One Police Plaza

The City's Pas De Trois on Additional Cops

May 25, 2015

Bill Bratton did such a good job reducing the numbers of stop-and-frisks that he doesn’t need the additional cops he has requested. Instead those cops assigned to stop-and-frisk can fill his needs.

That, at least, is Mayor Bill de Blasio’s latest stated rationale for not including additional cops in the city’s $78.3 billion budget.

The mayor's back of the hand, or kick in the pants, to his police commissioner appears to be part of the posturing that forms the city’s political pas de trois between him, Bratton and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito that might not be resolved until the end of June when the city’s budget is finalized.

The mayor’s statement is, of course, nonsensical. No cops are assigned to stop-and-frisk. They are assigned to patrol and initiate a stop-and-frisk at their discretion.

The mayor seems caught between his anti-police campaign rhetoric and promises of criminal justice reform and his new-sounding support for the police following the assassinations of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

He now refuses to support a law, backed by some of his liberal and black constituencies, making the use of a choke-hold a crime. After the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore earlier this month, he warned protestors to obey police orders or else. In January, he had rejected a call by police union head Patrick Lynch to announce that resisting arrest is a crime.

Viverito, de Blasio’s so-called “progressive” ally, seems caught between her constituents’ wish for more police and her campaign rhetoric.

While calling for 1,000 additional cops, she opposes Bratton’s “broken windows” policing, which he credits with having dramatically reduced crime and which is the heart of his policing legacy. Instead, she has called for decriminalizing such lower-level crimes as turnstile-jumping, a mainstay of Bratton’s policing philosophy.

Bratton has been all over the map about his needs for additional cops. As late as last month, the department line was that those cops would be deployed in two 350-man task forces, one under Deputy Commissioner John Miller to fight terrorism, the second under Chief of Department James O’Neill to patrol the precincts more effectively.

Earlier this month, Bratton said he was certain de Blasio would add the cops after Bratton’s “re-engineering” report was completed. That report, by Bratton’s consulting guru John Linder, apparently shows the need for both task forces. It has been 17 months in the making and has still not been made public. [See NYPD Confidential, May 11, 2015].

At his appearance last week before the City Council — at which he was heckled by a few protestors — Bratton apparently forgot O’Neill’s task force and stuck only to Miller’s. Perhaps, like his predecessor Ray Kelly, Bratton figures that cops on anti-terrorism duty play better than cops on patrol.

What nobody is in disagreement about is this: Violent crime citywide is up — 115 murders so far this year, an increase of 7 per cent over the 102 killings from a year ago. In addition, 438 people were shot, a 9 per cent increase from the 403 people shot a year ago.

Increasing acts of violence are occurring in the subways, which, as head of the Transit Police three decades ago, Bratton fought so hard to reduce. So, too, are attacks in Central Park. This month, a woman’s wallet was stolen at gunpoint, a man was held at gunpoint, a mob of teenagers robbed a young couple, an elderly man’s watch was stolen and a mentally disturbed woman was arrested after twice trying to kidnap a baby.

 In the 44th precinct, where last week a 14-year-old boy was shot to death, the number of shootings has doubled this year. The day before that shooting, Bratton related to reporters that, when police attempted to break up a fight in a park and disperse a crowd, bystanders took out their cell phones and taunted the police. In a YouTube video, a number of people can be seen interfering with the cops. A person in the crowd directly behind the officers can also be seen holding a knife.

“Clearly,” says Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Steve Davis, “the cops were distracted by them and the guy with the knife could have posed a real threat to them.”

The cops withdrew without making an arrest.

SOUL-SEARCHING QUESTIONS OR POLITICAL CORRECTNESS? Writing about the murders of a wealthy executive, his wife, 10-year old son and housekeeper in their home in Washington D.C. that was then set on fire, a NY Times reporter included the following paragraph: 

“In addition to striking a deep nerve in the most elite circles of Washington, the case has also raised soul-searching questions about why, when so many people die violently in impoverished parts of the city, these murders have attracted so much intense news coverage and discussion.”

Surely, the reporter’s heart is in the right place with the suggestion that murders in impoverished parts of a city don’t get the news coverage they may warrant. But if a reporter wonders why the torture and murders of a wealthy executive and his family in his home attract intense news coverage and discussion, that reporter may be in the wrong business. 


Copyright © 2015 Leonard Levitt