Handcuffing cops

What is the result of handcuffing cops?

Saturday evening a group of more than 100 motorcycles came roaring up Broad Street, blasting through red lights, like a funeral procession, but with the stiffs on handlebars instead of in the hearse. I caught them on video stopping westbound cars on Spruce, cars that had a green light, but couldn’t move because of the torrent of two-wheelers. 

I have seen this before, although this spring it had been a mass of teenage bicyclists, riding wildly on both sides of Broad. I did a column on the crazy bicyclists once upon a time.

When I posted the motorcycle video on Facebook, someone chimes in with video from Roxborough.

The question: Where were the cops?

The answer Saturday night was in a cruiser on Broad at Spruce.

I asked the young police officer at the wheel if he could do something to curb the red-light-runners. He said he would like to, but was ordered “not to chase, not to stop.”

I’ll share that directive with you in a minute, but first let me remind you of two incidents.

Here in Philadelphia, approaching midnight on Sunday, June 30th, Philadelphia police and Philadelphia Housing Authority cops responded to the 1500 block of North Sydenham Street for report of large crowds.  While police were dispersing the crowd, some elements vandalized police cars — jumping on and denting car roofs, smashing windshields, breaking mirrors and spotlights.

This happened with the cops right there.

About a week ago in New York City, there were separate incidents of cops being abused or humiliated by crowds.

In one incident, a cop handcuffing a suspect was hit in the head by a plastic bucket thrown by someone else. In the other incident, two cops returning to their patrol car were doused with water, with one having a bucket of water poured on his head.

The cop, young and muscular, just ignored it. 

It was hard to believe he didn’t turn and arrest the youth who had doused him. Or bust him in the chops. 

The cop who showed amazing self-control was not hurt, but the act was unbelievably brazen. 

Respect for authority? Forget it. 

Back to Broad Street on Saturday night. The officer didn’t twitch because of Philadelphia Police Department Directive, 9.4, that is the length of a novella. 

https://www.phillypolice.com/assets/directives/D9.4-VehicularPursuits.pdf

The nutshell paragraph: The primary consideration before starting a pursuit is the safety and welfare of the public, other officers and the suspects. The officer must weigh the benefits of capture against the risks of the pursuit.

Fine, but this seems more for full-fledged auto pursuits than stopping the takeover of Broad Street.

The pursuit, the directive says, shall be used to prevent the death or serious bodily injury of another person. 

To me, it is indisputable that the reckless red-light-running will cause injury or death — if not to the motorcyclists, than to motorists or pedestrians crossing the street under the illusion that their green light protects them from harm.

As I dug deeper into the directive, I smacked my head when I read the following techniques are prohibited to be used to stop a fleeing suspect (and I have seen each of them on TV): boxing in the suspect car by surrounding it with police cars, ramming the fleeing car, the use of barricades or roadblocks, and “termination devices” such as stop sticks, spike strips, etc.

What does that leave — a giant magnet dropped from a police helicopter? Well-intentioned or not, the directive is a surrender to lawlessness — and the lawless know it. 

Some will argue this lawlessness is a little thing, what’s the big deal?

Aside from the very real prospect of an innocent person being hurt, “little things” can turn into big things. 

That was pretty much proven by the implementation of the “broken window” theory in New York by Rudy Giuliani (before he became an embarrassing shill for President Trump).  

Such “little things’ as urinating in the street, aggressive panhandling, jumping turnstiles, create a climate of lawlessness that drives decent people away and encourages worse behavior from the uncivilized.

(I am aware there is some revisionist opinion in academia that the “broken window” theory was faulty. I reject it.)

Homicides in New York today are about one-tenth of what they were four decades ago. The Big Apple’s slide into chaos was reversed when the city started enforcing the law — all the law. 

Since crime will increase as respect for law diminishes, enforcement is important.

How about in the case at hand — taking over city streets, ignoring traffic signals. 

What can we do?

First, cops monitor social media, but they have to do a better job. You don’t get more than 100 motorcycles in one place without a call on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.

If the cops know where these jerks are assembling, they are in position to shut them down. 

Can they catch them all?

No.  Catching just a handful will send a message.

How about if they are already assembled?

Cops can shoot video, capturing the license plate numbers. Then catch up with the curs later. 

Use police drones also to capture images of the outlaws’ license plates. 

The penalties for mass law-breaking should be increased, and impounding vehicles, as is now done with ATVs and dirt bikes that are illegal on city streets. It costs $2,000 to get one back.

Is this a total, instant cure? No, there is no such thing. 

But it will take the handcuffs off the cops and enable them to do what they are paid to do — enforce the law. 

26 thoughts on “Handcuffing cops”

  1. Stu:
    I like you fid it appalling that lawlessness has gotten this far.
    However I would like to see looked into where these things are occurring, in what towns and more to the point are the “Sanctuary Cities”. It may prove alarming to see how many are.

    This set up doesn’t work look at all the crimes committed under Sanctuary of all stripes.
    I think this is where it starts and our protectors are swept up in the aftermath of this law.
    a good start would be to give the police some muscle to use against these criminals instaed of Handcuffs as you so ably described.

  2. Most don’t have license plates. They’re mostly stolen and not street legal. When I was still working the street as a patrol officer, the most frustrating thing I saw every day was the dirt bike riders If we did initially start a pursuit, a supervisor on the radio would terminate it immediately. Most cops then would pursue without going over the radio. I agree with the policy that this is dangerous to the innocent civilians. What’s the answer? I don’t know.

    1. Impound them is the solution. The tactic is what we are lacking. Sic K-9s on them? Hose them with indelible marker? The cops need to get creative. That starts with the commish.

  3. Stu – good article. The history of the NYPD turnaround under Mayor Giuliani makes for a great read in William Bratton’s “Turnaround.” Bratton together with Jack Maple did an excellent job in creating and implementing a new approach to policing, one that indeed embraced the “broken window” theory. Philly’s own John Timoney worked under Bratton before coming here.

  4. Agree 100% Stu, allowing the bikers to take over public streets without repercussions will only start a downward slide to chaos. Enforce the laws!

  5. Well, I think police should do more and curb the violence. Do arrest and bring back death penality. But we have Kenny and Kaiser as da. Nothing is happening. Do more arrest. The world has gone mad.

    1. Arrest, yes. (We do have the death penalty in Pennsylvania, but Krasner has vowed to never employ it.
      That is foolish, because it can be used as a bargaining chip to get a plea bargain.)

  6. Yo, Stu, remember that poop flows downhill. And in Phila., at the top of that heap is the current mayor (I don’t want to honor him by even mentioning his name). It’s the same situation in most big cities. When you must get elected/re-elected, you have to treat the big-city voting population (I’m being PC here) with a certain level of kid gloves. Now, this isn’t to say that some police and/or police depts. haven’t helped bring some of this on themselves, but the vast majority of those empowered to enforce our laws are good people, and are hamstrung by the political poopheads at the top.

  7. Police officers must be wondering, “How can I protect and serve, yet at the same time resist the temptation to enforce the law?”

  8. Maybe the bikers didn’t break the law. I know from my experience with “critical mass” bicycle parades and wedding trains that if multiple vehicles are traveling as a group then they are allowed to follow the leaders through an intersection and continue until the last one is through, even if the light has turned red.

  9. I’ve read too many news articles that tell how the police were ordered to stand down. This is how our society breaks down. There is no respect for the law. When the rug is pulled out from under your feet, society pays the price, innocent people are killed and injured. But the newspapers for the most part will not call to account the public officials who make such orders. Sad world I live in.

  10. Excellent column, Stu. It needs to be read by everyone, especially those in positions to implement your suggestions.
    Please continue to focus on solutions to the growing number of societal problems–rather than griping about them as so many others do.

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