Protest briefly put aside in honour of slain officer Wenjian Liu
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
The New York Police Department (NYPD) is currently undergoing what the New York Post called a “virtual work stoppage.” The label refers to the NYPD officers who have been protesting by deliberately not making arrests for minor crimes since December 22.
The “stoppage” began as a response to the murders of two NYPD police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, on December 20. The two officers were shot and killed on duty inside a squad car by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who then committed suicide.
Media have suggested due to Brinsley’s race that his attack was in retaliation of the December 3 ruling in the Eric Garner case. Garner, who was unarmed, was killed by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo on July 17 via chokehold. However, despite being ruled a homicide, Pantaleo was not indicted for the death of the black Garner.
As the case followed the media frenzy that occurred after the death and similar ruling in the Michael Brown case throughout 2014, racial tensions have been high in the US. The ruling in the Garner case saw mass protests occur throughout December in New York and other parts of the US.
As NYPD have been protesting however, in a December 29 article the New York Post noted the mass decrease in arrests. “Tickets and summonses for minor offences” reportedly decreased by 94 per cent, lowering the number from thousands of weekly tickets and summonses to several hundred, while overall arrests dropped by 66 per cent.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said in an open statement to officers, “I issue no mandates, and I make no threats of discipline, but I remind you that when you don the uniform of this department, you are bound by the tradition, honour, and decency that go with it.”
Critics have taken the opportunity to review whether or not the lack of arrests in relation to minor crimes will have a great social effect, and what that determines about the police system within New York, and possibly other US cities.
While the protest is not over, officers honoured Liu at his public funeral on January 3. Tension was expected as Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has publicly stated he does not support the protest, was in attendance for the funeral, but the event occurred without incident.
In turn, at Ramos’ funeral, held the week before, officers turned their backs to de Blasio in response to his public speech in honour of Ramos.
Protests are expected to continue as talks continue between Bratton and de Blasio.