NYPD Goes Full Mario Savio

Mario Savio, on the steps of Sproul Hall, 1964:

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

From today’s New York Times:

One arraignment courtroom instead of two. Clerks watching “Batman” on their computer screens and playing with their cellphones as they wait for something to happen. And Manhattan’s night court shutting down an hour early because there are no more cases to call.

Those were scenes from the city’s arraignment courts in the third week of a precipitous drop in arrests by the New York Police Department. The usual chaotic bustle of the courts — the odd mix of transgressors, from murderers to fare-beaters — has given way to unusual scenes of tranquil inactivity.

“It’s slow, crazy slow,” Marcy Seckler, a veteran Legal Aid lawyer, remarked with a smile, as night court started in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Things did not pick up: Over the course of the night, only 30 defendants came before Judge Abraham Clott, who often rubbed his eyes and yawned. On a typical night, he would see 60 to 90 defendants. No more than 12 people sat in the courtroom at any time, and court officers checked their watches and wandered away from their posts.

At 12:15 a.m. Wednesday, the judge looked out into the gallery and its nine rows of benches, which were all empty. There were no prostitutes, no one accused of publicly drinking or urinating — and there had not been any all night.

Judge Clott declared the session over — 45 minutes early.

For the last two weeks, New York City police officers have sharply curtailed making arrests and issuing summonses. Only 347 criminal summonses were written in the seven days through Sunday, down from 4,077 in the same period a year ago.

The sharp downturn magnifies a continuing divide between the rank-and-file and Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose standing had fallen so low among uniformed officers that some turned their backs to him at the funerals of two slain officers.

The number of cases handled by the arraignment courts fell 36 percent in December compared with the same month last year, and most of the drop came in the last two weeks of the month, court officials said.

Just in the last two and a half weeks, arraignments for misdemeanors have fallen about 60 percent, to 2,581, from 6,395. The drop was more pronounced for people arrested for violations, like disorderly conduct: a 91 percent decline to 97 cases, compared with 1,157 over the same period a year ago.


  1. Paul Rosenberg January 8, 2015 at 5:03 pm | #

    Seems to me they’re doing an anti-Mario Savio. Taking their bodies OUT of the machine.

    Be really neat, though, if they did follow his lead. Throw themselves into jail by the thousands! Solidarity!

    • debmeier January 9, 2015 at 2:58 pm | #

      Maybe it’s time to let some of them go–too many cops for the amount of business on the streets.

  2. Mario Savioni January 8, 2015 at 5:04 pm | #

    I love Mario Savio, but I hope we both agree that Racism is different from police work? And while I agree that police work is crazy difficult and I fully support police officers, I also stand with Blacks. What is really hopeful to me is that the Police Officers do have a conscious, and when corporate America takes social security, among other things, and we “Put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels” and there are riots in the streets, I hope they will be with us rather than against us.

  3. George M Munchus III January 8, 2015 at 5:11 pm | #

    So if no arrests are being made what are the criminals doing to keep the policing employed?


    George Munchus,PhD
    Professor of Management
    Faculty Affirmative Action Officer
    School of Business/Graduate School of Management
    University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Business-Engineering Complex
    1150-10th Ave. South
    Birmingham,Alabama 35294
    (205) 934-8895 (phone)

  4. Debra Cooper January 8, 2015 at 6:02 pm | #

    Sarcasm? No? yes?
    The danger is that we find that we are just as safe without arrestiing people for putting their legs up on the seat of an empty subway train at 1am. The city coffers may have less money from fines, but members of the general public and minority communities may get to keep some of their own money.

  5. doncastro January 8, 2015 at 6:23 pm | #

    OK, if arrests are down 60 percent it is quite obvious the NYPD is overstaffed. Great! Let’s have a major reduction in force and save the taxpayers a lot of money.

  6. xenon2 January 8, 2015 at 6:36 pm | #

    Mario Savio?

  7. Stephen Zielinski January 8, 2015 at 7:27 pm | #

    I guess there is and was a lot of pork fat on the NYPD payroll. After all, civilization has not collapsed, barbarism has not engulfed the city as the center has held its own.

    I don’t expect layoffs and mass terminations anytime soon. It’s not as though our common politicians have forgotten that they must genuflect when in the presence of police and military power. Besides, who wants to create a mob composed of reactionaries and fascist that has martial skills and deep narcissistic wounds?

  8. juan tenorio January 8, 2015 at 9:07 pm | #

    It seems to me this is a dream come true!

    It’s obvious that cops ‘generate’ crime the same way real estate agents ‘generate’ home sales, and for the same reason: to keep themselves employed.

    Except that pressuring someone to sell or buy a house (while not something I approve of) so that an agent can pay for his Porsche, is one thing; but putting people in JAIL and ruining their lives, just so some cop who lives out on the island can pay for his 4-wheel-drive is quite a different thing.

    Remember the Wire episode where the police let it be known that they would not enforce drug laws within a certain area of town?

    REAL (violent) crime went DOWN.

    So let the NYPD stop enforcing laws that shouldn’t be on the books anyway! I assume they are also staying away from the projects and Bed-Stuy?

    More (less!) power to them!

  9. Raven on the Hill January 9, 2015 at 12:14 am | #

    I think the police sincerely believe that they are all that stands between the public and chaos (also, minor tickets are around 1.5% of the city’s revenues.) They’re expecting bigger and worse crimes to follow on. But honestly, except for public urination, who cares?

  10. BillR January 9, 2015 at 12:15 am | #

    Orwell once wrote of an old school reactionary who coined the phrase ‘White Man’s Burden’:

    All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are ‘enlightened’ all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our ‘enlightenment’, demands that the robbery shall continue. A humanitarian is always a hypocrite, and Kipling’s understanding of this is perhaps the central secret of his power to create telling phrases. It would be difficult to hit off the one-eyed pacifism of the English in fewer words than in the phrase, ‘making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep’.

    Their existence may appear “grotesque and incomprehensible” to those endowed with a finer sensibility but it’s often that the former appreciate the doppelgänger aspect of their relationship:

    • Will G-R January 9, 2015 at 8:45 am | #

      Thanks for quoting from that essay of Orwell’s. I’d never encountered it before, and notwithstanding all the eye-rolls Orwell often gets from folks on the anti-capitalist left, it’s certainly a good read. One has to wonder how much pissing and streetwalking on Central Park West it would take to build a critical mass of elite opinion behind placating the cops and bringing arrest rates back up; my guess is not very much at all.

    • lazycat1984 January 9, 2015 at 2:09 pm | #

      Buckminster Fuller discussed at length how we could have a level of prosperity for all people that was way more than just tolerable. Superior to early 20th century amenities. But no, vicious sociopaths tied to ideologies that are as dead as their economic systems and religions deploy ceaseless obfuscatory propaganda to lead humanity around by the nose. *rant rant*

      • benjoya January 11, 2015 at 10:00 pm | #

        man, you said a mouthful

    • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant January 13, 2015 at 12:50 pm | #

      “A Few Good Men”’s Col. Nathan R. Jessup: [2:30 to 2:40]: “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it!”

      “The Incredibles”’s Helen Parr/Elastagirl from a storyboarded scene that did not make it into the movie [6:39 to 6:55]: “What kind of job? A job saving lives? Is that important? What about risking MY life? What about confronting evil on a daily basis for years so that people like you can sleep in safety and security? Would you consider that kind of job substantial?”

      When my wife and I rented “The Incredibles” I recommended that we watch the special features section of the DVD so that we could see some behind the scenes stuff, and the film within a film featured an animation of a storyboarded sequence that was cut from the movie prior to being animated in CGI. I paused the moment in question here and replayed it for my wife and noted to her the strange resentment “Elastagirl” has for the non-Super people her superhero alter-ego once served. I noted then, and it continues to impress me now, the anger that cops, soldiers and now an animated character, display on the matter of the public’s safety and freedom and the concomitant demand for the public’s gratitude for the evident selflessness of said cops, soldiers, and supers. I suspect that the screenwriter borrowed that rage and put in his heroine’s mouth less out of reactionary anti-feminism than of an internalization of the belief that “our protectors” are “Supers” that deserve our self-abnegating worshiping of them and our gratitude for their heretofore thankless task of keep us safe and free.

      (Parenthetically, I frankly don’t entirely buy his telling of the event he says he experienced and inspired the sequence above; does Brad Bird really think his supposed defense of motherhood is a profile in courage? Notice the sequence’s conflation of proper parenting and superhero-dom, achieved by placing them both under the rubric of making the world safe and livable. Notice, also, the conflation of these with the work of the police – those of you who have seen the film will understand what I mean.)

      The point is clear: What you have, you owe to US! And we are better than you because of it!!

      I won’t go into the misinterpretation that sustains the thesis behind such resentment, but I just wish to point out the strange anger that such resentment demonstrates. Frankly, I can more easily point to political activists as my protectors of safety and freedom. When we go to war, our rights tend to contract. Our war in Vietnam was different; rights actually expanded in the US during that conflict.


      Because of civilian activists, non-violently protesting a system that held some of its citizens in second, third and fourth class status. Notice that our civil rights activists, gay rights activists, labor activists, women’s rights activists, environmentalists display ABSOLUTELY NONE of this anger that one sees in cops and soldiers or their official and unofficial apologists. Now why is that?

