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Occupy Wall Street - NYPD, Ray Kelly and Pat Lynch can’t win

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New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Ray Kelly and Patrick Lynch are often at odds.  After all, the former is a “boss,” the New York City police commissioner, while the latter represents the average street cop for the PBA, the city’s largest police union. 

But the crime-fighting duo are also the Irish face of New York City law enforcement. 

The NYPD is not nearly as Irish as it used to be, but to have a guy named Kelly running things, and a guy named Lynch representing thousands of officers illustrates how Irish the NYPD remains.

That being said, these are tough times for Kelly, Lynch and the NYPD.  The department is currently enduring a ticket-fixing scandal in the Bronx.  This comes as cops have also endured other sleazy allegations ranging from rape to racism.

In an article entitled “Is Ray Kelly’s NYPD Spinning Out of Control?,” The New York Observer recently wondered, “Between racist cops, rape cops, ticket-fixers, gun-runners and 'white shirts' gone wild, New York's Finest are losing their shine. Is the commissioner to blame?”
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True, as that same article noted, Kelly is still viewed quite favorably by average New Yorkers.  In fact, 25% of New Yorkers in a recent poll said they would vote for Kelly for mayor, the best showing of any local politician. (Kelly has said he has no interest in City Hall.)

Still, there is trouble looming. Perhaps the biggest problem for Kelly – as well as Lynch’s beat cops – is the ongoing occupation in downtown Manhattan at Zuccotti Park. 

Already we’ve seen ugliness as cops wrestle, pepper spray and otherwise not-so-gently subdue Occupy Wall Street protesters.

It should go without saying that there is plenty of blame to go around here.  No American’s right to assemble and express should be infringed, even if some of those people are peeing and pooping on the street. 

On the other hand, you can imagine an average beat cop’s sentiments towards the protesters.  They have been reassigned from locations all across the city to essentially babysit a ragtag group of folks who (at least some cops might think) don’t seem to have anything better to do.

That, to me, is where things get really interesting.  What do Lynch and other PBA officials think about the Occupy Wall Street movement? 

After all, yes, cops are charged with keeping the peace and keeping the city safe.  But they are also union men and women.

As one 21-year-veteran of the NYPD told the Observer, “We’re working stiffs, we have families to support. People seem to forget that we work as hard as everybody else.”

Furthermore, they are “working stiffs” in a cash-strapped city which actually delayed the hiring of a new class of NYPD recruits back in April.

Other unions, from the United Federation of Teachers to the Service Employees International Union, have expressed support for at least some aspect of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  And yet, police officers have essentially been put into a position where they are in direct opposition to the movement.

In fact, you might go so far as to say the cops are in a position where they literally cannot win.  Their bosses are telling them to monitor the protestors closely, so much so that any messy attempt to keep the ultimate peace might be taped via cell phone camera and end up on YouTube or the front page of the New York Post.
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On the other hand, let’s say the police succeed in essentially muting the pro-union themes among the many messages coming out of Zuccotti park.   Are cops, then, acting against their own best interest?

I hate to sound like an old-fashioned Marxist class warrior, but for the longest time, police officers – for all of the flaws people like to bring up about them  – have been asked to protect the interests of the elite, even though they themselves live far from elite lifestyles. 

To use the terms currently in vogue, your average police officer is without a doubt a member of the 99%.  And yet, it seems as if they are acting on behalf of the 1%.

That old union song asked, “Which side are you on?”  For now, it looks like New York’s Finest have two choices -- bad and worse.

(Contact “Sidewalks” at tomdeignan@earthlink.net)

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