Monday, December 22, 2014

Emotional Leadership Style of NYC Mayor De Blasio offends his 'thin blue line'


It feels like eons since I heard the expression 'the thin blue line' until, during the end of the year's tragedies in the news, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio mentioned it in an effort of public respect for his police force that he treated shabbily in late-December days leading up to the murders of two on-duty officers.

Then, the mayor finally spoke from his head, with reason and thought. He said, in effect, that the [blue-uniformed] police are what hold the thin line between civilized society and anarchy.  

Unfortunately, he had not spoken from his head when he earlier used personal comments about his bi-racial son and his own fear of how NYC police might treat him. That remark cut, and it reflected the worst of leadership, when emotionalism and personal fears overrule good judgment and, therefore, effective leadership. It's too easy to come up with remarks that show empathy that favors one 'side' over the other.

Mayor De Blasio's personal sympathy for those who disrespect police undermined his relation with the highly trained men and women in blue who risk their lives every day they work. Many do not take even any appearance of back-talk or resistance for good reason: theirs is a dangerous job.

I know someone who wished a Baltimore city police office a good day, after he pulled her car and discussed a suspected violation. He took her final remarks, her good wishes, as sarcasm and arrested her, took her to jail, and put her in jail. She is a white woman with a good steady job, a mother, sister, and friend; she helps people wherever she goes. The police officer did not know those things, and did not need to know. He only knew that he had a job to do and it included no back talk. I don't agree with how he handled it; his 'perp' today laughs about it and holds no grudge against an officer for whom approaching strangers anywhere is serious business. Maybe her good wishes to him came at the wrong time, after his having a rough day heaped with sarcasm and worse. Maybe to him any possible suspect's having the last word is a sign of disrespect and, therefore, another violation. 

Whoever realizes the importance of the Thin Blue Line's presence in our communities will take them more seriously. In New York City, two police officers were sent to the neighborhood where they eventually were shot and died, in the police car, no guns drawn. Their wives and the surviving children will never see them alive again.

When arrests are made, the story is only beginning. there are lawyers, often free ones, to defend; there are laws to be followed, and processes. There is recourse. All of this procedure came through thought-out, if imperfect, experience and improvement. The law is designed and intended to be dispassionate, to weigh facts of true statements and records. It moves slowly; that's true.  

Who has not felt pain, helplessness, and anger over perceived or real injustice or delay of justice? Who has not wished to take the law out of the hands of those responsible for it or to ignore the law in order to exact citizens' justice? It is basely human to have such feelings; it is illegal to act on them.

What alarms this writer is that the hate speech of protesters in the streets of New York City continued on the days the assassinated police officers were buried.The protesters were 'encouraged' to keep down the harsh rhetoric. Who allowed hate speech toward police go on parade through the streets in the first place?

The NYPD's Thin Blue Line has lost forever two of its own. Who takes their places? And among the rest of us, how many are willing to support the thin line of slow, honest reason and justice that pushes back against citizen revenge?

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