Last week, at least four incidents of hoodlums throwing water at police officers came to light. Video of one incident, posted on social media last Monday, showed two police officers making an arrest in Harlem. They had several buckets of water thrown at them. An empty bucket was also tossed, hitting one officer on the head.
A second incident took place in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and showed several young men drenching two officers with buckets of water while onlookers laughed and jeered.
Then, later in the week, a third video, taken in the Bronx, showed a group of men and women carrying buckets of water, water bottles and squirt guns gathering around two female police officers in the Bronx, who moved quickly away from two men who hurled buckets of water at them.
A fourth recording, back in Harlem, showed children throwing water at an officer and spraying him with squirt guns.
In none of the cases did the officers seek to arrest, or even confront, any of the individuals involved.
Later in the week, though, after the videos were widely publicized, several suspects, including one who is the son of a Corrections Department captain and a reputed gang member, were arrested and charged with harassment, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and, in one case, criminal tampering, for damage done to an officer’s phone.
As expected, politicians politicized the incidents.
After New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attacks “not acceptable,” President Trump described them as “a total disgrace,” and tweeted that Mr. de Blasio, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, needs to “STAND UP [sic] for those who protect our lives…”
Mr. de Blasio fired back with a tweet of his own, noting that “Crime’s gone down year after year in New York City and it’s not just because you finally left town.”
New York Police Chief Terrence Monahan, called the incidents “reprehensible” and, speaking about the incidents at the Annual Incentive Awards Ceremony honoring longtime officers, suggested that officers who did not react to being doused with water should “reconsider whether or not this is the profession for them.”
On the other side of the social divide, New York Times writer Ginia Bellafante expressed her wonder in a column at the fact that an assailant could be “facing more severe punishment for dousing a police officer than Officer Daniel Pantaleo is for choking Eric Garner,” the Staten Island man who, while being arrested, was placed in a hold by an officer in 2014 and died.
The comparison, of course, is patently ridiculous, as no one has asserted that Mr. Pantaleo intended to harm, much less bring about the death, of Mr. Garner, who weighed 395 pounds, suffered from asthma and diabetes, and had an enlarged heart. By contrast, the hooligans who harassed police officers, while the only harm they caused may have been an officer’s bruised head, a ruined cellphone and several soaked uniforms, acted brazenly and without provocation.
Ms. Bellafante’s dismissal of the severity of the attacks as “expressions either of impish seasonal boredom or deeper, more meaningful antagonisms” is an attack of its own sort on New York’s Finest.
As to those Finest, with all due respect to Chief Monahan, the restraint demonstrated by the officers, although they certainly had every right and reason to chase the suspects and arrest them, is praiseworthy.
In a letter to the New York Times, 27 black community leaders expressed how they “were appalled at the recent verbal attacks on and water dousing of police officers in Harlem and Brooklyn.”
“It would be irresponsible for us not to call out this unacceptable behavior,” they wrote, and commended the NYPD for “its recent and sustained progress in making the city the safest big city in America. Violent crime and homicides have declined significantly. Practices historically deemed unacceptable by the African-American community, like ‘stop and frisk’ and racial profiling, have also been meaningfully reduced.”
Had the attacked police reacted angrily and forcefully against the goons who doused them, those leaders might not have been able to write that letter and express those sentiments.
In a time when policemen have been accused — and in at least some cases, with seemingly good reason — of mistreating and even shooting unarmed suspects, evidence that such rogue actions are outliers in the realm of law enforcement is most welcome, and most important.
Like the case earlier this month when a woman was accused of shoplifting at a New York City Whole Foods and policemen summoned by supermarket security officers decided to themselves pay for the food she had allegedly slipped into her shopping bag, acts of restraint and kindness on the part of police officers help show the public a different side of law enforcement — a side that helps citizens see police not as adversaries or threats but as their protectors and friends.