Overall crime rates for the city are down this year, although the city is experiencing an uptick in shootings and murders. This worrisome development comes as the NYPD and the City Council say more cops are needed but Mayor Bill de Blasio disagrees.
This public fight is likely to resolve itself in budget negotiations — but it’s an unnecessary fight, full of political rhetoric at a time when greater sensitivity and calm is warranted. De Blasio presented a budget last Thursday — the day of the wake for NYPD Det. Brian Moore — that would leave police levels status quo.
The City Council is seeking 1,000 more police jobs. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton says he needs 400 new officers for counterterrorism work. Currently, there are 35,000 officers, down from 41,000 before the 9/11 attacks.
There are concerns that this summer could be a hot and sticky one for crime, especially if police-community relations don’t improve. As of Sunday, shootings increased by more than 8% over the same period in 2014 and the department said it is planning to move officers to high-crime areas to combat the rise.
Even if de Blasio is playing the politics of negotiation, his decision to give the NYPD no additional cops displayed a lack of sensitivity to the rising tensions. It gave the appearance of dismissing the department’s needs, and when relations are strained, appearances can be reality. The choice seemed to reinforce the mayor’s reputation as anti-cop, even when he has tried to make amends.
Advocates for police reform who are demanding more accountability from the department don’t want to increase the size of the force, others say wait until relations improve. But the department should be able to do both, especially with improved training and an emphasis on community policing.
It’s unfortunate that de Blasio had to start that process with a steadfast “no.” If officers are to regain the trust of the neighborhoods they police, two things must happen. The mayor’s rhetoric has to stop and the department has to make real change.