Select Page

Letter to Misdirected Revolutionaries

Hello Rockaway Revolutionaries,

My name is Paul King. If you have read my letters to the editor in the Wave, you know that I live in a different part of the multiverse, though I hope we can find some common ground.

I started a letter to the editor in response to your letter in the July 10 edition (and may yet send one to Mark Healey) but thought it would be counterproductive to have a public back-and-forth about history and other data. I would rather work on solutions.

That said, “between us” below are some responses to points Rockaway Revolution made in its letter.  One of my favorite sayings is “the truth is bad enough.”  Embellishing and/or rewriting history only damages your credibility and empowers people who would undermine the good goals you are pursing.

  • some people are so angry that they fly a retaliatory banner “Rockaway and Breezy Support NYPD” and march to support “those who protect us.”

It was not a “retaliatory” banner.  The folks behind the banner and the march feel that police officers are being slandered with a broad brush and, in some cases, targeted with violence.  I doubt any knew or cared about the “Police out of schools” banner.

  • Who is the ‘us’ in that statement? 

‘Us’ is all citizens.   I am sure you have noticed that the recent uptick in NYC murders.  Virtually all of the victims are black.  When cops are prevented from doing their jobs, people die.  Yes there are bad cops, bad policies and a culture that needs changing but thousands of citizens’ lives have been saved by the NYPD since the terrible days of the early 1990s.  I am sure you also noticed that black citizens are calling for the return of undercover, anti-gun patrols.  We need to focus on fixing the police without needlessly jeopardizing lives.

  • The story of modern policing is one that began with slavery.

This is a terrible distortion.  There is the weakest of connections between southern slave patrols and any modern police force and zero connection with the NYPD.  The New York Sherriff’s Office predates slave patrols and like most policing in the 1600s-1800s, it was focused on preventing “disorder.”  As your PBS article points out, “modern” policing in the 1800s was imported from London.  Any parallels are not about racism but about classism, which is a worsening problem in the 21st Century.

Your narrative is not harmless.  It gives fuel to anyone who wants to call “bullshit” on your cause.  It also makes enemies out of potential allies.

  • Why should the NYPD have a 6 billion dollar budget while our schools are underfunded, while thousands of children are living in homeless shelters, while people are food insecure and can’t pay their rent?  

Even if we should be spending less on policing, this argument is both a red herring and wrong on the facts.  The DoE budget is four times the NYPD budget.  During the DiBlasio administration, the rate of spending increases for social services and education has more than doubled those for uniformed services. And, we spend more per student than any place in the country — by far.  Schools underfunded?  No, mismanaged.  Regardless, investing in schools, affordable housing and food security is not contingent on cutting the NYPD budget.  “Defund the police” seems more about retaliation than reform.  Again, it makes enemies out of potential allies.

  • Why is a cop with a gun the first thing you see when walking into an elementary school?

School security was not run by the NYPD in my day.  I was not in favor of the change but understood that parents were concerned that school security was not up to handling the violence, drugs and other crime happening in and around schools.  Professionals were needed.  (Putting police in schools became a serious nationwide trend after Sandy Hook.)

It should be noted that at schools where more than 80% of students are Black, 76% of parents agree that school safety agents “promote a safe and respectful environment at this school,” according to a Chalkbeat analysis of education department survey data.  Safety is not a race issue.  I am not arguing for NYPD in the schools.  I am just pointing out this is what parents wanted.

I would gladly spend a little time debating any of the above but here is what is more important to the lives of people (black, white, etc.) today:

  1. Why is a cop with a gun the first thing you see when walking into an elementary school? 

More important for me than who runs security are these questions:  What led a child to bad/criminal behavior and what early interventions can help prevent kids from going awry?  What can we do in response to this behavior that does not involve the criminal justice system?

  • Why are police sent to address emotionally disturbed individuals, or people sleeping on the street?

I wonder what it would take to have a social work force that responded in tandem with or instead of the NYPD.

  • We should not be putting armed police officers in situations where they are the first responders to every problem. 

I think even most ardent NYPD supporters would agree.  When we put police in situations they are not trained to handle (and perhaps could not properly handle even with training), some bad outcomes are inevitable.

In the end, I guess I am saying there is common ground between the multiverses.  We can find it if we don’t assume the dogma in our own universe is perfect and that the people in the other universes are bad guys.


Paul King