This is the first time that the police haven’t simply obeyed orders to round up, pen in, and otherwise intimidate peaceful protesters.
Some (admittedly including myself) have been hoping that the police will cross the barricades and join the protests as soldiers in Tahrir Square did. The idea doesn’t always seem so far-fetched. After all, policemen are solidly in the 99%. The median annual wage for a police officer is $55,620; the Wall Street Journal’s percentage calculator (which, it should be noted, gives a very limited picture, not taking into account geography, family size, etc.) puts that salary in the 59th percentile. Even the 1% of the police force (okay, the top 10 percent, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t break it down into that much detail) only falls into the 74th percentile at $83,510 a year.
They’re also on the frontlines of post-recession state and city budget cuts. A bunch of states, including New York, are pushing their budget crunches onto cities, who in turn are scrambling to find places to slim down. And many have turned to benefits, pay, and jobs for public workers who had nothing to do with causing the budget holes. After New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided not to restore $302 million in aid to New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has asked city agencies to find $2 billion in cuts. And he’s warned before that the NYPD may have to shrink because of the tight budget. “We cannot afford the size [of the] police force, fire department, of any of these agencies if we have a $400 million deficit,” he said in April.
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