A disheartening, if not outright disturbing, video came across my Facebook timeline Tuesday. No, it had nothing to do with the drawn-out Russia collusion investigation that captured so much attention the next day. No, this video was a clear demonstration of something that has an actual impact on the lives of Americans.
The videos posted Tuesday across social media of New York police officers being taunted and having buckets of water dumped on them for simply doing their job was disturbing enough. The mockery and laughter of those taking the videos and the reaction of the cops who were being assaulted, though, were as troubling as the actual assaults.
I first saw the video when it was shared by retired New York detective John Paolucci on Facebook.
“It was very, very difficult to watch,” he told me on Wednesday.
Now that is saying something, considering Paolucci has seen plenty during a law enforcement career that saw him rise through the ranks of the NYPD from starting as a housing officer to eventually becoming a detective sergeant in charge of the forensic investigations division. In between, he also was an undercover detective and a patrol sergeant in Harlem. He has certainly seen his share of disturbing images, and not just on video, but this was especially appalling.
“I’ve never really seen anything like that, essentially an assault on a police officer,” he said. Paolucci, who now is an adjunct professor of crime scene investigations at Mercy College and founder and president of Forensics 4 Real, has provided expert testimony in high profile cases and has been widely published.
Paolucci lays much of the blame for what he saw on the videos squarely at the feet of the national media and politicians.
He understands having to deal with verbal abuse and that one has to “have a thick skin to be a cop,” but said in today’s environment, cops are being conditioned to believe you have to tolerate physical abuse mostly out of fear of what will be exploited by the media.
“If that was me and somebody came running up behind me, I wouldn’t hesitate to take action before that guy dumped a bucket of water over my head,” Paolucci said. “In that scenario ... I certainly would feel justified in turning around and cracking him with a baton or whatever I had available to defend myself.”
However, he said, if the media got a hold of such video, it would have singled out just the last action.
“I am 100 percent certain that if the cop had turned around and clocked that guy, that is all the media would be running is this little snippet with headlines about the brutal racial violence of the NYPD against kids just trying to cool off on a record hot day,” he said.
“Cops are weighing the potential damage of taking action, saying ‘Listen, if I just get wet and suck this up, it’s better than me being the poster child for racism and police brutality all over the country.’”
Any cop will tell you being hesitant can be a life-endangering mistake.
However, today’s caustic environment is leaving police feeling isolated. Especially when politicians such as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a current presidential candidate who still had not spoken about the assaults even after arrests had been made, have publicly stated they believe racism is rampant among the police
It’s also similar to what another presidential candidate, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, said when he stated “all police work and all of American life takes place in the shadow of racism.”
While such statements might play well in certain political circles, they do nothing but promote discord and distrust of the police, not to mention running counter to facts as revealed in a study by Michigan State University and the University of Maryland College Park published this week.
Reuters reported the study found white officers were no more likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot and kill minorities. More importantly, Reuters noted “In areas with high rates of violent crime by blacks, police were more than three times more likely to shoot dead a black person than a white person, the study found. But the reverse was also true, with white people more likely to be shot by police in places where whites committed many crimes, the study found.”
The authors of the study concluded, “We find no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.”
“The facts don’t back up the propaganda,” Paolucci said regarding the study, adding media and politicians need to “cool the rhetoric down.”
The rhetoric also ignores the most important fact.
“There’s heroic things happening every day,” Paolucci said.