By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A work slowdown by New York City police that began after the slaying of two officers may have started to ease last week, according to the police commissioner and the latest figures for arrests and summonses released on Monday.
For a third week in a row, arrests and court summonses were still markedly lower than at this time a year ago, but the drop was not quite as dramatic as seen in the preceding two weeks.
The slowdown exacerbated the crisis faced by Mayor Bill de Blasio as he struggles to mend an exceptionally deep rift between City Hall and the nation’s largest police force over the mayor’s support for critics of the police.
Police Commissioner William Bratton, who took the unusual step of calling a news conference on Monday to release the weekly figures, told reporters at police headquarters he remained “concerned” by the decrease in police activity.
“We are pleased with the fact that officers are beginning to reengage again,” Bratton said.
In the week ending on Sunday, police made 4,690 arrests across the city, a decline of 38 percent from the 7,580 arrests recorded in the same week a year ago. Two weeks ago, arrests were down nearly 60 percent.
The number of criminal court summonses issued during the week ending on Sunday was 1,484, down 71 percent from 5,051 recorded in the same week the previous year. Two weeks ago, summonses were down more than 90 percent compared with a year earlier.
During the slowdown, there was also a moderate decline in reports of murder, robbery and other serious crime, the data showed.
De Blasio and Bratton have been hesitant to give a definitive reason for the slowdown. They have declined to link it to the evident anger toward the mayor among police officers, hundreds of whom took to turning their backs on de Blasio at public events after the two policemen were ambushed on Dec. 20 by a man who said he wanted to avenge the killing of unarmed black men by white police officers.
Although de Blasio has spoken in warm superlatives about his police department, he has angered police by his support for protesters and activists who say the city’s policing methods are hostile toward non-white New Yorkers.
Police union leaders have said they have not sanctioned a slowdown, and Bratton did not contradict that on Monday.
Neither de Blasio nor Bratton said whether officers involved in the slowdown would be punished.
“By definition, every public servant needs to do their job,” de Blasio said earlier on Monday at an unrelated news conference, but added that he would leave any decisions about punishment to Bratton.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Eric Beech and Gunna Dickson)