As crime continues to drop across New York City, attacks on police officers are on the rise, according to figures released by the NYPD Monday. Cops were assaulted on the job 995 times through September—a 23 percent increase from the 800 assaults during the same period in 2015.
At a press conference announcing the statistics yesterday at One Police Plaza, Mayor de Blasio credited the downward trend in crime to "precision policing," a practice championed by former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton as a move away from Broken Windows and unconstitutionally applied stop-and-frisk, and toward, in Bratton's words, "fewer arrests for minor offenses...while at the same time more significant numbers of arrests for the serious crimes."
"This is proving time and again to be the way to improve the safety of our people and to address situations quickly and effectively," de Blasio said yesterday.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Dermot Shea tied the increase in violence against cops to the department's focus on stopping violent crime.
"As we reduce some of the misdemeanor and violation arrests and continue our focus on drivers of violence and other crimes in New York City—as the gun arrests go up, we’re seeing our assaults on police officers—in a year that we’re having the lowest number of arrests that we’re making in CompStat era—up significantly," Shea said. Gun arrests across the five boroughs are reportedly up to 2,755, from 2,470 this time last year.
Nationwide, 67 law enforcement officers died on the job between January and mid-July of this year, an increase from 62 officer deaths over the same period in 2015. High-profile killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge contributed to that figure.
The totals are still a far cry from the violent 1970s and 1980s, when nearly 5 officers a year were killed in New York City alone. No NYPD officers have been killed in the line of duty so far this year.
Police shootings of civilians are also near a low in recent history. In 1971, New York cops shot and killed 93 people. In 2011 and 2013, that figure was just 8. On- and off-duty cops have been involved in eight fatal encounters so far in 2016, according to the Guardian. That figure includes shootings of suspects as well as a drunk-driving crash, and an off-duty cop's shooting of Delrawn Small, for which Officer Wayne Isaacs is being charged with manslaughter.
Overall, so far this year New York City has seen a 3 percent decrease in recorded major crimes, which include burglary, robbery, rape, assault, grand larceny auto, shootings and murder compared to last year, and September 2016 was noted to be the safest calendar month since the NYPD began tracking crimes with CompStat in 1994. All told, 8,423 crimes were recorded during the first nine months of 2016, a drop from 9,586 over the same stretch of 2015.
There have been 790 shootings logged so far this year, compared to 884 this time last year. Murders are also down, from 272 to 265.
"The hard work of the men and woman of the NYPD is self-evident, but it is also supported by sustained reduction in crime," police Commissioner James O'Neill said Monday. "With September's sharp reductions in every major crime category, on top of a historically low crime summer, we are poised for a terrific fall season."
On a separate, but related note, the amount the city is paying out for lawsuits alleging police misconduct has ballooned over the last decade. During fiscal year 2016, the city spent $228.5 million in settlements and payouts for judgments of police misconduct. That number is almost triple the $86.5 million amount paid in misconduct suits during 2005. Incidents of misconduct have a long half-life in the legal system, as lawsuits can take years to reach a conclusion, so experts caution that current payout figures are not indicative of contemporary misconduct trends.
Overall, FY 2016 saw 4,711 complaints against officers filed with the city's Civilian Complaint Review Board, and 2,933 lawsuits filed alleging officer misconduct, totals that are down from recent years. The number of substantiated complaints against officers, on the other hand, is up, which officials say is due to more thorough investigations and the increasing prevalence of cellphone recordings.
One thing has remained relatively consistent throughout these fluctuations in crime, violence, and misconduct. As a report released this week by the Police Reform Organizing Project notes, certain New Yorkers continue to be prolifically policed. Drawing from government data, the report says that NYPD cops had some sort of formal, punitive contact with civilians nearly 1,800,000 times in 2015. That figure incorporates 1 million moving violations, 88,000 felony arrests, 297,000 criminal summonses, 227,000 misdemeanor arrests, and 23,000 stop-and-frisk stops. Various reviews of NYPD activity have persistently shown that a large majority, often 80 to more-than-90 percent of such activity is directed at African American and Latino New Yorkers.