2010-06-11 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

A Cop-Killing Bill From Our Assembly Know-Nothings
Commentary By Howard Schwach

People who know nothing about a subject and have no expertise in the area should keep their mouths shut and listen to those who do.

That is why I say to the members of the State Assembly who want to pass a new cop-killer bill, “Pick up a weapon and stand a post.”

The Assembly, famous for destroying the city’s school system by turning it over to the mayor, has really gone over the wall by suggesting a bill that would require a police officer who is staring down the barrel of a gun to shoot to wound, rather than shooting to incapacitate the bad guy.

Now, for the sake of full disclosure, I have to say that my son is an NYPD Lieutenant who has been on the job for more than 20 years and has seldom had to pull his gun in anger.

As far as I know (kids like to keep their parents in the dark about the dangerous things they do), he has never faced a weapon or fired his outside of the Rodman’s Neck range, but that doesn’t matter.

Should that law be passed, cops will die and some who would otherwise become police officers will look elsewhere, somewhere that the work they do is respected by the people they do it for. It’s as simple as that.

Assembly bill A02952 says, in part, “A police officer or peace officer … uses such force with the intent to stop, rather than kill … and uses only the minimal amount of force necessary to effect such stop.”

That law would be a major change to the present law, which states, “A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person unless: He or she is a police officer or peace officer or a person assisting a peace officer or a person assisting a peace office at the latter’s direction.”

Big difference. Under the present law a police officer can use deadly force when necessary to protect his or her own life or the life of others. Under the new law, a police officer can go directly to prison for using deadly force.

Pick up a weapon and walk a post and then tell me that the rule should be shoot to wound.

The bill was proposed by Annette Robinson, a Brooklyn legislator who admitted to reporters that she understands that police officers would be put at risk, but really doesn’t care.

She was asked to explain her bill and why she put it into the hopper, but she was unable to do so.

“Police officers use too much force,” she said, admitting, “Not being a police officer, I would not be able to discuss the instance or the time that it happens, but I do know that it happens most often in the communities I represent and it happens too often.”

She has a number of supporters in the Assembly, most of them from minority areas and none of them experienced police officers.

Pick up a weapon and walk a post before you try and pass a law that will get peace officers killed.

Robinson and her supporters have watched too many cowboy movies and too many television cop shows, where the star shoots a gun out of the bad guys hand and that ends the fight.

That doesn’t happen in real life. If the cops don’t put the gunman down, what happens is that the cop gets shot and perhaps killed. That’s real life.

The cops have a seminal saying.

“Better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6.”

For the initiate, that means it is far better to shoot and face a trial than to have six pall bearers carry your body to the cemetery.

This new law would have many more cops tried by 12, and that is not the way it should work. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who lives in Breezy Point, perhaps said it best.

“Police are not champion marksmen,” he said. “It’s unrealistic to think that cops can shoot someone in the leg in the heat of the moment.” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly agrees.

“[The proposed law] makes no sense to anyone who knows anything about law enforcement.”

Michael Palidino, the president of the detective’s union, was even stronger in speaking about entertainment cops who can whip out their guns and disarm a criminal.

“These are split-second spontaneous events,” he said. “Officers have to make an assessment in a fraction of a second. It is not realistic and it exists only in cartoons.”

“It’s moronic,” he added. “It would create two sets of rules in the streets if there is a gunfight. It would require officers to literally shoot the gun out of someone’s hand or shoot to wound them in the arm or leg. I don’t know of any criminal who doesn’t shoot to kill. They are not bound by any restrictions. Those legislators have their heads buried in the sand and we would not be able to protect either ourselves or the public.”

Assemblyman Darryl Towns joined Robinson in pushing the new law, but had a slightly different take.

“We have had several cases that have been questioned, and I support [Robinson] in her approach and I think our intent is to open up discussion and have debate.”

The New York Post, a paper that usually supports the NYPD said in an editorial, “State lawmakers have obviously been watching too many cowboy movies. How else to explain their latest birdbrain legislation: forcing cops to shoot dangerous perps in the arm or the leg – sort of the way the Lone Ranger used to deal with the bad guys. The point: to stop them rather than kill them. But why stop there? Bullets are expensive. Why not just mandate the use of Mr. Spock’s Vulcan nerve pinch to render killers supine?”

The bill is in the Assembly Codes Committee where the chair said that the “wording of the bill might need changing.”

Indeed!

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