NYPD was powerless to stop shooting in Brooklyn, but mayor calls for duplication of cops on subways

Police and rescue workers gather at the scene of a mass shooting at a subway station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, on April 12, 2022.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Several hours after a man gunned down a subway car full of people in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City Mayor Eric Adams was on TV, pledge double the number of cops on the subway.

This quick reaction was completely pointless and so predictable that it bordered on the inevitable. As New Yorkers who actually ride the subway know, stations and trains are already literally swarming with police. Adams has made aggressive subway security a centerpiece of his administration since the beginning of his term. Within a month of taking office, he had already sunk another 1,000 officers underground.

None of this seemed to matter Tuesday morning in Sunset Park. As I write this, on the evening of the shooting, there is still much we do not know about what happened. However, some of what we know points to the question of how more police could have affected events on the ground at all.

We know that the army of police that crowded the New York subway did not prevent the attack, which resulted in the shooting of 10 people. We know that, at least so far, the suspect has managed to escape, leading to an argument over why the trains at the station were not quickly frozen in place. We know from reporting that the cop’s involvement at the scene was to ask other people on the platform to report the incident to 911 because he couldn’t get his radio to work. (The police later clarified that the problem was not with the radio, but with with user.) We know from public radio testimonies and from the press that the multitudes of cops who arrived on Fourth Avenue basically hung around spouting what one reporter described as a “strangely light” mood: “The cops looked relaxed.”

In a society more open to evidence-based policy making and less invested—financially, culturally and psychologically—in the police as civilian medicine, the response to Tuesday’s tragic events might have played out differently, with more discretion. Instead, New Yorkers and across the country watched in real time as a story about a tragedy that the police were powerless to prevent was quickly reimagined as a story about the need for more police.

What’s happening in New York, after the subway attack, he adheres to a recognizable scenario: the tragedy turns into a pretext for expanding the mechanism of state security.

Adams consistently blurred the line between public safety and public perceptions of safety. “Omnipresence is the key,” the mayor said. said in January, announcing further police occupation of the subway. “People think the system is unsafe because they don’t see the officers. We’re going to bring visual presence to our systems.” He promised that the police would focus on serious crimes, and not on “petty problems that will cause negative consequences.”

The subway attack follows a recognizable scenario: the tragedy turns into a pretext for expanding the mechanism of state security.

The surge and “visual presence” of the police did not prevent a spate of disparate violent incidents in the transportation system earlier this year. It was two policemen on a train platform when a man whose schizophrenia had put him through a life of short-term hospitalization and confinement pushed Michelle Alyssa Goh to her death a week after Adams began his resurgence. Their presence, visual and real, did not prevent this from happening.

After promising in January that his police would not have “unnecessary interaction” with the homeless, Adams switched it in February, ordering the police to have the most unnecessary interaction with them. “The vast majority of the homeless and the mentally ill pose no danger,” Adams admitted, nonetheless sending police into the subway to find New Yorkers who had taken refuge there and throw them from trains and stations during one of the coldest months of winter. year. (One real estate mogul told the New York Times that he liked Adams’ approach.) Violence continued on the subway in the weeks that followed. very little due to the homeless.

So now the New York subway has 3,500 police officers, more than most police departments. They breed people who have nowhere to go. They are bullying churro ladies. They crack down hard on crimes of poverty such as fare evasion, with prolific calls and arrests, promoting a sense of safety and well-being for New Yorkers with scenes such as This. Meanwhile, upstairs, the NYPD Strategic Response Team, ostensibly set up as an elite anti-terrorism unit, is taking a break from violence against New Yorkers participates in a protest to focus on destruction shelters and property of people living in tents.

Overall, New York’s wasteful spending of more than $10 billion a year on the NYPD — more than all but a handful of the world’s national military budgets — is still largely untethered to fluctuations in serious crime. And the police are still focused on punishing poverty.

On Tuesday, local and national news outlets worked to the bone, coming up with new and incredible security responses to the day’s tragedy: Will the mayor consider installing metal detectors in the subway? The attention left Adams, suspended and imprisoned in the mayor’s mansion with a Covid-19 infection, under enormous pressure to be seen doing something.

Adams is caught in the very logic that brought him here. In the midst of a media-fuelled panic about rising crime rates from historic lows a couple of years ago, he won his post vowing that he was the only candidate who could reduce a crime. Crime rates, however, are extremely multifactorial and the mayor’s ability to change its trajectory through police policy is limited.

Now the mayor is reaping the rewards: The media is still deeply committed to the story of a city descending into crime and unrest, but it’s now Adams’ city, and his police-centric approach to crime isn’t producing the results he talked about. Doubling the number of cops on the subway may not prevent the next tragedy, but it looks cruel to crime – and if it doesn’t prevent further crime, he can always quadruple it.

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