A forum popular with active and retired New York police is filling up with comments advocating a departmentwide work “slowdown” amid the first major police controversy of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term. Some commenters who identified themselves as active-duty officers even said they are alreadly engaging in what amounts to a “right-to-work slowdown” in response to what they see as over-policing of police work. As the NYPD continues to grapple with the fallout from the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner during his arrest for selling illegal “loosie” cigarettes last month, the specter of a potentially illegal work “slowdown” has been a recurring theme.
Garner’s July 17 death, which the city’s medical examiner controversially determined last Friday to be a homicide caused by an officer’s use of a banned chokehold, has driven a wedge between members of the force and police reform and minority rights advocates, who have long been at odds over the way the NYPD treats New York City citizens.
The department’s “stop and frisk” policy, a history of targeting minority neighborhoods with suffocating levels of enforcement and repeated incidents of violence by police officers in recent weeks have created a backlash.
But among many police, the prospect that Officer Daniel Pantaleo -- who some, including the medical examiner, allege executed an illegal chokehold on Garner -- may be indicted has provoked an uproar. Cops say they risk their lives every day, driving violent crime way down in the process, but that police-bashing citizens, advocates and lawyers have made their jobs nearly impossible to do effectively without fear of being dragged into court.
The threat of a “work-to-rule” slowdown -- loosely defined as a deliberate change in work patterns under which employees follow rules and procedures much more strictly than normally, thereby lowering their speed and efficiency -- first reached public consciousness during a Tuesday press conference by Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins.
“Going forward, for members of the NYPD, we want you to do your job and follow the rule book the way it’s written,” Mullins said. “If there’s a delay getting to the next place, so be it.”
The comments, and others by Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, were seen by some as a thinly veiled call for the police force to stage a “work-to-rule” slowdown, and many commenters on the NYPD forum Thee Rant took them as such. The NYPD and PBA did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
“Rule book slow down and it has the Sgts backing. If the cops actually follow it something can be accomplished now!” a user with the online handle grimreaper1270 wrote Tuesday on the forum, whose real identity cannot be independently verified as a bona fide police officer.
Some users of Thee Rant believe that a “work-to-rule” slowdown -- which in some cases can also violate the Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act, aka the “Taylor Law” -- is a legitimate and prudent way to respond to the growing criticism of the NYPD and its tactics, and the risk to officers that has come with it.
“We don't need a slowdown. The only thing we have to do is follow the patrol guide to the letter,” Thee Rant user BklynNorth wrote on the forum. “The job would grind to a halt!! The command would be 30 jobs in back log!! And there wouldn't be a f***ing thing they could do about it … FOLLOW EVERY RULE, YOU WILL BE IN THE RIGHT AND THE JOB WILL GRIND TO A HALT!”
Another user of the forum, CanyonTunaHunter, wrote that as an active-duty officer he or she plans to do as little as possible in the last few years remaining before becoming eligible to retire.
“LESS ACTIVITY = LESS LIABILITY Any cop that does not adopt this as his mantra is a fool. I have 39 months to go. I live 35 miles north of the city and could give two f***s what happens to any resident of nyc except my uncle and cousins,” CanyonTunaHunter wrote. “Unless it hits me in the face I will not take police action. I am in straight self preservation mode. Preserve my health, paycheck, and pension.”
One user, RetBxMoss, advocated for making more arrests in addition to following “the patrol guide to the letter” and employing “EVERY resource that is out there” to tie up the system.
“[T]hey should STRONGLY suggest a ‘speed up" in that use ZERO discretion when it comes to making an arrest and cripple the system with an influx of arrests,” RetBxMoss said. “If anyone resists and/or refuses....step back, (ALWAYS maintain safety) and call a supervisor and ESU. This will cause for more work and effort all around, but do your job PROPERLY and by the book!”
Thee Rant user grimreaper1270 went so far as to urge police to almost entirely stop doing their jobs in order to prove a point to critics of the NYPD.
“I say no more enforcement and let them drown in their ideology! Dumbest people on earth. You cant have it both ways,” grimreaper1270 said. “Honestly will all the bulls**t going on why would any cop give a flying f*** anymore? Do the bare minimum and let them kill each other!”