By George Capsis
I read with a flick of surprise that Cory Johnson—now city council speaker and a pretty good bet as our next mayor—had joined with seven other council members in support of a bill to cut $1 billion from the police budget. A day or two later I got an email from somebody who wanted to write an article about it for the paper. Hmm, I thought, who is this guy—does he have a side in all this? And what is the total police budget, so we can judge what kind of impact a $1 billion cut might produce?
Sure, people are mad at the police, particularly that cop who sat on the neck of George Floyd. But will cutting $1 billion from the New York City police budget prevent an NYPD officer from making errors in judgment?
On June 20th the New York Times had an article on this subject, “The N.Y.P.D. Spends $6 Billion a Year. Proposals to Defund It Want to Cut $1 Billion,” and offered that 90 percent of funding was for salaries, including overtime and benefits, so at least part of the $1 billion cut would come out of salaries.
If you Google me you will discover that I have slapped state senators and cops. Let me tell you about the cop.
I was biking down Bleecker Street on my brand new bike and just after crossing Sixth Avenue a shabby police van cut me off and parked—bang—right in the bike lane, forcing me out into the traffic just as a young police officer emerged from the passenger side. When I suggested that the police should obey the law, a short, plump police officer and the driver came around and asked me to stop and get off my bike which was pinned against their van by the young standing officer.
“Step away from the bike,” the first officer repeated and repeated, while looking not at me but at the curb, while I repeated with increasing irritation and volume that I could not “step away.” Blindly, he kept playing the “take command game,” repeating and repeating, “Step away from the bike. Step away from the bike.” Then I slapped him.
Finally, he turned his head to look at me. And then, with pent-up hatred, he hauled back and hit me on my eyeglasses, breaking them and splitting open my cheek.
Now what? He must have thought—I hit this old man and cut open his face and now he is bleeding. What do I do? So he decided to arrest me and take me to the 6th Precinct station. But I would not go and a crowd gathered to watch this macabre pushing match between these two badly matched police officers and this bleeding old man.
A nice woman looked at me plaintively and asked, “What should we do?” and I said, “Call the police.” And they came running because they understood that police officers were in danger! Under attack! And young cops, triggered to protect their own, roughly pushed me to the station and into a cell where I found myself saying with a smirk to two other criminals, “Wadda ya guys in for?”
Via a miracle, the police chief (whom I had entertained in my garden over a chilled glass of wine just a week earlier) got me out and home that night. Our lawyer said, “We will sue,” and we did and won $60,000. (I only got $40,000.) I thought, “I am going to have to pay this $40,000 as part of my real estate tax, so I have to pay for the crime against me.”
So, Cory, maybe the answer is fewer police, but better-educated and better-paid.
We offer and encourage police to continue their educations, starting their careers with a B.A. and then an M.A. in policing, and finally, perhaps, a Ph.D. in social psychology. So, the next time I am asked to step away from my bike by a police officer he will hear me when I say my leg is caught in the wheel. Then the city and I will save $60,000 (or $40,000).