Utilising personal stories from his interactions with the New York Police Department, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said in a newspaper column that the city’s police officers deserve better treatment and broad support on the job.
Writing in the New York Post, Cardinal Dolan said police officers deserve to be recognised for the heroic work they carry out daily to protect the city.
‘Our valiant police officers have one of the most perilous, stressful duties around, and from what I have seen in my nearly dozen years here, they do it with care, compassion and competence,’ the cardinal wrote.
He said ‘one of the tumours on our beloved nation, past and present’ is how often African Americans are targeted, profiled, caricatured, blamed and suspected ‘as the cause of all evil and woe in society’. And he urged people now not make police officers the object of similar broadsides.
‘That is raw injustice,’ Cardinal Dolan wrote of this treatment of African Americans. ‘But for God’s sake, let’s not now, in a similar way, stereotype the NYPD.’
He described the city’s police officers as one of the features he likes most about being in New York when people back home in Missouri ask him about being in the city.
To illustrate his belief, Cardinal Dolan told the story of an officer who rushed to protect him when a man holding an object in his hand in the congregation at St Patrick’s Cathedral jumped up as the cardinal walked by.
‘What he was clutching I did not know, but I have to admit, I feared it to be a pistol. Apparently, the officer on duty that morning did, too. He lunged not at the man, but at me, shielding me from the rushing congregant. Then we both saw the man was holding a cross, which he asked me to bless,’ Cardinal Dolan wrote.
‘What moved me was the police officer’s spontaneous instinct to protect me, literally, ‘to take a bullet for me.’ The NYPD would do that for any of us, members of the community they swear to serve and protect.’
Cardinal Dolan explained how he talks with police officers on their beat, shares a cup a coffee in his residence behind the cathedral and celebrates officers’ weddings, baptises their children, and attends their events. ‘And yes, I visit them in the ICU and attend their wakes and funerals when they’re wounded or killed in the line of duty, which happens more often than I care to recall,’ the cardinal said.
‘Much too frequently of late, I have grieved with the family of an officer who took his or her own life,’ he said.
Beyond the challenges police officers face, the cardinal wrote, ‘Now we have added to their load with continual, at times exaggerated, rash and inaccurate criticism, combined with rocks, Molotov cocktails and taunts’.
Cardinal Dolan agreed that police actions deserve criticism at times. He said that in conversations with some officers, he has heard them offer ‘the most stinging rebuke of that outrage in Minneapolis’, where a police officer pinned George Floyd to the ground for more than eight minutes, causing his death.
The cardinal also said that many of the reforms being sought around the nation – training in de-escalating conflict, reviews of police procedures, screening of admissions to the police force and bodycams – are already in place in New York.
‘The men and women of the department realise they are far from perfect. But we know that while bad apples there indeed may be, they are very rare. As I mentioned to (New York) Police Commissioner Dermot Shea during a recent meeting, this point particular resonates with me, as I have seen the overwhelming majority of good, faithful priests tarred by the heinous actions of a very few.’
Cardinal Dolan also cited Rep. Peter King, R-New York, who said during a speech on the floor of the US House of Representatives that ‘our racial minorities in the tense and poor areas of the city especially need the police’.
‘In a recent meeting with community activists, one black leader reminded us, ‘Don’t give me this ‘get-rid-of-the-cops’ rant. You on Madison Avenue or Park Avenue might not need the police. We up in the Bronx sure do’.’
Picture: People take part in a protest to defund the police in New York City on 24th June 2020, amid nationwide demonstrations against racial inequality. (CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters).