Opinion

NYPD: To protect and serve themselves

Despite popular perceptions, the New York Police Department is apparently under no duty to protect the citizens they’re supposed to serve.

Joseph Lozito
Joseph Lozito

Discounting occasional blemishes such as the corruption disclosed by Frank Serpico in the early 70s, the NYPD has always been described as “New York’s finest,” and the pinnacle of municipal law enforcement agencies.

Back on Feb. 12, 2011, a city-wide manhunt was underway for a madman named Maksim Gelman, who had stabbed three people in Brooklyn to death and killed another with an automobile during his 28-hour drug induced rampage, according to the New York Post.

The police didn’t have to look for Gelman; Gelman found the cops.

He entered the lead car of the no. 3 subway train and pounded on the motorman’s door, demanding entry while claiming he himself was a cop. Two of New York’s finest — Terrance Howell and Tamara Taylor — were inside and part of that manhunt and refused Gelman’s demands. He eventually set his sights on a passenger, Joseph Lozito, with his weapon of choice — a kitchen knife with an 8 inch blade.

Thus began a life and death struggle during which Lozito was stabbed in the face 7 times before he was able to subdue and disarm his assailant. Then, and only then, did the two armed transit officers leave the safety of the motorman’s compartment to secure the scene.

Joseph Lozito - injuries
Joseph Lozito, being taken from the subway train after the attack

At a press conference hosted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Howell and Taylor were lauded as heroes, while Lozito was described as a victim saved by the officers.

Lozito eventually filed a lawsuit against the City of New York and the officers, alleging that as police officers, they owed a duty to protect the people in the city.

In February, the city filed a motion to dismiss Lozito’s complaint, claiming police owe no such duty. In its July 25 opinion, the court agreed. Despite the “To Protect and Serve” motto emblazoned on the sides of police cruisers from coast to coast, cops have no duty to protect.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chan concluded that as “no direct promises of protection were made to Mr. Lozito,” the police had “no special duty” to protect him.

As a consolation, she added, “The dismissal of this lawsuit does not lessen Mr. Lozito’s bravery or the pain of his injuries. It merely provides a resolution to this litigation.”

She also acknowledged that “Mr. Lozito heroically maneuvered the knife away from Gelman and subdued him on the subway floor.”

When Brooklyn borough President Marty Markowitz requested the National Guard to patrol the streets after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Eastern Seaboard, Mayor Bloomberg replied, “We don’t need it,” according to The Brooklyn Paper. “The NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns.”

A lot of good they are.

Watch Lozito’s interview, conducted by We Are Change, a nonpartisan, independent media organization.

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