We the People: Law and order

While Republican presidential candidates and leaders continue to display an inability to appreciate how societal issues create situations that devolve into civil unrest like in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, society still has issues to be resolved. This can be seen in the chopping down of a tree planted in Ferguson, in memory of Michael Brown just one day after its dedication. Senator Rand Paul may blame it on the failure of the “family structure” and Jeb Bush may chide us that “tragedies occur” but we must take the opportunity to explore the issues and resolve the divides between citizens in our society.

In Brooklyn, in front of the Supreme Court building, protesters marched and chanted in support of the Akai Gurley family but they did it with emotion not hysteria and accomplished their goals without infringing on the rights of fellow citizens.  They carried signs stating, “Black lives matter.”  That message would be stronger if they were willing to carry signs stating, “All lives matter.”

The Amtrak train derailment is a tragic accident that touched the lives of several New York families including Annapolis Midshipman Justin Zemser and Medgar Evers College Dean Derrick Griffith.  The likely cause of the crash will be operator error since the train was traveling more than 100 miles per hour (mph) on a curve rated for 50 mph.

Some people rushed to blame the Republicans for the accident since the party has been reluctant to grant funds to maintain and improve our outdated rail infrastructure.  The section of track where the accident happened is approved for a safety improvement called “positive train control” which automatically slows trains but it needs to be installed.  Partisan finger pointing merely shows disrespect for the dead.  The House already approved a bipartisan measure to maintain Amtrak funding which directs more funds to the Northeast Corridor where the accident happened.  We need our leaders to get the technology, training and protocols in place to protect train passengers in the future.

A police officer shot a deranged man who attacked several people in Manhattan with a claw hammer during the week.  Officers recognized him and approached him but he produced the hammer and started to swing at one officer. The suspect is in critical but stable condition. He suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and has been arrested eight times in the past but was staying in a mental health facility in Manhattan before he checked himself out.  He tried to attack a cop previously with a “pointed object” before this terror spree started.  The Legislature passed Kendra’s Law, named for a student pushed off a subway platform and killed by a dangerous and mentally ill man who failed to follow his treatment plan.  The hammer attacker should not have been roaming our streets.  We have laws and we need to enforce them.

Our laws must be enforced or we will suffer a steady and progressive diminishment in the quality of life in New York City. The city has experienced a spate of shootings, illegal guns on the street and young people brawling in public places.  A reasonable person would say these are signs that something in the way we police this city is not going the way it should.

In 1990, there were 2,245 murders in New York City and a diminished and demoralized police department to battle a rising crime rate. In 2015, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, is leading the charge to empower a small number of citizens with no regard for society to jump turnstiles, drink alcohol in public, and urinate on the streets. She has advocated for decriminalization of these offenses.  Police officers would only be permitted to issue non-criminal summonses that would let offenders refuse to produce identification.

It is time for the mayor to step up and develop strategies to restore public faith in the ability of the police to enforce our laws. The mayor should hire more police officers. Our police officers must be allowed to do their job, which may entail the questioning of citizens who are merely minding their own business, but so long as our laws are impartially and fairly applied, that will prove to be much better for society than failing to have our laws applied, at all.


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