Common Sense Needed to Fill Pregnant Pause

“I’m pregnant, I’m pregnant,” screamed the teenage, four-months pregnant Dailene Rosario, before officers used a Taser while arresting her. “[Rosario] was screaming it, we were screaming it, her mother was screaming it,” noted a bystander, all of which unimpressed Sergeant’s Benevolent Association President, Ed Mullins: “I mean, how do you know somebody is pregnant unless they absolutely look pregnant?,” he averred, leaving unanswered the question as to why twelve officers needed a Taser to subdue a seventeen year-old girl. Rosario’s attorney, on the other hand, supplied common sense to the situation, stating “a stun gun is not going to take the place of hands-on control or patience and good judgment.”

But then Mullins is a police union leader and he frequently defies common sense in order to obscure accountability and ensure his members’ job security. Mullins was satisfied by one of his members’ inaction in failing to stop the chokehold death of Eric Garner or in coming to his aid. He was equivocal about the officer who tackled, then arrested, an innocent James Blake, and then, when the officer realized his error, failed to report the incident to his superiors, as required. And he was apoplectic about the sergeant who shot and killed Deborah Danner, an emotionally disturbed, sixty-six year-old woman, claiming that placing the sergeant on modified duty (meant to allow time for the department to investigate the shooting) was “political pandering.”

Such a record makes one wonder why Mullins feels equipped, as he claims, to offer advice to Mayor Bill deBlasio on “communities of color.” Like other police union heads, he posits a worldview that appeals to antediluvian sectors of the city, one that imagines a black and brown world of chaos, held back by a blue wall of safety. His aim is power, in order to represent his members, but ultimately, it is power without responsibility or accountability, and I leave it to others to say where that gets us; his attempts to interpret the black and Latino communities are demonstrably false, but help create an injurious dichotomy that is not easily overcome.

“Has anyone taken a good look at who these people are, these self-appointed [people] who claim to represent the community,” asked former Commissioner Bill Bratton, speaking of activists. “Who is [he]?,” Bratton went on, “who does he represent? Is he appointed by anybody? Does he speak for anybody, other than himself?” Mullins speaks for his own self-interest and the members he was elected to represent. But who appointed him to interpret black and Latino communities to the Mayor? Does he know anything of history, sociology, or economics, or the role of tenant activists to restore the Bronx when it was burning, for example? While he may know of black and Latino perpetrators of crime, you can’t conflate that to actual knowledge of black and Latino people, and anything he says on that has to be discounted. But doing that would require common sense, which, when it comes to the police, is often lacking.