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Decline in arrests, summonses, since Daniel Pantaleo firing, O'Neill says

New York Police Department Commissioner James P. O'Neill,

New York Police Department Commissioner James P. O'Neill, left, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, hold a media availability at One Police Plaza in Manhattan Wednesday to discuss last month's crime statistics. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The city's top cop acknowledged Wednesday a decline in arrests and summonses in the wake of a police union call for officers to work by the book after the firing of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner case.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said enforcement activity had dipped by double digits in some areas and he and his commanders would be digging deeper into the trend that began last month. O'Neill said cops who have intentionally made fewer arrests or handed out fewer citations could possibly be held accountable.

“There is a reduction in numbers, yes there are,” O’Neill told reporters during a monthly crime briefing with Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We are taking a look at activity, [if] it’s a big drop, it will be addressed by the borough command, the chief of patrol to the borough command.” 

O'Neill didn’t have specific numbers for individual precincts but since Aug. 19, the date he fired Pantaleo and Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told rank and file cops to work by the book and not take risks, the commissioner said average daily arrests in the city have dropped by 11%, with misdemeanor arrests down 17% and moving violations off by 32%.

O'Neill fire Pantaleo after the officer used a banned chokehold on Garner as he and other cops attempted to restrain the Staten Island man during his arrest for selling loose cigarettes in July 2014.

For the week ending Aug. 18 — the day before Pantaleo was fired — cops made 1,009 arrests for serious felonies. The following week ending Aug. 25, the number dropped to 762, or by 24.5%. In that same period, moving violation summonses dropped from 18,444 to 11,357, or 38%, and criminal summonses fell from 2,003 to 1,181, or 41%.

The commissioner wouldn’t label the drop in activity a slowdown but hinted the department could take disciplinary action if things got out of hand with other job-related actions by cops.

“We are looking at sick time, looking at response time, looking at radio backlogs, looking at enforcement activity, felony enforcement activity,” O’Neill said of additional actions that could indicate a deeper drop-off in job activity by officers.

“There are some sporadic issues, they will be dealt with,” de Blasio said.

The latest data showed serious crimes dropped 2.1% in August compared to August 2018, although homicides rose nearly 7% in the month and shootings increased nearly 20% in that period. For the year to date, serious crimes were down 3.6% citywide.

But O’Neill stressed that cops were still protecting the city.

“My message is cops take this job to keep people safe and they do a great job at that,” O’Neill said.

Other NYPD officials said in August that cops try to keep overtime activity down in preparation for September, when the city has to deal with big events like the United Nations General Assembly meeting and the U.S. Open, as well as the West Indian Day parade.

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