Clean Break Needed to Counter Delusions

“The whole country is watching to see if this bank is seizing the opportunity to make a clean break from doing business in a way that strains its reputation with its customers to one that enhances it,” wrote Gretchen Morgenson of the Times last October, quoting a Treasury official commenting on the Wells Fargo scandal. “This is an opportunity to bring in a new perspective at the top,” continued the official, highlighting an instructive aspect of corporate analysis, that is, an ability to conduct clear-eyed assessments of problems and solutions so as to reach a desired state. Such assessments recognize corporate reputation as a valued asset, one that is supported by deeds which customers view as ameliorative in time of scandal, and is the sort of organizational analysis sorely lacking in today’s NYPD.

“He saw us as the bad guys because countless times he heard it in conversation,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill at the funeral of officer Miosotis Familia, the “he” being the officer’s murderer, Alexander Bonds, a black man with mental issues. But, this can’t be right; the Commissioner’s making the statement the same week in which: a man was freed from a wrongful conviction at the request of the Brooklyn DA, after serving 21 years in prison, to add to the nearly 30 men freed in recent years; an innocent bystander sued the City, claiming officers needlessly used deadly force to subdue an emotionally disturbed person (EDP), leading to her injury, marking the third such suit in recent years; and in which Sergeant Hugh Barry gave his version of events leading to the death of Deborah Danner, an elderly EDP, one of many recent similar events (such as here, here and here), surely it can’t be just what was heard, but what is actually done?

Now, no one can say what was in Bonds’ mind (he committed suicide after the murder) or explain away the officer’s death, but what I am focusing on is the Commissioner’s inference that negative opinions of the NYPD are spurious figments of imagination lacking basis in fact. “[O’Neill’s] eulogy of Familia indicted the anti-police culture that exists in many black neighborhoods,” wrote police columnist, Leonard Levitt, making the same point.

I neither want nor am able to speak for all black people, but I don’t know any black person who is “anti-police,” let alone whole neighborhoods. I do, however, know many black people who are anti-poor policing and anti-unaccountable policing. Given the NYPD’s failure to respond as an institution to actual events that harm real people, like those from last week, it is not enough to fob off negative opinions of the police to black people’s paranoia. The department needs to make a clean break from business as usual, and I would suggest one way the Commissioner can begin to convince us of this: just explain why the black and Latino neighborhoods with the most amount of crime and arrests have the fewest number of detectives, with the highest case loads?