There’s been national discussion about the growing rift between the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio following the assassinations of two police officers there earlier this month.
This sort of crisis was easy to predict at around this time last year, and the context for this crime won’t be obvious to you unless you also understand at least some of the economic background to it, also, in the same way that it’s not possible to properly understand the collapse of NYC in the 1970s (“Ford to City… Drop Dead”) you also have to know why the town could not afford to maintain its own security anymore.
The economic backdrop is that there is not enough money for the city to maintain the same growth in payments to the police force while still maintaining all the pensioners and other government functions. Something must give, and the police would rather use their positions as the weapons of the state to preserve its own revenues against its competitors (those competitors arguably represented by de Blasio — teachers’ unions, welfare bums, corporate barons who need tax credits, etc.).
The police force has lost legitimacy among the liberal opinion-forming classes and the poor Black communities that commit a disproportionate amount of crime within the city itself.
Simultaneously, a civilian authority that has no enforcement capacity is no longer a sovereign government, except perhaps in the minds of men.
Either the Federal government would need to liquidate the rebellious police force, or some combination of the rebels and local gangsters would step in to fill the sovereign void. Alternatively, the rebels could form a new civilian government that is closer to their liking.
Chuckle it up if you think that can’t happen in the US, but there’s a reason why former mayors and police executives are making the rounds-about TV shows making a case for that in different words, paying publicists to place “…growing calls for the mayor to resign…” into the pens of dozens of journalists at the same time.
Civilian government exists only at the permission of the most capable, unitary group of fighting-men. Legal rhetoric is just chatter without the force to support it.
Fighting-men are not magically bound to civilian political authority. America may like to pretend that it is a history-free zone, but this would not exactly be the first time that a weak executive has been deposed when he discovered that words have no force by themselves.
These particular police have the problem that they have limited legitimacy, or rather, divided legitimacy: the civilian authority, in an attempt to satisfy the mobs (in this case, actual mobs of protesters), promises that it can bring its soldiers under tighter control while still executing the vast body of laws that the state has beholden itself to.
The dilemma there is that what the civilians have promised isn’t possible, even if it truly desired make that happen.
I can’t say that I feel too broken up that a Communist mayor is in risk of losing his sovereign position over America’s premier city, but as with most power struggles, the fight itself is not likely to resolve the underlying issues that the city must tangle with to maintain anything resembling its current position.