It was not a good year to be a cop in New York, but at 12:30 on Sunday morning at the Edenwald gang-packed houses in the Bronx, the bad became infinitely worse.
For about seven years, 33-year-old NYPD veteran Brian Mulken has been shot to death – apparently with his own gun – in a fight with an armed former contingent and bandit who escapes from crime officers.
This was the third time city cops have come under fire in recent weeks. An officer was slightly injured on Staten Island late last month – and while there were no police injuries during a similar incident in Brooklyn a week earlier, it was not because the shooter was not trying. – in context, perfectly reasonable results ̵
Mulkin's death speaks for itself.
The Staten Island incident involved a suspect in a domestic violence complaint that opened on employees with an illegal gun before being killed in the return fire. Then the spectators noisily did everything they could to escalate the incident – wishing the cops at the scene of death, among other ugly things.
Similar police-civilian confrontations are common in the city. They range from the simple verbal assault of officers to the discharge of water and even milk on them, to deadly meetings on Staten Island and in Brooklyn. And early Sunday, to the Bronx tragedy.
It is difficult to imagine how much this weighs heavily on the minds of individual officers as they report on duty.
Someone with a gun and deadly intentions will stand in the next cheerful crowd gathered in response to legitimate police action? It happened early in the de Blasio administration when crowds chanting for "dead cops" lined the city after Eric Garner's death – and two cops were killed in their patrol car.
How long before high tension, social instability and just plain bad luck combine to create an otherwise avoidable tragedy?
How Many Cops of Fear of Beating End up as a Atonement Victim – as Daniel Pantaleo, fired in Garner's case – hesitate for a fatal second in response to the Deadly Challenge?
Was that a factor in the Bronx early Sunday morning?
It does not help many cops to believe, quite rightly, that they have been abandoned by the de Blasio administration – and by New York itself – by the political culture itself.
In recent years, the City Hall has become increasingly antagonistic to legitimate law enforcement – concerns about Rikers Island and "over-police" in schools, showing little more than rhetorical eats. when the cops have buckets of water – or they are shot.
This trend was dramatically emphasized by the symbolic but subsequent virtual removal of Albany's monetary guarantee during this year's legislative session.
And from the slow but slow payment to One Police Plaza speeding up the distance from the police for quality of life – the results of which are clearly visible on the city streets and in the underpasses.
And then there is the bitterness of Pantaleo's shooting; officers believe – with considerable justification – that the mayoralty and police brass ignore both case law and longstanding custom, giving employees the benefit of the doubt in ambiguous situations.
Extensive protective measures so that reasoning leads to cultural timidity like cops – fear of shooting or worse – begin to recede from aggressive criminal behavior. (And it doesn't help that the Albany Legislature is considering removing the protection at all.)
There seems little doubt that New Yorkers willing to fight the cops have found encouragement in all this. They may be criminals, but many are smart enough to realize that the NYPD is no longer firmly behind its officers.
This is why people can throw water at them – not say anything about shooting at them.
Or, as in the Bronx early Sunday morning, killing them.
The NYPD is a rare and valuable public resource and is never as obvious as when an officer dies while serving in the city.
Now the necessary words and ceremonies will come to mark the passing of another young hero. But how flat is all that must sound to cops, who are becoming increasingly insecure about emptying rhetoric and increasingly suspicious of their leaders' motives.
Still, it's for the future.
Right now, it is enough to bow one's head in honor of one person's only sacrifice.
God Bless You, Brian Mulken.
Bob McManus is an associate editor at City Journal.