It is a painful proposition, as a conservative, to have to take the side of Bill de Blasio in a debate. And in the current fracas between de Blasio and the NYPD, thankfully I don’t have to take de Blasio’s side to say that what the police unions are doing in New York is flatly and emphatically wrong.
According to reports, the NYPD is as of now effectively in “working strike” mode. They are still showing up, putting on the uniform, and at least nominally being present, since they are prevented by law (and rightly so) from going on strike. However, by all accounts they have absolutely ceased performing many functions of their jobs, as citations for nonviolent offenses have fallen somewhere between 66 and 93 per cent from last year depending on the offense.
Most conservative commentators are busy nowadays suggesting that it is incumbent on de Blasio to heal this rift by apologizing to the police preferably with some bowing and scraping thrown in. While I understand the strong urge to see de Blasio humbled, it’s insane to suggest that it’s proper for the police to refuse to do their jobs to the best of their ability unless their boss (de Blasio) publicly apologizes to them.
Public criticism of public employees is standard and common for politicians and is probably more prevalent from Republican executives than from Democrats. It is a frequent (nearly incessant) campaign pitch for Republicans that a given agency or department is bloated and/or corrupt and/or full of cronies. We would immediately and harshly criticize any agency that responded to such accusation by engaging in a work stoppage.
Regardless of whether de Blasio’s statements about the police are true or not (at least from the perspective of the police), he is entitled to expect as the city’s chief executive that they will do their jobs properly. I am appalled by the NYPD’s union-led mentality that they alone among government employees are entitled to stop doing their jobs because they have faced the horrible indignity of being publicly criticized. We cannot permit the “working strike” to become an accepted and/or appropriate response to political criticism of a department. Otherwise this tactic is going to crop up wholesale whenever a Republican talks about cutting a budget or positions from any department now or in the future.
I understand the instinct that many conservatives have: de Blasio bad, cops good. But what the NYPD is doing here sets a dangerous precedent and should not be countenanced with these public shows of support from conservative commentators. If the NYPD union wants to exact political revenge on de Blasio they should do it by donating to his primary or general election opponent, not by refusing to do their jobs or by engaging gross displays of public insubordination and then hiding behind the skirts of their collective bargaining agreement. This is no way for a government to function.