NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan acknowledges that police arrests fell significantly immediately after the firing of Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Arrests in a seven-day span after Pantaleo was dismissed plummeted 27 percent — from 4,827 to 3,508 — compared with the same time last year.
Monahan had warned cops just a week earlier not to engage in a work slowdown encouraged by police union officials who were furious about Pantaleo’s firing — and the loss of his pension. "If you hesitate, you get yourself killed," Monahan said.
Well, some officers didn’t listen to Monahan, and in the immediate aftermath no cops have been killed. Overall crime also has not gone up after Pantaleo’s firing. If this sounds somewhat familiar, you might remember the NYPD’s work slowdown between December 2014 and January 2015, when officers also arrested fewer people and issued fewer tickets. That slowdown, according to reported data, showed that major crime complaints fell in that period. That refuted the tenets of broken-windows policing, which advocates for enforcement of low-level offenses to stave off serious crime and disorder.
Ironically, it’s union officials like PBA president Pat Lynch who have helped show that so-called proactive policing has been oversold to New Yorkers. Lynch wants fewer arrests and has also called for the removal of Mayor Bill de Blasio. He has my support on those fronts.
Of course, like a broken clock, Lynch is right only occasionally and incidentally. Still, criminal justice reformers should use the union-inspired slowdown as a springboard for a more permanent change to the NYPD: Reduce the police budget.
In 2019, the taxpayer bill for police is about $6 billion. That includes about 36,000 uniformed cops, the most of any police department. Imagine what those billions could accomplish for mental health, crumbling infrastructure, homelessness or housing.
If NYPD officers don’t really have to arrest that many people for crime to remain at historic lows, why do we need as many cops? Police staffing has gone up and down under previous mayors while crime has continued to go down. The NYPD and its supporters, however, will scream that without police, the city would go back to the bad, old days of high crime. They said the same thing about reducing arrests and of stop-and-frisk.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist.