Blue Vs. Grey: Breakdown in Professionalism

On Friday, July 28th officers in NYPD’s 45th Precinct arrested a Pelham Bay resident for allegedly being behind the wheel and under the influence. A good piece of police work, but not exactly news worthy for the Big Apple. No deaths, not a celebrity or elected official so what made this single arrest so important?

The defendant was an off duty New York State Trooper. But it is not the arrest which is making the news. It is the claims of a Blue on Grey feud that has developed as a result of Troopers (who wear grey uniforms) on the hunt for NYPD officers (who wear blue uniforms) violating traffic regulations.

NYPD officers found the off duty Trooper passed out behind the wheel of his running vehicle outside his Bronx home. The arrest paperwork claims he failed a breath test which showed his BAC to be more than double the legal limit of 0.08. The Trooper was arraigned and released without bail but it appears it is the NYPD officers who now need to defend their actions.

“Ok. It’s official. Open season on NYPD members.”

According to NYPD officials, the Precinct has received both phone calls and text message, some of which identify the arresting officer by name, claiming retaliation if coming. It appears that retaliation will come in the way of strict enforcement of all traffic laws and no professional courtesy for their brothers in blue. The union representing NYPD personnel has even issued a warning that members are to be careful to obey all speed limits and similar traffic laws.

No Quarter Given

So what is the reason for the beef? It does not appear to be due to the claims of the Trooper being innocent, preliminary information does not support that theory. No, this is more than likely due to a lack of courtesy – professional courtesy to be more accurate. There appear to be those who feel responding officers should have looked the other way and let the Trooper off with a warning, especially since he was found outside his home.

I’ll admit I am a big supporter of Professional Courtesy, but I do not see it as a get out of jail free card. Nor do I see it as guaranteed. Professional Courtesy is like any warning – it must be earned and there is a limit to how far it goes.

The responding officers were in a tough spot. Chances are they did not know the suspect was an off duty officer until after the interaction was underway, possibly even after an arrest was already made. Plus, this is drunk driving – a serious offense with nationwide attention and a core aspect of the Trooper’s own day to day duties. Had they not taken action they could face discipline, even dismissal if the suspect later got back in his car and caused an accident or injured someone.

Yes, taking action could have involved taking him inside and keeping his keys. There was a time when this would have been automatic. But that is a personal choice the officers must make and live with. What is not an option is for other officers to threaten retaliation because of how those who responded choose to carry out their duties- especially when they did so within the letter of the law. Doing so will not help their colleague and will only degrade the professionalism of a fine law enforcement agency and diminish the already failing level of trust the public places in the police.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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