no large central government, no taxes, plentiful guns, no regulations, no social programs, no welfare — a veritable libertarian paradise.

  35. McDee Says:

    I think it was a 19th century Frenchman (Anatole France?) who wrote something to the effect of "The law, in all its majesty and impartiality, forbids BOTH the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges."

  36. Gerald McGrew Says:

    While I agree with the overall gist of the post, I think some context is in order.

    A store window is broken and some thieves reach and steal a handful of merchandise. Under this "slow down" the NYPD doesn't do anything. For most of the city, it makes no difference. But FOR THE BUSINESS OWNER IT MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE.

    You may say "Ah, but that's breaking and entering, which is different". Ok, so let's take something else….noise ordinances. A neighbor and his garage band are playing loudly at 2 AM in a neighborhood. The cops refuse to do anything. For most of the city, it makes no difference. BUT FOR THE IMMEDIATE NEIGHBORS IT MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE.

    IOW, we tend to think of a lot of petty crimes as "not important"….until they happen to us. Then suddenly having your bike stolen, your car vandalized, your sleep interrupted, etc. all become "important".

  37. DocAmazing Says:

    You had me at "candy-assed old white legislators".

  38. Major Kong Says:

    @Tim H.

    "libertarianism should be looked on as a seasoning, a little is refreshing, too much is ghastly"

    I'm totally stealing that line. Consider this fair notice.

  39. Ed Says:

    Far left types tend to agree with libertarians that there are too many laws and too much enforcement of frivolous or minor laws. Most of us tend to place more emphasis on the fact that enforcement is wildly unequal whereas libertarians are more motivated by the fact that the underlying behavior shouldn't be criminalized at all.

  40. Bizzle Says:

    Looking over the linked articles on the huffington post and ny post it's less than clear that this is an organized work slow-down enacted for a political purpose. I think The Post article quoted a cop anonymously as saying he was avoiding minor crimes because he feared for his safety, and the new directive recommending two patrol cars respond to many calls would at least somewhat explain the drop in arrests. This post is somewhat misleading about the facts. However your overall point remains valid and applicable. And despite your perhaps cursory treatment of the information upon which you based this post I think i agree with you.

  41. carrstone Says:

    #Ed

    And your proof for "libertarians are more motivated by the fact that the underlying behavior shouldn't be criminalized at all" is … where? …what? … who? …?

    You should be thoroughly ashamed for making such an unsubstantiated claim; I expect better of you even if I (frequently) don't agree with you nor find the way you feed your baying claque particularly attractive.

    You know as well as I do that what libertarians want is to see those laws removed that add an inhibiting administrative workload on entrepreneurial activity, particularly those laws that were created as voter bribes by liberals and sundry sleazy rinos. That's all of them on the hill, I guess.

  42. Skepticalist Says:

    I don't really long for the old days. Domestic violence wasn't much of a crime in 1955 and it was pre-Miranda. It would be nice though, if like then, cops were allowed some leeway.

    It was okay when dealing with a not too violent drunk or simply a jerk, to not use deadly force. Sometimes cops would drive a drunk home. It wasn't mandated to run everybody through the system. Just take away their car keys until the next day.

    Too, it wasn't mandated to arrest some ten year old kid for aiming his finger at a teacher. This one really gets to me. It shouldn't be thought of as a criminal act. Just stupid. Elementary students weren't handcuffed and dragged downtown to wind up as "Breaking News" on CNN.

    I realize the holes in this rant but it's something I think about when cops use overkill. "Mandatory" everything is a big crime.

  43. Xynzee Says:

    "You know as well as I do that what libertarians want is to see those laws removed that add an inhibiting administrative workload on entrepreneurial activity"

    Read: Clean Water Act/EPA regs*, minimum wage, taxes, remediation of the environment…

    *see Ed's FJM on the Frogurt stand that was sunk by onerous expenditure incurred by having to put outflow and grease traps on the plumbing.

  44. Skepticalist Says:

    Conservatives have little to do with true Libertarians who are concerned with the liberty of others. Tea Partiers are even farther from Libertarianism.

    Liberals are skeptics. They step back now and then to look things over. Conservatives just like piling up statutes so long as it doesn't help everybody.

  45. sluggo Says:

    Why is it that every libertarian I meet lives in his mother's basement?

  46. Major Kong Says:

    @Skipper

    "They fire you for any number of reasons, chief among them that you make too much money."

    Yep. Happened to my sister this last June. She worked her butt off but they met her in the parking lot one morning and said "We're going in a different direction."

    They hired some girl right out of college who would do the job for half the pay.

  47. el mago Says:

    My tardy take is something written at the end of 2012. Even then. Even now.

    Beware the uniform people. They are mind shackled minions of the overlords. Seriously, why are school children in Japan and elsewhere required to wear uniforms? To breed conformity and give a sense of belonging to the group, to foster pride and provide identity. Here’s the funny thing though, everybody wears a uniform: cooks, cops, bankers, surfers and soldiers. The suit and tie crowd know each other, as do the surfers. A chef’s coat and hat are symbols of office. All those people are relatively innocuous as bat shit crazy as they may be by virtue of occupation and proclivity. No, the scary ones are those who dress in police and military uniforms, which are increasingly merging into the same thing. A preponderance of those individuals are sociopathic pawns bent on inflicting damage to fulfill the status quo as the overlords define it. Go do some killing and maiming in the name of law and order and love of country. Come on everybody. Don your cheerleader outfits, and let’s hear it for the home team.

  48. Gerald McGrew Says:

    @sluggo

    Both of the libertarians I know personally have been massively….and I mean MASSIVELY…bailed out by their parents. And not as teenagers, but as grown adults with wives and kids. They both went into debt and started their own businesses, only to see them fail.

    These guys are my good friends, but the cognitive dissonance in them is very strong.

  49. Barry Says:

    Gerald McGrew Says:
    January 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    "While I agree with the overall gist of the post, I think some context is in order.

    A store window is broken and some thieves reach and steal a handful of merchandise. Under this "slow down" the NYPD doesn't do anything. For most of the city, it makes no difference. But FOR THE BUSINESS OWNER IT MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE."

    Talking about context:

    What you are describing is a breaking and entry and robbery, not 'a store window is broken'.

    Do you have a shred of evidence that the NYPD is ignoring robberies and burglaries?

  50. Barry Says:

    Skepticalist Says:

    I don't really long for the old days. Domestic violence wasn't much of a crime in 1955 and it was pre-Miranda. It would be nice though, if like then, cops were allowed some leeway.

    "It was okay when dealing with a not too violent drunk or simply a jerk, to not use deadly force. Sometimes cops would drive a drunk home. It wasn't mandated to run everybody through the system. Just take away their car keys until the next day."

    Are you under some impression that it's not OK for the police to refrain from using deadly force when it's not warranted?

    WTF?

  51. Gerald McGrew Says:

    Barry,

    Either you didn't read the rest of my post, or you dishonestly omitted the following from it…

    "You may say "Ah, but that's breaking and entering, which is different". Ok, so let's take something else….noise ordinances. A neighbor and his garage band are playing loudly at 2 AM in a neighborhood. The cops refuse to do anything. For most of the city, it makes no difference. BUT FOR THE IMMEDIATE NEIGHBORS IT MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE."