By LOUIS FLORES
Continued tensions between police and community in New York City threaten to pull the rug out from underneath pretensions by the de Blasio administration that the mayor is truly committed to ending discrimination and brutality by the New York Police Department.
At a press conference on Monday at One Police Plaza to announce a drop in crimes, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton again defended the neoconservative and discriminatory "Broken Windows" approach to policing.
To critics, Commissioner Bratton said, "Sorry, Broken Windows is here to stay. Stop, question, and frisk is here to stay, but it will be done in appropriate amounts," he said, in relevant part.
At the same press conference, even Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) defended Broken Windows poling, pointing to the drop in crimes and then adding, "This is breath-taking, the information we have here. A lot of us were here in the 1980's, 1990's and could have never imagined these kinds of numbers. They are the result of a proactive strategy, the result of a number of strategies, one of which is the Broken Windows approach. That's why I believe in it, because it continues to drive down crime."
Monday's press conference took place against a backdrop of reports that NYPD union officials had ordered a work slowdown, leading to a precipitous drop in the number of arrests and issuances of summonses for very minor, low-level infractions, which are the hallmarks of Broken Windows policing.
Bratton issues threat to discipline cops
Commissioner Bratton said that if there was a work slowdown, “We will deal with it very forcefully, effectively, using management supervisory tools to address it and focus on those who may not be performing up to our expectations and standards," according to comments published by The New York Daily News. Even as unionised police officers continued their work slowdown and separately defied the commissioner's order to avoid embarrassing Mayor de Blasio by continued demonstrations in which police officers turned their backs to the mayor, Commissioner Bratton remained in denial, saying that he had not lost control over his own police force.
The threats by Commissioner Bratton to examine the work slow down resulted in one NYPD union boss, Patrick Lynch, to instruct police officers to resume making some arrests, "but not too many," in the words of The New York Daily News. Any increase in the making of arrests and issuance of tickets will certainly target low-income communities and communities of colour, as predicated by the Broken Windows policing strategy.
The prospect of police officers facing disciplinary action over the easing of Broken Windows arrests comes at a time when the NYPD is widely viewed to lack any credible disciplinary process to govern corruption, crimes, and other misconduct committed by police officers, a particular complaint of grassroots police reform activists.
Even former NYPD officials have expressed concern over the lack of any police accountability.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, complained about the NYPD's ineffectual Internal Affairs Bureau, or IAB, which is supposed to investigate cases of police misconduct. A wire service report by Reuters in late 2014 showed that IAB leaked the identities of NYPD officers, who filed complaints against other officers. Of the way IAB compromised investigations, Borough President Adams said, "There’s no real outlet to report the abuse."
City Hall press officials refused to answer a request for comment about the apparent hypocrisy in the disciplining of police officers for failing to make Broken Windows arrests in the face of the lack of a system to hold NYPD officers accountable for misconduct.
Further, the NYPD slowdown revealed that the NYPD was losing money from unwritten summonses and tickets, according to a report by the journalist Matt Taibbi published by Rolling Stone magazine, revealing mixed financial motivations in the the NYPD's relentless issuances of summonses and tickets for very minor, low-level infractions. The city budget overseen by the de Blasio administration reportedly uses monies raised from summonses, tickets, and other citations to make up for tax shortfalls.
Slowdown focuses light on arrest and ticket quotas
Furthermore, grievances by police have also revealed that the de Blasio administration's support for Broken Windows policing acts to reveal arrest quotas, according to a separate report by the journalist Colin Campbell published by Business Insider, validating concerns expressed by some grassroots police reform activists that the de Blasio administration is duplicitously defending the continuation of unjust policing tactics, even as the mayor tries to portray himself as a reformer.
For example, at Monday's press conference, Mayor de Blasio played up the drop in stop-and-frisks, portraying the decrease as an achievement of his administration instead of as the result of the 2013 court order in the Floyd class action case, which found that the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk violated the constitutional rights of New Yorkers.
Mayor de Blasio had, in part, exploited the racial impact of the NYPD's policing tactics to win last year's election, most notably by featuring his bi-racial son, Dante, in a focus-group tested campaign commercial that raised expectations amongst some police reform activists that, once in City Hall, the de Blasio administration would completely overhaul the NYPD.
However, in one of his first acts as mayor-elect, Mr. de Blasio appointed Mr. Bratton as incoming NYPD commissioner, a move that triggered protests and confrontations with enabling officials, setting the stage for the demands being made now for NYPD reform, which Mayor de Blasio may have never had any intentions to deliver, given his steadfast defense of Commissioner Bratton and of Broken Windows policing, even in the wake of Eric Garner's chokehold homicide.
Complicating the police reform movement is that some groups, including those who are scheduled to hold competing marches for justice on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day in New York City, do not appear to be calling for the resignation of Commissioner Bratton, a necessary step, if police reform activists ever expect the NYPD to end its Broken Windows policing.