When the NYPD and one of its oversight agencies, the office of the inspector general, held dueling news conferences recently, it was generally agreed that police must more seriously collect data on use of force.
Commissioner Bill Bratton told the City Council last year the NYPD’s use-of-force patterns showed the department was a model of restraint. A council analyst, Artyom Matusov, took a look at the numbers and pointed to discrepancies. He found that cops were documenting use of force on paperwork at higher numbers than Bratton’s count suggested. Matusov was subsequently fired. He has settled a lawsuit with the city.
Bratton, co-founder of CompStat, loves data. Mayor Bratton and his assistant, Bill de Blasio, crow about lower crime figures when it suits them. De Blasio loves to placate his base by pointing at decreasing numbers of stop-and-frisk events, even though some people have suggested that’s because officers aren’t documenting them.
The community group El Grito de Sunset Park has released another video of police misconduct. It was taken by a bodega’s security camera and showed cops confronting an alleged iPhone thief in the store and holding him while a private ambulance medic punched him. The cops got in some punches, too. The phone apparently had been stolen from the medic’s car.
Bratton says he’s reforming the NYPD. De Blasio claims he’s bringing cops and the community together. And police union boss Pat Lynch is screaming that cops are unfairly targeted. All three are wrong.
Now Bratton wants cops to document when the public uses force against them, what Bratton described as “a growing problem.” In other words, Bratton will pull, and eventually publicize, data, provided by cops themselves, about aggression from the community. Keep in mind that an NBA player whose leg was broken in an altercation with police was cleared last week of resisting arrest charges.
There is a battle to control the message between the city — calling news conferences and making claims of reform — and community watchdogs whose videos say otherwise. Mom used to say you can’t change until you acknowledge there’s a problem. De Blasio and Mayor Bratton won’t admit there’s a problem — one that is only getting worse.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist with the Coalition to End Broken Windows.