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.
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.