Tensions between the New York Police Department and Mayor Bill de Blasio have made national news in recent weeks. While some of the strife derives from de Blasio’s high profile efforts to reform the department and its practices since his election in 2013, much of the current unrest comes amid the dramatic decline in NYPD arrests, traffic tickets, and parking citations.
The dramatic slowdown, hailed by the New York Post as a “virtual work stoppage,” came in the wake of the December 20th assassination of two uniformed NYPD officers by a gunman seeking retaliation for the death of Eric Garner, an African American man who died after being taken into police custody on Staten Island. Furious at embattled Bill de Blasio and what Police Benevolent Association Chief Patrick Lynch called a, “hostile anti-police environment in the city,” local officers were simply refusing to arrest or ticket people for minor offenses.
According to figures released by The Daily News, there was a 56% decline in activity during the week of December 29- January 4 where the number of arrests totaled 2,401 as compared with the 5,448 arrests made during the same period last year. That same week, disorderly conduct tickets were down by 91% while traffic and parking tickets were down by more than 90%.
Police sources were indicating that while officer safety concerns were the main reason for the drop-off in police activity, some officers were waging an unofficially declared slowdown in protest of the Mayor’s response to the non-indictment of the officer involved in the Eric Garner death. The NY Post further reported that The Patrolmen’ Benevolent Association had also warned its members to put their safety first and not to make arrests “unless absolutely necessary”.
Despite the sharp decrease in arrests and ticketing, and allegations that union officials were directing NYPD officers to reserve their activity for more serious offenses, the police union denies any such “formal” direction, and insists that it did not organize the slowdown. In an attempt to rectify the issue and prevent a “lawless climate,” Police Commissioner Bratton ordered police back to work and warned the NYPD that a failure to do so would result in stark consequences including a bar on vacation and sick time. Bratton says that he would like to see the numbers of arrests and citations return to their normal levels and that because the NYPD is paid to work, he “expects that they’re going to work.”
Bratton’s threats may have worked because this past Monday, new numbers on arrests and ticketing were released by the NYPD and these numbers suggest that the slowdown may be coming to an end. According to the Daily News, during the week of January 5-11, 4,690 arrests were completed as compared with the mere 2,401 arrests that were made the week before. Similarly, criminal summonses issued that week jumped from 347 to 1,484, while moving violations went from 749 to 5,331. When asked for comment on the improvement, Mayor de Blasio indicated that things seemed to be moving in the right direction. “We’re going to keep talking to the union leaders, we’re going to keep talking to everyday cops, and we’re going to keep working for understanding. But most especially, we’re going to continue the work we came here to do, of bringing police and community together, because there’s a lot of unfinished business there.”
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