Yesterday afternoon, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio revealed the basic outline of the community policing push they used to justify committing $100 million in the budget to hiring 1,300 more officers. The premise is that rank-and-file cops are generally so busy driving from call to call that they don't ever get to know people on their beat, contributing to the documented distrust of cops among people of color, particularly in poor neighborhoods with the most police and the most recorded crime. The disconnect also leads to police dissatisfaction, they argued. The solution, supposedly only possible with these additional 1,000 cops (300 others will be assigned to counterterrorism), is to have two officers per small area walk the beat on a dedicated basis, without having to respond to outside calls.
De Blasio and Bratton said the beat cops would attend community meetings, get to know the people on the street, and develop networks of potential informants to consult when serious crimes occurred. The idea, Bratton admitted, is nothing new.
"This is essentially back to the future, everything old is new again," he said. "Cops who are going into the community care about the community."
This all sounds hunky dory, but it should be noted that Bratton's former Chief of Department Philip Banks was saying basically the same thing last summer, only the new patrol officers he talked about were coming off of desk duty as part of the Summer All Out initiative. The Summer All Out initiative is underway again this year, proving that there is some wiggle room within the more than 34,000 police under the employ of the department.
Bratton and de Blasio refused to tell reporters where exactly this "new" approach will be employed, but said a pilot version is being tested out in Washington Heights's 33rd Precinct and Inwood's 34th. The lack of detail didn't stop them from presenting the initiative, which they tied to increased counterterrorism staffing, as a panacea that would not only help police and other New Yorkers get along better, but also work to address the department's now-infamous problem hiring African-American men.
"We need to keep building trust between police and community," de Blasio said. "That will encourage many young people of color to join the NYPD."
In a statement, the group Communities United for Police Reform echoed the sentiments of activists at a community meeting on crime on Wednesday night in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, saying essentially that if Bratton's latest move means more Broken Windows policing as usual, it stinks.
"The source of communities' mistrust and concerns are not simply about the lack of consistent, interpersonal relationships with individual police officers, but more so about NYPD tactics and policies that are discriminatory and abusive and a lack of accountability for that mistreatment," spokeswoman Priscilla Gonzalez said.
The group also said "many" police reform groups were "not meaningfully engaged in the development of this plan," so it "raises more questions than answers."
You may peruse the entire "One City" plan of action here, at your leisure.