      Our soldiers did not fight in Nam so that Blacks could vote at home. It was not the Viet Cong that stood in front of school house doors blocking American children from access to public education. During our foreign wars in the Middle East, on the other hand (and during all of our foreign wars prior to Vietnam) the feds expanded its surveillance of Americans, focusing primarily on progressive dissidents and persons of color. One wonders what the hell Nicholson’s Col. Jessup is referring to when, in his home country, the American Negro has to fight his fellow Americans for those vaunted basic freedoms when Jessup’s real life counterparts are out snipering commies or so-called jihadis – or innocent civilians – in foreign countries. As we speak, Republican governors and legislators are changing the laws to make voting nearly defacto illegal in more than half the states of this nation if such a would-be voter happens to be poor, of color, or a student living in another state while attending graduate school. Is this what the cops and soldiers (and cartoon superheroes) think of when they demand our gratitude for keeping us safe and free? And that is just ONE example of the contracting of the very rights and freedoms for which our soldiers and cops are thanked for “protecting” (“If You Love Your Freedom, Thank A Vet”; frankly I will thank Fannie Lou Hamer, et al.) while our elected officials and their corporate backers rescind them under our very noses. Can you say, “Voter ID Laws”? How about, “Right to Work State”?

      As bad as Al-Queda and ISIS are, neither of them stand between me and the right to exercise my democratic and constitutional rights.

      So – why the anger? Is it really because gratitude has been earned but apparently not given? One need only turn to our corporate media and especially its rightist echo chamber if being drowned in shallow uniform-worship is one’s cup of tea (-bagging). Yet, I don’t really believe that deep down the real-life Jessups or the Pat Lynches of the nation really think they are getting short shrift in the public-display -of-gratitude department. Something else bugs them. I think Elastagirl hints at it: power – her power, and that of the supers generally – is not groveled to but challenged and disinclined by inferiors who need their protection and, on occasion, their paternalistic intervention. In “The Incredibles” a character named Edna is a clothing designer for supers who states that in her heyday she made garments for the gods. In that movie the supers are the gods of now, the ancient gods are the supers of old. (This is a thesis sustained by critics and historians of the comic book genre.) The world has become godless, ruled by the weak and the mundane – civilians!

      In other words, “The Incredibles” is about the loss of prestige (deriving from power) in a world where democratization – and equality – has become the new social project. It is about forcible secularization in a world of un-equals, whose subordinates have lost their awe for their superiors. The night has become disenchanted. It is about the twilight of the idols.

      Cops, soldiers, and superheroes all watch over us lowly mortals and this – this questioning of them – is how we thank them! What nerve!

      It is not a stretch to suggest that in American pop culture, cops and soldiers are the (demi-god) idols of secular industrial society. What is striking is that in real life America cops, soldiers, and the press have all bought into this mindset and are all at a loss as to understanding public restiveness when the behavior of cops and soldiers shocks the conscience of some (but certainly not all) in society. To their public representatives, questioning the actions of police or soldiers harkens the coming of the twilight. This is how we can understand the anger of the fictional Elastagirl, the fictional Col. Jessup, or that of any real-life cop union leader, or anyone else who identifies as/with uniformed persons with guns. Seriously, has no one wondered why the cops’ union mouthpieces demand public obedience as the means to avoid being shot by cops, even if a civilian is not breaking the law?: “When a cop says, ‘Stop!’, you stop.” Why do cops’ spokespersons often communicate as if the police were NOT a part of the society at large, but separate from it and – apparently – above it? Indeed, angry police union heads don’t often aim their ire at the shocked public (or the victims of suspect police violence) so much as they aim it at the civilian leadership who they expect to give cover to them in the face of a shocked public lest they be accused of not showing adequate deference to their demi-god heroism.

      “A breed apart”, indeed.

  11. thenodster January 9, 2015 at 3:38 am | #

    Exercising their ‘consumer’ choice, depriving the statists of their revenue, letting the potheads roam free, non-aggressive disobedience toward a socialist authority figure — the NYPD were Reason magazine-style Libertarians all along.

  12. Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant January 9, 2015 at 10:17 am | #

    I provisionally take back all the mean things I said about the PBA. This experiment in lightening the heavy hand of the police department on the citizenry may put the PBA to the left of DeBlasio.

    Dare I hope that unarmed Blacks and Latinos who walk the streets to purchase a six-pack of Red Bull may make it back to their apartments alive and in one piece, all due to the job slow-down trying to pretend it ain’t one? Any social scientists/criminologists taking notes for her/his future thesis out there? If I were a such a student, you could not peel me off this opportunity for a great paper!

  13. juan tenorio January 9, 2015 at 1:06 pm | #

    Who cares about public urination, etc? That’s NOT what the police were invented for!

    The reason people pee in public is because there are not enough public restrooms. We could spend a portion of our current ‘security’ budget on providing public ‘pissoires’ throughout out cities, the way the French do.

    Problem solved!

    We can ‘redeploy’ current police officers as sewage workers.

  14. lazycat1984 January 9, 2015 at 2:06 pm | #

    Fuck the NYPD. Seriously. With whatever they used on Amadou Diallo

  15. Glenn January 9, 2015 at 11:46 pm | #

    From a perspective alien to most outside of the NYPD, the police HAVE been betrayed.

    The police have been rewarded for their enforcement on the class war front lines, between the worthy 1% and the unworthy races and poor. They have been acclimated to a culture where they ARE the law, answerable only to their own organization and the wealthy whom they serve and protect from uncomfortable casual encounters with undesirables.

    Now suddenly the violence they have been rewarded for as class warriors is called into question and they risk being subjected to prosecution instead of reward for their class loyalties. Their sense of betrayal must be intense.

    This is like the grunt in Vietnam who kills with impunity and is rewarded for his kills in compliance with the “mere gook rule” now being told his actions are an abomination that must be punished. Lt. Calley was in effect a case of selective enforcement when there was a My Lai per month.

    The violence that has been used against blacks is a symptom of a disease in the NY government hierarchy for its encouragement of racist and classist attacks and its distancing from the uniformed defenders of capitalism when politically expedient.

    Elections happen much more quickly than is possible for a change in police culture. And as long as the class divide is so pronounced, the prospects for police culture change is poor.

    • Will G-R January 10, 2015 at 9:27 am | #

      Precisely this. For Christ’s sake, de Blasio’s handpicked police commissioner was *literally the exact same guy* who as commissioner under Giuliani was the point man for implementing “broken windows” in the first place! If that wasn’t a signal to the cops (not to mention everybody else) that de Blasio meant nothing but more of the same, I don’t know what could have been any clearer. Of course the chain of command from the mayor’s office to Officer Pantaleo is as full of plausible-deniability-inducing winks and nudges as the chain of command from the White House to Lt. Calley, but the relevant folks on the ground are quite right to interpret denying its very existence as an act of cowardly betrayal.

      • juan tenorio January 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm | #

        So then we have a kind of Thomas Beckett situation, where the King has every reason to believe that ‘his man’ for Archbishop of Cant will play on his, the King’s side, and then Beckett suddenly turns out to be a man of integrity(?) and actually plays the game he should be playing as Rome’s representative.

        So de Blasio is Beckett, doing the ‘right’ thing; and the cops are Henry II, getting pissed when ‘their’ guy turns out not to be loyal (to them)?

        Is that what you’re saying?

        My assessment here is, without even talking about moral or ethical issues, that cops in general have too much power in this country’s city’s at this point, and the mayor, as the ‘higher’ power, needs to rein them in.

        Who do you want in charge of NYCity? The mayor or the cops?

        Oakland, California has a similar problem with a ‘weak’ (legally) mayor, and the cops there were so corrupt that a Federal investigation a few years back resulted in the police department itself being put into a kind of ‘receivership’, with a new chief-of-chiefs being brought in by the Feds.

      • Will G-R January 11, 2015 at 8:23 pm | #

        Interesting comparison, but I wouldn’t be so quick to draw these analogies without regard for class distinctions. The only sense in which the cops are trying to control the Mayor is the sense in which they want him to stop scapegoating them for doing exactly what the system over which he presides compels them to do. To anybody who accepts a broadly leftist critique of capitalist power structures, going after the NYPD is attacking the problem at the wrong level of analysis, since de Blasio and people like him ultimately have more of Eric Garner’s blood on their hands than Pantaleo and people like him ever could.

        If I was to draw up an analogy to explain why the cops are mad at de Blasio, I’d cast him in the role of Captain Renault: shocked, *shocked* at the existence of transgressions under his watch that he already knew full well about, with an interest in reining in NYPD brutality every bit as anomalous and situational as Renault’s interest in shutting down the roulette tables at Rick’s. The cops are basically saying to De Blasio, “How can you close me up? On what grounds?” (Wait a sec… this analogy would equate protesters against police brutality in New York with the Wehrmacht in French Morocco. Is it too late to take it back?)

    • juan tenorio January 10, 2015 at 10:08 pm | #

      Yeah but the mere existence of the police–working class people, most of them, but clearly working against their own class’s better interests, is an anomaly that challenges the traditional left wing class analysis. In a true ruling class vs. working class society, the police themselves would have to be members of the RULING class–or at least members of what might be called the ‘lower’ ruling class, in the same category with lawyers, school principles, and so on

  16. Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant January 13, 2015 at 2:18 pm | #

    Check this out:


    Now that is more like it! This is an example of how policing should be understood to work in a democracy, and how it can be consistent with democracy.

    Bratton, meet your replacement.

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