By Karen Rempel
It’s time for marriage counselling, not divorce. Defunding the NYPD is not the answer, but education and dialogue is.
The police have been getting a lot of negative press; and it is justified, no question. The tragic murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and the resulting unprecedented worldwide protests have led to remarkable turns of events, such as members of the melting pot, “majority minority” NYPD kneeling in support of protestors. The incredible outpouring of support for Black Americans has led to legislation at the federal, state, and city levels to address the racism and dysfunction in America’s policing system. I would like to balance out the protestors’ focus on police brutality by pointing out that the NYPD helps people day in and day out with thousands of kindnesses and acts of service, big and small.
It’s human nature and part of our evolutionary survival instinct that bad things stick out in our minds, and the vast numbers of daily acts of service performed by police may go unnoticed and unremembered. Brian Downey, President of the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL), believes that the NYPD’s overarching presence in the city is a “constant, steady, good force.” He reminded GOAL members in a recent message, “We’re entrusted with protecting the public safety for a reason: we voluntarily stood and took an oath that we would devote ourselves to that mission.” Most of us living in the West Village have seen this firsthand, many times.
The 2020 Pride March was canceled, so let’s take a moment to remember the incredible role the NYPD played last year in keeping millions of people safe during the biggest Pride March in New York’s history. The success of last year’s parade was beautifully supported by the NYPD. There were an estimated five million people in attendance, with 150 registered groups and approximately 150,000 individuals marching. After the event Mayor de Blasio said, “Five million people and there was almost not a single incident.” Addressing an NYPD graduating class last July he said, “What I saw was extraordinary efforts by the NYPD to keep people safe.”
That is what I saw as well. The police were friendly and tolerant, and even ready to jump into a lineup for a photo op. When the parade finally ended, well past midnight, dozens of officers gathered on Seventh Avenue for the cleanup. Officials said the city collected more than double the trash than it normally collects after New Year’s Eve celebrations. Downey estimates there were well over 1,000 officers on duty that night.
On a recent night in late May, we all heard that there were 8,000 officers on duty—risking their lives to protect and serve. Let’s commend these frontline workers, and enter into dialogue with respect and compassion, as we work together to remedy the centuries-long injustices of this nation. The always-eloquent Downey put it very well: “The rhetoric needs to stop. It’s on all sides. It’s on the police side, the union side, the public side, on all sides. We need to start building what we want for the future, for our communities, for our children. What type of society do we want? Do I think we live in a racist, homophobic society? Absolutely. But we need to work together to bring that system down and build something better that works for everyone, that we can all agree on.” Well said. The dialogue begins.
Karen Rempel is a photojournalist, technical writer, model, and artist. She has published words and pictures in BC Woman, Intercom, Room, TV Week Magazine, Vancouver Sun, and many others. Her artwork was recently on exhibit at the Revelation Gallery in the West Village. Visit her blog at loveaffair.nyc and her YouTube channel.