By Stephanie Pagones and Gary Buiso
Suspects are now taking the term “beat cops” literally.
Assaults on police officers are up 4 percent this year compared with last year — a disturbing new trend that’s part of an emerging disrespect for authority on the street, cops and experts told The Post.
Through July 27, there were 366 assaults on cops this year — up from 352 for the same period in 2013 and on pace to top last year’s total of 568, NYPD data obtained by The Post reveal.
“The biggest thing is that you’re going to see more cops get hurt, and that’s the sad part,” said one Manhattan cop, blaming it on the decreased use of “stop, question and frisk” — a cutback championed by the de Blasio administration.
“I think cops are more hesitant to take police actions, and that’s when you see cops getting hurt more, cops getting shot, and cops saying, ‘F- -k that. Why am I going to do something that’s going to cause me to get hurt or suspended? Why am I going to be that person?’
“The streets are absolutely more dangerous for other people, too,” said the officer, adding the rise of cellphone videography is also problematic, since suspects “want to put on a show for the camera.”
“[Police] are so leery of it that they’re more hesitant to take that action because they know that if they do something, they’re under the microscope,” he said.
The attitude was on display, cops said, in the moments before Staten Island officers used a department-prohibited chokehold last month to take down Eric Garner, whose death from compression of the neck and chest was ruled a homicide Friday.
Garner, 43, who was known to sell untaxed cigarettes for 50 cents apiece and had eight arrests for the offense, can be heard on video telling cops: “Every time you see me, you try to mess with me. I’m tired of it. This ends today.”
“Obviously, he resisted, and he could have avoided all of that by just going through the process,” another Manhattan cop said. “Everybody likes to point fingers, but no one wants the fingers pointed at them. If people think they are being treated unfairly, they should sue the city after they go through the process instead of resisting.”
Cops also cited the growing influence of the Rev. Al Sharpton — who last week at City Hall commanded the attention of both Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio, warning Hizzoner, “If we’re going to just play spin games, I’ll be your worst enemy.”
“He allows Sharpton to dictate to him what will happen to the police, but what would he know about the police?” a Manhattan cop said.
The new climate has emboldened street hustlers, cops and experts said.
“These realities — coupled with other factors, such as over-the-top criticism of the police by elected officials and a slew of lawyers seeking to sue the city for alleged wrongdoing — may be hardening attitudes in the street, encouraging individuals to be more adversarial when dealing with police,” said John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor Eugene O’Donnell.
A case in point unfolded in Times Square last weekend, when Junior Bishop, dressed as Spider-Man, punched cop Eduardo Molina after being confronted about charging tourists $10 to pose for photos.
“F- -k you! This is none of your business,” Bishop had said.
Cops on the beat weren’t surprised.
“People feel they have more rights and they can’t be stopped. There is no respect,” said a Brooklyn cop, who recalled a recent arrest of an armed man who used the crackdown on stop-and-frisk as a reason to resist arrest. “People feel like they know the law better than we do.”
The NYPD hasn’t completely abandoned stop-and-frisk, but since a federal court found in August 2013 that the NYPD was using the policy to target minorities, the number of street stops has plunged some 93 percent in the first quarter of 2014, compared with two years prior.
De Blasio said in January that he would drop the city’s appeal of the case, setting the stage for reforms, including the arrival of an outside monitor.
De Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said the notion of an attitude shift on the street is “refuted by the fact that serious crime is down in New York City under this administration.”
Commissioner Bratton — who has called stop-and-frisk a basic policing tool — has said the department is studying the effect the cutback of the tactic has had on crime.
Incidents of resisting arrest are down about 5 percent this year compared with 2013, but anecdotal evidence — particularly in high-crime areas — seems to indicate otherwise.
“It seems like almost every incident that people resist arrest,” said a cop in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. “The bigger the criminal, the bigger the headache. Almost every time we approach someone, except for simple traffic tickets, they resist and say they are being treated unfairly.”
Experts warned of a return to the bad old days.
“The word is out on the street,” said Peter Moreno, a 30-year NYPD veteran who runs a private-security firm.
“The current administration wants to put the brakes on police . . . It all stems from this understanding that the current [situation] is more likely to support litigation versus the police rather than protect the police. It’s amazing how quickly and how little crime it takes for the public to feel the effects of a different mayor. There’s no other explanation I can see.”
[Originally published in the New York Post on August 3, 2014.]