Loading...

Power Unrestrained Serves Only Itself
COMMENTARY

October 26, 2021 by Leonard Pitts
Power Unrestrained Serves Only Itself
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea and his NYPD Chiefs march during the 77th annual Columbus Day Parade on Oct. 11, 2021.

As police misbehavior goes, it was a small thing.

No one was killed, or shot, or even arrested. But in a sense, that gives it all the more impact. Shorn of the distracting emotionalism of bloodshed or false arrest, last week’s video recording of an incident between a subway rider and two New York City Police officers provides a clear and unmistakable view of the high-handed arrogance that too often masquerades as policing.

It seems 27-year-old Andrew Gilbert approached the unmasked officers, one male, one female, and asked them to put on facial coverings. This would be in compliance with rules set down by both the transit authority and the police department. Gilbert says the male officer played dumb, claiming he could not hear through Gilbert’s mask.

When he got tired of that game — and this is where the bystander video picks up the story — the officer took hold of the unresisting Gilbert and manhandled him off the subway platform, pushing him through an emergency exit held open by his partner. Gilbert can be heard demanding their badge numbers, but at this writing, neither officer has been identified.

Again, it’s a small thing. But it speaks to large concerns, to the conviction that too many officers, protected by our deferential admiration, cosseted by union rules that make it very nearly impossible to get fired, consider themselves not servants of the law, but the law itself and the law entire, above the rules, beyond accountability and answerable to no one.

Consider that Police Commissioner Dermot Shea pronounced the behavior of the two cops “absolutely inexcusable” and called for them to be disciplined, but added that he wouldn’t expect them to be fired, suspended or placed on modified duty. So apparently they’ll get off with a good, stern talking to.

And yes, some will say Gilbert should have expected what he got. Everybody knows you don’t question a cop. But that attitude is part of the problem. If you’re not causing a disturbance, posing a threat or hindering him in the performance of his duties, why, exactly, can’t you question a cop? Especially when said cop is flouting rules everyone else is supposed to obey? Is he not a public servant? Are we not the public?

But then, power unrestrained serves only itself.

The police are esteemed — rightly — for being first responders, for running toward danger. But that is not, and cannot be, a get-out-of-accountability-free card. We’d demand answers from the janitor or short-order cook who behaved as if rules were for other people. Why is it so hard to hold to the same standard men and women in whom we vest such sweeping authority?

Understand: That cop’s behavior is not a one-off. Rather, it’s just the latest example of a very specific kind of arrogance, part of a throughline linking every cop who thinks the law serves him instead of the other way around. It takes in the cops who arrested, interfered with and roughed up journalists during Black Lives Matter protests. It takes in the ones who shoved a 75- year-old man to the ground in Buffalo, causing him to suffer a head injury. It takes in all the cops refusing to comply with mask or vaccine mandates around the country. And it certainly takes in former cop Derek Chauvin smirking at the camera — smirking! — as he slowly ground the life out of George Floyd.

Maybe you think that’s an awful lot to lay on a cop who only kicked a guy out of a subway station. And you’d be right. His misbehavior was, indeed, a small thing.

This time.


©2021 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

In The News

Health

Voting

Opinions

CRISPR, GMOs, and the Future of Farming

One of the biggest challenges facing agriculture in the U.S. and around the world is how to make farming more... Read More

One of the biggest challenges facing agriculture in the U.S. and around the world is how to make farming more efficient and limit greenhouse gas emissions in the process. Among the most promising tools for doing so are CRISPR and GMOs. Scientists are now using CRISPR... Read More

Fix BBB’s Rx Provisions so Patients Aren’t Stuck With High Bills and More Needles

Health care reforms that make medicines more affordable for patients and encourage discovery of powerful new medicines are possible. We’re... Read More

Health care reforms that make medicines more affordable for patients and encourage discovery of powerful new medicines are possible. We’re nearly there: If Congress were to fix some counterproductive flaws, the drug pricing provisions in the Build Back Better Act would represent genuine advances. The bill... Read More

The Medical Device “Right to Repair” Effort is an Endorsement of Deregulation

Our government is supposed to protect us, that is the bare minimum of what the American people expect from their... Read More

Our government is supposed to protect us, that is the bare minimum of what the American people expect from their lawmakers. Which is why the recent push for deregulation across the nation is troubling. The 1970s and 1980s brought a wave of deregulation intended to reverse... Read More

Leaders Like John McCain Needed to Win the Future

Democracies around the world face a growing number of challenges. Authoritarianism is resurgent in many countries. Bad actors are challenging... Read More

Democracies around the world face a growing number of challenges. Authoritarianism is resurgent in many countries. Bad actors are challenging and undermining global rules and norms on every continent and in many international institutions. COVID-19 continues to tear at the social fabric and economic livelihoods of... Read More

December 10, 2021
by The Breakthrough Institute
To Meet Methane Pledge, Biden Will Need Reduced Emissions From Cows — and Congress’ Help

The agricultural portion of Biden’s methane reduction plan, announced alongside the COP26 global methane pledge, proposes a reduction in U.S.... Read More

The agricultural portion of Biden’s methane reduction plan, announced alongside the COP26 global methane pledge, proposes a reduction in U.S. cattle emissions by facilitating the development and adoption of climate-friendly livestock innovations. It’s a notable inclusion, since, despite being overshadowed by the oil and gas industries... Read More

December 2, 2021
by Leonard Pitts
'True Compassion is More Than Flinging a Coin to a Beggar'

Abraham could have asked for anything. The Make-A-Wish folks stood ready to make a dream come true for the 13-year-old... Read More

Abraham could have asked for anything. The Make-A-Wish folks stood ready to make a dream come true for the 13-year-old boy, who has aplastic anemia, a life-threatening blood disorder. But Adeola “Abraham” Olagbegi didn’t ask for a PS5 or a day with LeBron James. No, he... Read More

News From The Well
Exit mobile version