Police Commissioner Bill Bratton defended the city’s model of broken windows policing on Thursday, warning that moving away from enforcing quality-of-life offenses could lead to a slip back to the rampant crime of the 1980s and early 1990s.
But, Bratton is willing to budge on the penalty of these low-level crimes, especially if it means freeing up officers from attending court hearings in public urination and turnstile jumping cases.
Bratton released a 41-page report during a meeting of NYPD executives at the Police Academy in Queens. Earlier this week, talk of City Council decriminalizing certain offenses, such as drinking in public, swirled through the city and endorsed by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Opponents of Broken Windows policing say the tactic unfairly targets minority communities.
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Bratton said Thursday that he’s open to formal discussions with City Council, especially with regard to penalties, but said his officers still need to have the power to enforce quality of life offenses and question people.
“There are many things we can do that don’t necessarily need a criminal penalty, but I’m of the insistence that we need to keep the tool that our officers have the ability to make an arrest,” Bratton said.
Citing a Wednesday incident where police officers stopped a man riding a bicycle on the sidewalk in Gravesend, and later found a loaded pistol on him, Bratton said those kinds of stops would go away if Broken Windows did.
“That quality of life bicycle stop, which is complained about, was in fact something that was essential to getting a gun off the street and basically a career criminal who is once again put back in the system,” Bratton said.
Bratton said the NYPD is on track to have fewer than 1 million interactions with people in New York this year because of a drop in overall crime and officer discretion.
Other key findings in the report include misdemeanor arrests dropping from 292,219 in 2010 to 259,926 last year. Of all the misdemeanor arrests last year, the NYPD said 93 percent were released without bail, and an uptick in the department giving out desk appearance tickets means less people and officers are spending time transporting people to precincts for low level offenses.
Criminal summons are down, according to the report, and numbers of inmates housed in the city jails are at 11,827, down 45 percent from more than 21,000 in 1992.
New York City Council spokesman Eric Koch responded in a statement: “We’re glad that Commissioner Bratton agrees with Speaker Mark-Viverito and the City Council that the City must reform the penalties for low-level offenses while also continuing to prioritize public safety.”