#Justise4All No. 2

[This e-mail was sent on August, 11, 2015, in response to the "Peek-a-Boo, We See You!" initiative ushered in by the NY Sergeant's Benevolent Association, a tactical political answer to the outcry for more accountability on the part of the NYPD and its Unions as it serves the people of New York City.]

cc: Ed Mullins

To Whom It May Concern:

As a resident New Yorker for the majority of my life, and the adopted son of a working class Irish-American family which includes several proud active & retired members of the FDNY, NYPD, and DOE, I am writing to express my extreme disgust and exasperation at the recently reported "Peek-A-Boo" photo initiative put forth by President Ed Mullins.

For as long as the City of New York has existed as one of the most prominent economic and social centers of this country, the problems associated with poverty - homelessness, drug addiction, alcoholism, petty crime - have been a regular component of its growth. Without digressing, it should be understood that so long as such a metropolis engages itself in the Capitalist expansion of its prosperity, one can only expect that poverty and its social ills will persist, regardless of how much assistance it provides to the poor. That said, we who wish to advocate and help those who are clear victims of poverty & class discrimination are at a complete loss as to what purpose is served by having off-duty officers, their friends/family, and members of the public be complicit in the citywide request by your organization to take pictures of a problem that is as old as modern civilization itself.

Keeping in mind the many upstanding NYPD members I know, it is my understanding that the work they do to combat homelessness, going above & beyond the call of duty to help the poor & disenfranchised on a regular basis, is neither hindered nor helped by this public request. Conversely, the fact that usage of quality of life offenses to assist in the kind of broken windows policing that has long been a pervasive issue between officers and civilians in NYC could be seen as a detriment to public outreach is something that organizations such as yours seemingly refuse to address or rectify. Yet, you have now decided that in addition to penalizing and incarcerating the destitute for circumstances that are clearly beyond their immediate control, having "allies" to your cause take photos of their plight is somehow going to raise awareness and magically shift the paradigm of a public which continually proves that it is all too complicit in ignoring the oppressed poor. I have never, not once, had a conversation with a cop in this city who themselves didn't want to use their authority to do more to help rectify these problems, but arguably agreed that the politics behind that notion prohibited them from doing so.

The kind of politics that your organization has now brought to the forefront of this narrative with this unconscionably disingenuous initiative.

At present, I am loosely affiliated with GEMS, an NYS outreach organization "designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking." Alongside the brave work they have done on their own for nearly 15 years, GEMS is proud to have had major affiliations with high-ranking NYPD Officers, cultivating important relationships within the Department to achieve the expressed goal of removing the stigmatization that is oftentimes associated with young girls involved in commercial sex exploitation. If we are to follow the logic behind the "Peek-A-Boo" proposal, by asking the public to now be vigilant in gathering footage of the homeless and the QOL offenses they represent, you are opening a window into further exploiting, through this kind of footage, the very real dangers faced by young girls (many of whom are also without homes) involved in commercial sex exploitation, since the work that GEMS does for them is usually predicated upon the confidentiality & identity protection of those girls while they undergo the process of reintegrating themselves into society as healthy & productive citizens.

By asserting your political influence into the "Peek-A-Boo" initiative, you are, quite literally, poised to reverse the noble efforts being carried out by countless individuals, groups, organizations, and social projects aimed at helping victims of poverty & homelessness, whose very mission is to be an agent of change without further victimizing their circumstance.

While I understand that I am highlighting the worst possible scenario with President Mullins' request, it does not change the fact that, at the least, this notion is the height of politically motivated futility. And while it is fairly obvious that relations between your organization and the Mayor's Office remain tersely unsettled, this display of institutional bravado seems wholly out of sync with a Union that not six months ago was able to negotiate a contract with said office for its members.

It's not my place to speak on behalf of anyone, but I don't think I would be overstepping my boundaries in saying that when it comes to the disenfranchised members of New York City, many residents would like to see an improvement to their desperate conditions. I don't think that many New Yorkers, officers or civilians, actually enjoy the ongoing problem of homelessness & poverty in their hometown. But, speaking for myself, I truly fail to see how this recent concept does any real good in fighting these conditions. For a department which is seen by many as one of the best in the country, this is a sore mark against a reputation that, despite the aforementioned scrutiny, is still held in high regard by the majority.

I will close this letter by saying that if the Sergeant's Benevolent Association wishes to be an honest ally in the fight against homelessness and poverty, it should continue to reach out to the people and groups who are also involved in that work. A collaborative, determined effort from all walks of life to uplift and advocate for the poor is the only way we can truly overcome its destructive effects. Divisive surface measures like "Peek-A-Boo" cannot do this. As a concerned citizen, I highly advise that President Mullins rethink his strategy in trying to properly represent his law enforcement constituency and assist those in need. Doing the right thing for the poor doesn't require photo footage; it requires critical thinking and compassion.

Joseph P. Murray