A few weeks ago, I saw a video on Twitter depicting two NYPD officers being relentlessly pelted with water and jeered at by citizens at point-blank while making an arrest in Harlem. Another video surfaced around the same time in Brownsville, Brooklyn featuring two officers being doused with water by multiple citizens while responding to a call about disorderly conduct. At one point in the video, a man runs up directly behind an officer and dumps an entire bucket of water directly on his head, while onlookers, including the cameraman, continuously laugh throughout the video. The cops remained completely unfazed and continued their procedure as if the aggressors weren’t there at all.
While the man who dumped the water bucket was confirmed to have been arrested for the aggression, there are still some things that stick out as alarming to me regarding these videos. The most obvious is that there were several other citizens directly involved in these incidents, many of whom were off camera and likely not apprehended. I initially thought the two officers in the Brooklyn video had done something wrong and were being protested against, not just two officers responding to a call. What really caught my eye, however, was the number of online responses defending the harassers’ actions and actually further ridiculing the police. In fact, nearly all of the highest-rated comments consisting of thousands of likes were negatively aimed toward police in some way.
Sure, some of the comments were funny. As a former New York City resident, not every interaction I’ve had with the NYPD was always enjoyable. One of my close friends had been stopped and frisked despite lacking any probable cause. Dumping water on a cop’s head might feel tempting at times. To the unfortunate victims of police brutality and other unjustified police encounters, a bucket of water understandably may seem far too mild a punishment. And it is — but only for the officers guilty of this abuse.
According to the Washington Post, the NYPD had killed two people in 2018. One of the two victims, Saheed Vassell, was innocent and unarmed, and was questionably killed for brandishing a pipe in the direction of four officers while searching for someone who was allegedly pointing a gun at people. The second, however, was Michael Hansford, who was trying to attack his landlord with a knife while ignoring the police’s warnings at the time of the shooting. To little surprise, both of these victims were black, much like the majority of victims of police shootings. However, due to Hansford’s noncompliance with police warnings during an attempted murder, I believe Vassell was the only innocent casualty of 2018.
In 2017, there were approximately 4,500 complaints of general police indecency, ranging from rude behavior to power abuse, in the NYPD. There are 36,000 officers in the NYPD. Hypothetically, even if every single complaint was completely unbiased and didn’t overlap the same officers, about 12 percent of the entire force would be guilty of some form of misconduct. Even in this highly exaggerated scenario, 88 percent of the NYPD continue to serve and protect their citizens without accusations of abuse, yet are still subjected to this unacceptable lack of respect and appreciation.
Officers who abuse their power should be thoroughly penalized by the court of law, but should remain distinct from the rest of the police force. Yes, police abuse happens, and a largely disproportionate number of abuses happen to black people. But to blindly despise all police in general is ignorant, just as ignorant as the prejudices within the police force that lead to a disproportionately higher number of black people falling victim to police shootings compared to whites. It’s the same as stereotyping; we let the wrongful actions committed by a fragment of a certain population represent their image as an entire community, which in turn creates false prejudices and blind, misguided hatred that gets passed down among generations and further embedded within society.
Sean Morton is a senior majoring in English.