I was relieved last week when Peter Liang was convicted for recklessly firing his gun and killing Akai Gurley. As I discussed the other day, Liang’s alibi that his gun “just went off” does not mesh with the reality of today’s firearms: he was handling his firearm in a reckless manner that ultimately killed someone. The fact that Liang did not mean to kill Gurley does not absolve him of any culpability.
And for that matter, would someone who looks like Gurley ever get away with shooting a law enforcement officer if he said the gun “just went off”?
Not surprisingly, disagreeing with the verdict is Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the NYPD officers union:
We are very disappointed in the verdict and believe that the jury came to an absolutely wrong decision. This was a terrible and tragic accident and not a crime. This bad verdict will have a chilling effect on police officers across the city because it criminalizes a tragic accident.
Lynch adamantly (and vocally) defends seemingly every officer accused of misconduct, no matter what, often contriving facts in the hopes of exonerating his members – doing things like insisting New York City’s Medical Examiner’s Office was lying when an autopsy concluded that Eric Garner died of strangulation.
And in the Liang case above, Lynch simply glosses over the facts that Liang did not attempt CPR on Gurley because neither he nor his partner received the training, or that Liang did not call for an ambulance. In an earlier press release, Lynch did justify Liang patrolling with his gun drawn and the finger on the trigger by citing the recent shooting of two other officers engaged in vertical patrol. (I will concede that, to my surprise, I cannot seem to find anything in the 2,000+ page NYPD manual saying you cannot patrol in that manner.)
As such, Lynch is not well regarded among those calling for criminal justice reform. And while I count myself among those people, nevertheless I will concede that his job as union boss is to advocate for his membership, not to be factual or do what is right.
In fact, I agree with Lynch’s claim that the Liang verdict will have a “chilling effect on police officers.” And that is a good thing, considering all the botches on the part of Liang and his partner Shaun Landau.
Indeed, Pat Lynch, the verdict should have a chilling effect on officers cheating on their CPR exams. Even better if it chills the NYPD to end the practice of, according to Landau, holding CPR instruction with 300 recruits and eight mannequins, in which each recruit spends less than two minutes with the mannequin. Or, if time runs out, zero time with the mannequin.
This should also have a chilling effect on officers patrolling stairwells with their guns drawn and fingers on the trigger, then firing if they are “startled,” to use Liang’s terminology. Or testilying afterward that a gun “just went off on its own.”
And if an officer does shoot someone, the Liang verdict should chill officers into calling for an ambulance, as opposed to texting a union rep, as the Daily News reported reported Liang did. Maybe even make officers so chilled that that they won’t be too distraught to help the person dying. Or for officers to argue for minutes over who should report the incident.
So indeed, in a rare occurrence, I agree with Patrick Lynch. The Peter Liang verdict may very well have a chilling effect on NYPD officers. But if so, it will be a benefit to those the NYPD are sworn to protect.