One Police Plaza

Is the NYPD Pulling Back? Bratton Says No. Others Say Yes.

November 2, 2015

Is the NYPD pulling back in fighting crime?

The question follows FBI Director James Comey’s controversial assertion that increased scrutiny and criticism of police has led cops across the country to back off arresting criminals. The subject — the so-called “Ferguson effect” on law enforcement — is such a sensitive one that Comey was called to the White House last week to explain himself.

In New York, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton acknowledges cops pulled back from fighting crime after the assassinations of Dets. Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in December, but says NYPD officers are now aggressively pursuing criminals.

Noting that citywide crime had decreased in recent months, notwithstanding a 10 percent increase in homicides in 2015, Bratton added: “Quite clearly, officers in this department have not been pulling back in these last couple of months. We have been attempting to find the right balance, how much proactive enforcement is necessary to keep the crime numbers going down, and I think we have been achieving that.”

But others in the NYPD disagree, including two former high-ranking NYPD officials, both with relatives now on the force. 

“I know it is discussed at the highest levels of the department,” said one of the officials, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly about the issue. “I can tell you it is a major concern. They are asking: How do we get cops to engage? How do we convince them we will support them?”

Quoting cops he spoke with at the funeral of Det. Randolph Holder last week, the official said, “They tell me that if they see some suspicious behavior in the street, they say to themselves: ‘If I am not sure what it is, I will drive on by. I am not engaging unless I am sure. I am not getting involved. I am not putting my career, my life and my family in jeopardy.’”

Comey has been criticized by some, including President Obama, who say there is no hard evidence supporting his claim that police are not fully engaged. Violent crime, though — like NYC’s 10 percent homicide increase — has risen in major cities across the country.

New York City has unique anti-police issues. In part because of three million stop-and-frisks during the previous administration, virtually all of them of black and Hispanic men, Mayor Bill de Blasio ran a mayoral campaign critical of police tactics. Following Liu’s and Ramos’ assassinations by a deranged black man from Baltimore, many cops turned their back on the mayor at the two officers’ funerals.

Meanwhile, the City Council has called for what many in NYPD believe is anti-cop legislation, such as decriminalizing public urination and downgrading subway turnstile jumping to a violation. In addition, many in the department view City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito as anti-law enforcement. How else to interpret her importuning the pope on his visit to the city to pray for Oscar Lopez Rivera, an imprisoned member of a Puerto Rican nationalist group responsible for the deaths of four New Yorkers in the bombing of Fraunces Tavern in 1975?

 “He [Comey] is 100 percent right,” says another former top NYPD official, whose son is a cop. “You are going to get the police department that the community wants. If that means letting people get away with carrying guns, so be it. What it means is that people who need the police the most are the ones who are getting hurt the hardest.

“And why should cops do anything differently? Elected officials are vilifying cops — until a cop gets shot.

 “The era of proactive policing is gone,” he added. “We are becoming a reactive department. The only way things get done is by force of management, and the sense of duty among police offices is diminishing. We’re heading back to the old days. You call, we’ll come. Nothing more.

“Why am I saying this to you? Because it needs to be said.”


Copyright © 2015 Leonard Levitt