2007-04-13 / Columnists

From the Editor's Desk

Political Correctness Taken Much Too Far
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Commentary By Howard Schwach

Political correctness requires the belief that everything the police do is wrong and somehow dedicated to reducing the rights that we have as American citizens.

At least, the New York Times' brand of political correctness requires that belief.

The crime rate is going down. Must be because the police are illegally stopping and frisking people of color.

There are no problems during the Republican National Convention (RNC)when a myriad of groups promised to make mischief and tie up the city. Must be because the police were illegally spying on citizens that only wanted to exercise their right to vent their anger and they arresting both protestors and bystanders alike because the police just want to act like fascists.

The police are stopping more black people than white people in their search for criminality. Must be that the cops are racist despite the statistics that show that more than eighty percent of the crime victims report that the crimes against them were committed by black men.

It goes on and on.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran what it considered to be an "important story," even for the paper they call "The Gray Lady."

That splashy front-page story (above the fold, as they say) told of the New York City Police Department's "aggressive" intelligence gathering prior to the 2004 RNC.

What a surprise.

The police checked out the groups that they believed might have disrupted both the convention and the public during that critical week.

Isn't that what they're paid to do? Did the police break the law by checking out those groups that planned to "take over the streets" during the convention?

In fact, the police broke no laws, because a federal judge had given the agency wider authority to investigate political organizations in the wake of 9/11, something The Times did not mention on its front page that day.

The Times piece chronicled the fact that the police traveled to other cities and even other nations to "conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention," and, "it checked out the views of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law."

My question is, how were the police supposed to know that specific groups had no intention of breaking the law until they checked them out?

Did groups post on their Websites the fact that they were going to break the law? Did they call 911 and say, "Hey, we're going to be breaking windows and throwing bricks at the cops during the RNC?" I don't think so.

Despite what the Times and other politically correct thinkers say, I believe that the cops did an outstanding job in keeping the city safe during a very difficult time, a time that could have seen what was seen in other cities - marauders roaming the street, destroying property and injuring innocent bystanders.

I'm not the only one who believes that the cops did an outstanding job, the New York Times and its minions notwithstanding.

Even the New York Daily News, not known as a knee-jerk defender of police officers, ran an editorial on the subject.

"The notion of wholesale abuses {by the NYPD at the RNC] arises from Sunday's New York Times headlines asserting 'City Police Spied Broadly' by conducting 'Covert Operations Across Nation and Globe' as a way of probing protest plans. Cops 'spied.' Cops were 'covert.' Therefore, they must have been bad.

"Actually, the NYPD appears to have acted with admirable vigilance, employing tactics that amount to unlawful spying only in the fevered imaginings of the New York Civil Liberties Union."

Coming from the Daily News, that's almost an endorsement of the NYPD's actions.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the NYPD's actions, saying, "We were at the time very worried that we would be a target of potential terrorists and others intent on causing a disruption," he said. "We had a fundamental responsibility to learn whether groups might have included any potential terrorists or anarchists planning to cause or take advantage of any disruptions."

"I wish we lived in a Norman Rockwell world," he added, "but we don't"

I think that says it all.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly agreed with the mayor and went even further in justifying the actions of his department.

"{The reason we spied on groups] was to stop the kind of violence and other vandalism that crippled Seattle and other cities abroad," Kelly said. "We defended free speech during the Republican Convention. This was the police department's finest hour."

"A small percentage of people wanted to come here and create havoc," he added. "They called it 'a day of chaos' and they wanted to shut down the city."

Chris Dunn, an associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, however, disagreed. He represents a number of the 1,806 people who were arrested during the convention.

"Investigating legal political activity does nothing to promote public safety," he said. "Indeed, political spying by the police is wrong, can be unlawful and simply undermines the public's faith in law enforcement."

There are some who agree.

Susan Bloom and Edmond Jacobsen wrote a letter to the editor of the Times after its article appeared.

"{The Times article] sent a shudder through us and revved the feelings of frustration and anxiety that we experienced during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

"The sight of scores of police officers in riot gear on their new motorcycles with plastic handcuffs dangling from their uniforms, all to the soundtrack of the constant surveillance of helicopters was reminiscent of a South American military régime.

"We are law-abiding citizens. The police were empowered to treat us as potential rioters while we peacefully protested the policies of a President who now has a 28 percent approval rating.

"Our city leaders will say they were looking out for our safety, but we never felt more vulnerable and afraid."

I wonder how they would have felt if somebody had lobbed a bomb into their midst while they were "peacefully protesting."

Had they survived, they probably would have sued the city for not protecting them when there was a right to believe that such an action could have taken place.

If you're a cop, you can't win.

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