The police commissioner, William Bratton, was diplomatic, calling the gesture “inappropriate.” It was worse than that. It was an act of profound disrespect not only to de Blasio but also to the Ramos family members, who were there to grieve, not to witness a petulant display of resentment.
This morning I was taking a second look at this post from the excellent Lens blog. It’s an interview with ICP- and RISD-trained photographer Antonio Bolfo, who became a cop and did some amazing photojournalism of rookies patrolling housing projects in New York City.
I was curious about how the Lens editors might have connected the project, called NYPD Impact, with the Ramarley Graham shooting, which happened two days before the post went up. It turns out there’s no mention of Graham in the post, and I couldn’t find any comments that made that connection.
‘This is like a safe haven for them,’ Bolfo tells the Times. ‘Kind of like, collect their thoughts, talk to their loved ones, be people. Shed their police persona and relax a little bit.’ It is a place forbidden to civilians. The intensity of the relief this seclusion brings the officers is inverse to their connection to the community. The more they are merely foreign occupiers, the more they enjoy the view, a view that the very residents of the buildings on which they so symbolically trod are not allowed to enjoy … The many must be excluded so that the few may have the privilege of aesthetic contemplation. After all, isn’t that the way Art works?
It’s a pretty harsh perspective, but I can’t help but wonder whether the audience for NYPD Impact actually includes those who live in the projects. The Lens piece does mention the symbolic aspect of Bolfo’s project:
[The photographs] are at turns raw and tender, scary and sweet, and they humanize people on both sides of the badge — those who wear one and those who face them, night after night.
The photos are definitely amazing (be sure to check out the full set) and certainly humanize the NYPD. But I wonder if they do so to the same degree for residents of the housing projects. I wonder about the timing of the interview, which is about a project from 2008-2009. It’s hard not to see the post as a response to community outrage, although I realize it’s most likely just an unintended coincidence.
Update: I contacted Michael Wilson, the reporter who interviewed Antonio Bolfo, and the timing of the interview was in fact coincidental:
The piece was scheduled to run when it did about a week prior, and it was completed and filed in the system before the shooting, I believe. It’s even possible the piece was edited the day of the shooting. I can see where your questions seem like obvious ones after the fact, but at the time, it just wouldn’t have occurred to anyone here to link the two.
John Knefel, an uncredentialed journalist, on his experience getting arrested by the NYPD:
Journalists — like activists — shouldn’t be afraid of going to jail. If and when we do get arrested it is not an inconvenience, or something that we shouldn’t be subjected to. It’s a chance to refocus our outrage, a chance to tell the most important stories, a chance to bear witness to the horrors of our criminal justice system. I don’t think the NYPD will ever offer me official credentials, but I won’t be asking them for any. Our right to observe and document police misconduct is not contingent on the approval of the authorities. And if the police think that intimidation is going to stop this movement, they should know better by now.
While we don’t have an exact copy of the memo, NYT’s VP and assistant general counsel George Freeman said:
It seemed pretty clear from the video that the Times freelance photographer was being intentionally blocked by the police officer who was kind of bobbing and weaving to keep him from taking photographs.
And while the NYPD’s department head has acknowledged receiving the note, there has been no response from Commissioner Kelly or one of his representatives. Because who needs to answer to journalists anymore?