Good news, everyone! The police of New York City are on strike. Over the past week, arrests rate have dropped by 66% versus annual expectations, with traffic enforcement down 94%. As a result, New York did not rip itself apart in a wave of disorder. People were not executed on the street. Society did not collapse.
This poses a public relations problem for policing institutions across the country. If a drastic decline of police effort in NYC didn’t result in the fantastical disorder predicted by police supporters, why keep the police around? NYPD ticketed thousands fewer traffic violations and yet the cluttered streets of New York saw no rise in accidents.
The message of this partial strike by police should be clear: Citizens do not need the police, the police need them. They need them to rule over, to frisk, to extort, to obey, to not resist. The daily activities of these cops which have momentarily subsided by magnitudes is for their benefit, not yours. With 66% fewer arrests, with police grouping together and refusing to pursue crimes without excessive backup, one would assume crime would be rampant in the streets. But where is it to be found? Where are these freelance thugs that these employed thugs say they protect us from?
If this state of affairs continues, the people of New York will be faced with a truth that has become a truism among libertarians: The law creates criminality. Once the arrests cease, once the manufactured disorder and violence of a police state is stripped away, we realize how few criminals there really are among us. Those who do truly pose threats can be met with the collective will of the communities they terrorize.
Ismaaiyl Brinsley was by all accounts a loose cannon, armed not to preserve justice but to hurt the most opportune targets. However, that will not be his legacy. The consequence of his actions that day may have been brutal and terrible, but they have brought with them an opportunity. The killings ignited the political battle previously bubbling beneath the surface. It now appears that City Hall and the Police Department are fixed to eat each other in an ultimately meaningless battle. Police sit in fear of another Brinsley, of another ungovernable and unpredictable act of violence. They are angry and they are scared. We must treat this as a time to expose this system of criminalization for what it is, an extortion racket for the NYPD and Bill De Blasio.
Police create an environment of danger for us, not the other way around. It will always be more dangerous to be a citizen in a police state than an enforcer of it. Yet the police recoil at the first sign that all is not well, that the people might not actually be on their side, that the protection they have attained is merely a social illusion. Cops bleed too and it’s time they’re reminded of it. This week thousands of people in New York were not assaulted and kidnapped at the discretion of uniformed goons. Millions in loot were denied the state as a result of its agents’ own fear and sense of self-importance.
Rest assured these circumstances will not last. The mayor and the police will once again come into equilibrium, realizing their class interests outweigh the benefits of political grudges. The system will not consume itself fully anytime soon. It is up to each and every individual New Yorker and each individual in any occupied town across the world to see through the narratives offered to them by this system of power. When the police retreat, these narratives are exposed. When the police are no longer free from the consequences of their occupations, when violence is met with equal force rather than timidity, when people realize their communities are their own responsibility, the police state will recede.
Ryan Calhoun is a contributing author at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org). He is a Philosophy student and activist at the University at Buffalo.