In recent weeks, NYPD police officers and union officials have alleged that Mayor Bill de Blasio doesn't support police, turned their backs on him during public appearances, and instigated a work slowdown to signal their upset and disapproval. Mayor de Blasio has done nothing to justify this antagonism, I've maintained, arguing that the NYPD's insubordination is most accurately viewed as a theatrical public relations tactic by a public employee union seeking leverage in contract negotiations.
As right-leaning web sites like National Review and City Journal abandoned their usual skepticism of public employee unions and backed police officers, I worried that the police union's implied threat—give us our way or lose civilian control—would work. I worried New Yorkers would punish Mayor de Blasio for losing control, rather than backing him to insist that the NYPD is subservient to the people.
I didn't give New Yorkers enough credit.
A new poll by Quinnipiac University suggests that the city's voters have seen through the police union's tactics, and that its temper tantrum will cost it political support.
Consider the following findings:
- "Police union leader Patrick Lynch's comments that the mayor's office had blood on its hands are 'too extreme,' voters say 77 - 17 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University Poll finds. There is no party, gender, racial, borough or age group which finds the comments 'appropriate.'"
- "Voters say 47 to 37 percent that Mayor de Blasio's statements and actions during his 2013 campaign and during his first year in office show he does support police."
- "The recent slowdown in police activity is more of a protest, 56 percent of voters say, while 27 percent say it is because police officers fear for their safety."
- "Voters say 57 to 34 percent that officers should be disciplined if they deliberately are making fewer arrests or writing fewer tickets. Black, white and Hispanic voters all agree."
- "Voters give Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn. President Patrick Lynch a negative 18 to 39 percent favorability rating and say 43 to 27 percent that he is a mostly negative force in the city."
- 50 percent of voters approve and 41 percent disapprove of the way Mayor de Blasio is handling crime.
- Just 41 percent approach and 52 percent disapprove of the way de Blasio is handling relations between police and the community (a number that presumably includes people who think he is too pro-police and too anti-police.)
- 56 percent approve of the way the NYPD is doing its job.
On the whole, these numbers seem to indicate strong opposition to the recent actions of the police union, even by an electorate that broadly supports the police.
That is excellent news. If the police union could drive up its own approval ratings and drive down Mayor de Blasio's numbers with hysterical accusations and blatant insubordination, police officers would have a powerful perverse incentive to misbehave in a ways that ratcheted up tensions and undermined civilian control. Every type of New Yorker seems to recognize as much with the possible exception of Republicans. As The Washington Post notes in its writeup of the poll:
“Cops turning their backs on their boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio, is unacceptable, New Yorkers say by large margins,” Maurice Carroll, a Quinnipiac University poll assistant, said in a statement announcing the results. “Even cop-friendly Staten Island gives that rude gesture only a split decision.”
A majority of men, women, white, black and Hispanic respondents all said they disapproved. The only group with a majority of people approving of the protests was Republicans, with 51 percent approving (compared to 16 percent of Democrats, 36 percent of independents and 27 percent of the overall population).
The narrow majority of Republicans who've taken this view should reflect on the fact that they're endorsing a public employee union's open defiance of the people's representative, a stand they'd recognize as perverse and untenable in any instance when the public employees in question weren't wearing police uniforms. In any case, winning a narrow majority of Republicans in New York City gets one very little. It appears the police union will have to stop its hyperbole and insubordination to maintain its support among voters. And that's a relief.