Times Unleashes 'Vitriol' at NYPD Whose Behavior 'Raises Unsettling Questions'
Turns out there's one union the New York Times is not totally enamored with: The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, New York City's largest police union. Saturday's front page featured a hostile anti-police story by N.R. Kleinfield and John Eligon related to charges of wide-spread ticket-fixing, 'Officers Unleash Vitriol as Peers Are Charged in Ticket-Fixing.'
The reporters didn't seem all that concerned about presumption of innocence, either:
A three-year investigation into the police's habit of fixing traffic and parking tickets in the Bronx ended in the unsealing of indictments on Friday and a stunning display of vitriol by hundreds of off-duty officers, who converged on the courthouse to applaud their accused colleagues and denounce their prosecution.
As 16 police officers were arraigned at State Supreme Court in the Bronx, incensed colleagues organized by their union cursed and taunted prosecutors and investigators, chanting 'Down with the D.A.' and 'Ray Kelly, hypocrite.'
As the defendants emerged from their morning court appearance, a swarm of officers formed a cordon in the hallway and clapped as they picked their way to the elevators. Members of the news media were prevented by court officers from walking down the hallway where more than 100 off-duty police officers had gathered outside the courtroom.
The assembled police officers blocked cameras from filming their colleagues, in one instance grabbing lenses and shoving television camera operators backward.
The unsealed indictments contained more than 1,600 criminal counts, the bulk of them misdemeanors having to do with making tickets disappear as favors for friends, relatives and others with clout. But they also outlined more serious crimes, related both to ticket-fixing and drugs, grand larceny and unrelated corruption. Four of the officers were charged with helping a man get away with assault.
The outpouring of angry officers at the courthouse had faint echoes of a 1992 march on City Hall by off-duty officers to protest Mayor David N. Dinkins's call for more independent review of the police. And it raises unsettling questions about the current mind-set of the police force.
'It is hard to see an upside in the way the anger was expressed, especially in Bronx County, where you already have a hard row to hoe in terms of building rapport with the community,' said Eugene J. O'Donnell, a professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. 'The Police Department is a very angry work force, and that is something that should concern people, because it translates into hostile interactions with people.'
A police official said Mr. Kelly did not condone the hostile comments made by some officers. Particularly disturbing, the official said, was a news report that said some officers chanted 'E.B.T.' at people lined up at a benefits center across the street, referring to electronic benefit transfer, the method by which welfare checks are distributed. The people had apparently chanted 'Fix our tickets' to the officers.
'To begin ridiculing people in the welfare line across the street doesn't endear you to the public eye,' said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to be heard directly criticizing members of the force.
The last sentence provided a tainted taste of hostility under the guise of a telling detail - particularly galling, considering the unclean, unkempt state of the weeks-long leftist campout at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan:
On Friday morning, on the street outside the courthouse, some 350 officers massed behind barricades and brandished signs expressing sentiments like 'It's a Courtesy Not a Crime.'
When the defendants emerged, many in the crowd burst into raucous cheers. Once they had gone and the tide of officers had dispersed, the street was littered with refuse.