PBA president Patrick J. Lynch blamed an anti-police climate feeding the fanatical and unstable for attacks on, and the murder of, police officers in New York City and made proposals to increase protection for police and the public in remarks before a Joint Senate Committee on public safety and public protection.
“We must put an end to these calls for violence against police officers,” Lynch said. “To do that, we must put an end to the anti-police climate in which they are able to circulate and gain traction.” He explained that a false narrative advanced by some elected officials and activists that depicts police officers as racist and habitually abusive has created the climate that, when it reaches the fanatical or unstable, has resulted in attacks on police officers and the murders of Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
The source of the false narrative, Lynch noted, was created by quota driven policies that were not of police officers' making that unfairly shifted the responsibility for those policies from management to the officers on the street. That shift resulted in great debate over stop, question and frisk which led to local legislation that placed the blame for failed policies on police officers instead of management.
Lynch said that the message “…behind all of these efforts is that the police officers are bad actors who must be scrutinized, controlled and punished so that they do not victimize the public,” a sentiment with which he strongly disagrees. “Some of our elected leaders may have repeatedly proclaimed their ‘support’ for police officers, but their actions and policies have amounted to official support for those who spread a message of distrust and disdain for law enforcement. Once that message reached an unstable individual with the means and opportunity to attack a police officer, it becomes an act of violence,” he testified.
To prevent another tragedy like the assassinations of officers Liu and Ramos and to ensure the safety of police officers and the public alike, Lynch said that threats against police officers must be treated as threats against society. He offered seven proposals to end the anti-police atmosphere and to provide the resources need for police officers to protect themselves and the public.
Declare a moratorium on local legislation in the areas of criminal justice and police procedures. Criminal procedure law has historically been a function of state government while recently, local governments, including NYC, have passed ill-considered legislation fashioned in response to local headlines without consideration to long-term public policy. Lynch noted “Important issues of criminal justice deserve more careful, deliberate and reasoned consideration,” with the state legislature better equipped to play that role.
Protect due process for police officers. Despite a US Supreme Court decision that noted that police officers “...are not relegated to a watered-down version of constitutional rights” local proposals to change how criminal cases involving police officers would be handled, according to Lynch, “…effectively place police officers in a separate justice system, with the express purpose of indicting police officers on charges that would not stand under the normal operation of the law.”
Increase penalties for threats and assaults against police officers. Lynch offered four legislative proposals that would increase penalties for assaulting a police officer, menacing a police officer, encouraging imminent violence against a police officer and make similar threats in connection with a terrorist group a felony.
Increase NYPD staffing. Noting that the NYPD uniformed headcount is down roughly 7,000 since 1999 while the city’s population has increased by nearly 1 million, Lynch asked the state legislature to mandate the return to 1999 staffing levels. Additionally, he asks the state to set a minimum threshold for staffing that will rise with the City’s growth and to fund the staffing increase with targeted taxes similar to the Safe Streets, Safe City program.
Provide a steady stream of funding for bullet-resistant vests. The PBA will seek legislation that will compel the City and the NYPD to supply the latest technology and maximum protection vests for its members as well as the replacement of a vest that is damaged, does not fit properly or has passed a given expiration date.
Fund an anti-terror assault kit for all NYC police officers. In that the NYPD and many other departments are instructing their officers to engage a suspect as soon as possible to end a threat the PBA will seek funding for a kit that includes an assault rifle, body armor and a ballistic helmet for every police officer.
Equalize line of duty disability benefits. Noting the moral obligation of the City and State to care for police officers and firefighters who have been seriously and permanently injured in the line of duty, Lynch called for the equalization of line of duty disability benefits for NYC police officers and firefighters whose benefits were, unintentionally, significantly reduced by Gov. David Paterson in 2009. Lynch called it calling it a “…matter of basic fairness and public safety.” He asked, if you were unable to support your family due to injury on the job, would you be willing to put yourself in harm’s way?
In closing, addressing the committee members, Lynch said:
“Public safety remains a top priority, and how we go about implementing that priority is ultimately the decision of policymakers such as your selves. But we believe that it cannot be maintained by a government that does not support its police officers, besieges them with criticism and ill-considered oversight that subjects them to unprecedented and unwarranted levels of discipline and relegates them to a different and more burdensome system of justice. Most importantly, we cannot expect our police officers to effectively protect us unless we do everything in our power to protect them.”