In 2015, the City Council leadership convinced the mayor that adding 1,000 officers to the NYPD head count was crucial.
Protests around police brutality, broken-windows policing and record-low crime rates made the move an odd request from self-described “progressives.” Mayor Bill de Blasio, not exactly a master negotiator, conceded from his original position of no extra cops to a 1,297-officer expansion.
Key council members, including then-Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, argued that the increase would reduce overtime costs and help expand the NYPD’s neighborhood policing. Less discussed were the hundreds of new anti-terror and anti-protest officers who would become available to two new, controversial units: the Strategic Response Group and the Critical Response Command. Officers from both are often seen at large public events and protests.
It was little surprise then to see that cops were present up at a rally earlier this month outside City Hall after well-known immigrant-rights activist Ravi Ragbir was detained when he showed up for a check-in with immigration authorities. Videos of the rally show elected officials being manhandled by the cops and new Speaker Corey Johnson angrily shouting at a young officer.
The skirmish with the NYPD is equal parts karma and hypocrisy for the council, even as Johnson is suggesting the police head count be increased.
While council members like Jumaane Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez have used their arrests to paint themselves as social justice warriors for decrying deportations of activists and rough NYPD tactics, their votes to approve the 1,297-cop increase in the budget two years ago helped expand the Strategic Response Group.
Consider that police contact such as an arrest can put an immigrant in NYC illegally on the federal immigration radar, and it’s easy to see that the council’s police expansion hardly matches its pro-immigrant words.
Progressive activists should stop making heroes of City Council members. When Johnson wants to make expanding the NYPD a priority again, it’ll be interesting to see who has and hasn’t learned new lessons.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist with the Coalition to End Broken Windows.