The following is a statement in response to recent news that the City Council is considering decriminalising minor offences, including fare jumping and bikes on the sidewalk, which are typical of Broken Windows policing.
Politically, the Council’s proposals are a positive step in that they reflect the developing reality that ‘broken windows’ policing is under siege in the public arena. But substantively, they do not cut deep enough, do not effectively address the heart of the problem, namely the day-to-day harassment and targeting of low income African-Americans and Latinos by policing strategies driven by quota oriented, ‘broken windows’ law enforcement. They may result in fewer racially biased actions by the NYPD, but 100s of thousands of black and brown New Yorkers will still encounter discriminatory and/or abusive policing each year, experiences that inflict harm and hardship on them and their families and compromise their lives and well-being. That harsh reality will remain a daily fact of life for people of color in our city. The much decried Tale of Two Cities will remain all too alive and well, as well as the deep-seated antagonism and distrust people of color feel toward the police.
Our city does not need its Police Department to practice a kinder, gentler ‘broken windows’ policing. It needs the Department to abandon it altogether, the model being the cops’ 3 week slowdown in late December / early January when summonses dropped by 90% and arrests by 60% in the city — crime went into a steep decline according to the police’s own reports and there was not a single account of an officer not responding to or intervening in serious criminal incidents. “An emperor has no clothes” moment for the urban myth of ‘broken windows’ being an effective crime fighting strategy.That kind of real and sweeping change could result in eliminating the NYPD’s everyday blatantly discriminatory practices, not merely alleviating them.
In addition here is PROP’s statement on the Council’s pledge to add 1000 more cops to the NYPD.
SAY NO TO ONE THOUSAND NEW COPS A TRULY TERRIBLE IDEA
Background — Some of NYC’s leading progressive politicians, including City Council Speaker Melissa MarkViverito and Public Advocate Leticia James, have proposed adding 1,000 more cops to the NYPD’s headcount. They argue, apparently, that the Department needs more officers to free up enough current officers so that the Department can implement its ‘community policing’ program. Our Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has naturally endorsed the proposal, and Mayor de Blasio has yet to announce his position on the question.
Why It’s A Truly Terrible Idea — Applying the tactics of quotadriven ‘broken windows’ policing, the NYPD everyday pursues starkly racially discriminatory policies that target lowincome people of color who engage in petty infractions that many people consider innocuous, like riding a bike on the sidewalk, holding an open alcohol container, begging, jaywalking, and being in a park after dusk. In fact, the activities that people of color get arrested or ticketed for daily have been virtually decriminalized in the city’s white communities. Given this all too real and highly objectionable backdrop, here are the main reasons the 1,000 more cops is truly a terrible idea:
Adding to the headcount of an already bloated and dysfunctional agency that regularly engages in blatantly racist, to say nothing of ineffective and wasteful, practices makes no sense and would represent a big step backwards for our city re the fair treatment of people of color by the police and criminal justice system and police/community relations.
The proposed expenditure — about $120 million annually — effectively entails a big waste of government resources that the city would better allocate to needed programs and services — schooling, housing, healthcare, and economic development — that would do more to improve the quality of life and public safety in the communities where most if not all of the new cops would be deployed.
Mend it before you extend it is the applicable principle. The city now assigns to officers responsibilities that they have little skill to handle, that are areas where law enforcement should have no place, that results in criminalizing people for no good reason, and that diverts cops from what should be their primary function, fighting and solving serious crimes. In fact, we at PROP call for rightsizing the NYPD, for reducing the number of cops and for transferring some Department duties like regulating street vendors, pedicab drivers, and the selling of untaxed goods and responding to people in psychiatric crisis to government agencies better trained and equipped to handle such matters.
Despite the stated reasons of politicians like MarkViverito and James for backing the 1,000 more cops measure, we can’t help but see their stance as an effort to protect their right flank, to earn some law and order stripes that they feel they lack because of their progressive positions on various issues. In other words, their support is due to what they view as good politics, not good policy and once seen as such, should be rejected by the larger public.
For all these reasons, we call for the rejection of this truly terrible idea and on the city’s politicians to focus their support for programs that benefit the city’s citizens, not their political ambitions.