Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

NYPD Work Slowdown Winds Down, but New York May Be Changed for Good

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

NYPD Work Slowdown Winds Down, but New York May Be Changed for Good

Article excerpt

Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise, but the decision by New York Police Department officers to stop busting folks for low-level "quality of life" crimes like jaywalking and pot possession made New York beat cops, well, happier.

The number of weekly citywide criminal summonses has dropped by over 90 percent after protests erupted over the refusal of a grand jury to indict a NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner with a chokehold.

The impact of the slowdown has been quick and dramatic. Court houses are calmer, public defenders have more time with clients, and police officers are spending more time watching than interceding.

But even as Police Commissioner William Bratton's patience with the work protest has now worn thin, it's clear that the slowdown has helped to shift the perception of policing and crime in the Big Apple.

For one, the fact that serious crimes didn't spike during the slowdown gives New Yorkers a fresh angle on the city's long "broken windows" era where officers are encouraged to make small-time arrests in order to discourage more serious crimes.

Less noted, however, "is how many police officers are themselves ambivalent about actively enforcing low level offenses, and how that bodes for the post-slowdown future of policing in New York," writes Jacob Siegel, in the Daily Beast.

To be sure, arresting lots of people for small-time crimes has paid some dividends.

New York has for years been as safe as it's ever been to live in and visit. Yet it was only last year that police finally decreased the use of so-called "stop and frisk" tactics that ended up impacting mostly poorer minority communities. The failure by politicians and police leaders to throttle back "broken windows" as the crime rate has fallen has in turn fueled the current stalemate, some knowledgeable observers argue.

"More police productivity has meant far less crime, but at a certain point New York began to feel like, yes, a police state, and the police don't like it any more than you," retired NYPD lieutenant Steve Osborne, author of the forthcoming book "The Job: True Tales From the Life of a New York City Cop," wrote this week in the New York Times.

He added: "The time has probably come for the Police Department to ease up on the low-level 'broken-windows' stuff while re- evaluating the impact it may or may not have on real, serious crime. …

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