“OUR COMMUNITY HISTORICALLY has had a tense relationship with police. [Crime increases] can highlight the fact of the relationship,” said Monrose, about East Flatbush. “Some people would love to have more police. Some see the police car and say, ‘What are you doing here?’”
Meanwhile, NYPD members think the bad behavior of other departments, such as Minneapolis, unfairly smeared their agency, which they say has reformed significantly over the last few years.
“I like those reforms … it was moving in the right direction,” said one NYPD sergeant who was not allowed to speak on the record. “I consider myself a constitutionalist, so I don’t want to see some overbearing police department.”
This sergeant would be happy, for example, to see social workers instead of cops respond to calls involving the mentally ill. The NYPD banned chokeholds long ago. A new city law criminalized police putting pressure on someone’s diaphragm, which angered New York cops who argued they could face charges for any arrest of a resisting suspect. In response the City Council amended the law to prohibit police “recklessly” putting pressure on a suspect’s diaphragm.
Moskos agreed that the NYPD has reformed: The last few years show arrests and use-of-force complaints are down. He thinks the NYPD’s record on police-involved shootings is remarkably low for a city its size, and police departments in midsize and Western cities like Albuquerque, N.M., have more egregious records for shooting deaths of black people.
But some civil rights advocates say police-involved shootings aren’t enough of a metric for assessing a police department. Nonshooting deaths such as those of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y., have increasingly brought police reports on use-of-force incidents into question.
In this atmosphere of distrust, the NYPD sergeant said police have pulled back from proactive policing. Officers might decide stopping a vehicle for a minor offense isn’t worth the risk.
Some criminologists have compared this to a slow-motion police strike. As WORLD noted earlier this year, Boston police went on strike after the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, and mobs smashed and looted stores.
New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, who served as an NYPD officer back when the city hit its murder peak in 1991, described the current crime increase as “a perfect storm within a perfect storm.” But he thinks it’s “a spike” and “we’re going to get out of this.”