It’s shocking, but not surprising (if you follow me), to discover that some cops are corrupt. Wherever you have people, there you will have corruption. We are rightly more shocked, and more appalled, when those who are supposed to be custodians of the law — whether the moral law, as in priests and pastors, or the actual law, such as judges and police officers — are found to be corrupt. Society has to expect better from that class.
So, the scary thing about this New York cop story is not the corruption itself, but the way a rather large number of the indicted cops’ fellow police officers reacted to it:
As the defendants emerged from their morning court appearance, a swarm of officers formed a cordon in the hallway and clapped as they picked their way to the elevators. Members of the news media were prevented by court officers from walking down the hallway where more than 100 off-duty police officers had gathered outside the courtroom.
The assembled police officers blocked cameras from filming their colleagues, in one instance grabbing lenses and shoving television camera operators backward.
The unsealed indictments contained more than 1,600 criminal counts, the bulk of them misdemeanors having to do with making tickets disappear as favors for friends, relatives and others with clout. But they also outlined more serious crimes, related both to ticket-fixing and drugs, grand larceny and unrelated corruption. Four of the officers were charged with helping a man get away with assault.
On Thursday afternoon, the police union sent a text message to 400 delegates urging them to show up at the court. Scores of police officers began filtering in around midnight on Thursday, when some of the accused officers arrived for booking. Some off-duty officers wore dark-blue T-shirts with the message on the back, “Improving everyone’s quality of life but our own.”
Forming a wall four deep in the main foyer, they applauded as the defendants appeared. The indicted officers waved and pumped their fists. A court official who came out to calm the crowd drew insults. A woman told the officers to return for the arraignments.
On Friday morning, on the street outside the courthouse, some 350 officers massed behind barricades and brandished signs expressing sentiments like “It’s a Courtesy Not a Crime.”
When the defendants emerged, many in the crowd burst into raucous cheers. Once they had gone and the tide of officers had dispersed, the street was littered with refuse.
These are the people New Yorkers depend on to guard the public order, acting like thugs and mobsters. Where is the shame? Even if the accused officers are ultimately found not guilty, there ought to be a sense of shame and sorrow among these officers over the indictments, which are extremely serious. Ta-Nehisi Coates, who links to this story, calls this “the rage of a privileged class.” Exactly.