bbq

Community policing, in its most basic form, argues that there is a right way to interact with community members, and there is a wrong way. And when it comes to BBQ cookouts, it may be best to partake, rather than attempt to shut one down, as it violates the city’s code for outdoor grilling.

One NYC police officer reportedly told a group of residents barbecuing on the sidewalk that they had to move. And when they chose not to turn off their grills to adhere to NYC regulations, he took matters into his own hands.

In New York City, the code is pretty simple. One cannot have a fire or grill within 10 feet of a flammable surface. Many residents take to the sidewalk to show off their culinary skills, grill their food, and share the experience with their loved ones. The code reads, according to one source:

“You may be asking yourself ‘where can I grill?’ On the sidewalk? Think again. Grilling on the sidewalk is not permitted by the Fire Code and is a sidewalk obstruction. There’s always the park! The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation allows grilling in designated areas. Arrive early to secure a pit on summer weekends or bring your own grill. If you have more than 20 people, you will want to apply for a Special Event Permit.”

So when the unnamed officer decided to handle business his way, he angered all of the community members who were arguably simply trying to enjoy their cookout.

The officer grabbed a gallon of water and poured it over the food and the grill, putting out the charcoal fire. Immediate was the reaction the officer got from the public, with many trying to shun him for ruining the children’s food.

Accompanied by his female partner, who looked visibly shaken with the climate of angry street chefs, tried to get the officer to leave. At about that time, a water bottle—which appeared to be empty—was thrown at the officer, hitting him in the back.

Could the officer have not engaged the street BBQ cooks? Should he have insulted the residents by ruining their food? Was there a better way to handle the situation? These questions and more remain unanswered, as many are left scratching their heads in disbelief following the officer’s actions.

If we remove the fact that the officer has a badge, we pretend he does not have the full weight of the law behind him, and we assume he has the guts to do what he did in plain clothes, he could have gotten a much more violent response. All of which makes the video and the encounter with the public appear to be yet another example of badge abuse and privilege.

The officer knew he was trying to escalate the encounter so he could call backup and arrest a bunch of people who were simply not trying to burn their houses down. Think about it. It’ s much safer to cook on the sidewalk, in civil disobedience to the oppressive law, than it is to grill on one’s front porch where an accident can likely occur.

Please tell us what you think? Did the officer do the right thing? What should he have done differently? Did he deserve getting hit by the water bottle?

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Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine