Mayor Bill de Blasio has caved into a City Council that had been clamoring for 1,000 new NYPD officers since 2014.
But after repeatedly saying the NYPD head count was big enough, de Blasio didn’t simply compromise with a few hundred, he agreed to add 1,297 cops to the country’s largest police force. When asked what prompted his reversal from even a few weeks ago when he was apparently committed to no increase, de Blasio noted that Commissioner Bill Bratton had made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Bratton has obviously enjoyed a great deal of compliance from de Blasio, who campaigned on promises that he’d reign in police excesses.
When Bratton said no to a council proposal to outlaw chokeholds by police, de Blasio said no.
When Bratton said broken-windows policing was here to stay, de Blasio agreed.
When Bratton asked for more cops, de Blasio gift-wrapped 300 more than the highball City Council number of 1,000.
All of this beg the questions: Is Bratton really running the show, and does the police department has too much power in NYC?
Pat Lynch, the police union leader who’s pushing for 7,000 more cops, has, along with Bratton, corralled the City Council into pushing for more cops in the budget since at least February — before any of the small spikes in crime in May. A year ago, sergeants union president Ed Mullen tried to block the national Democratic National Convention from NYC by fearmongering about “the bad old days of high crime.” A three-week work slowdown (welcomed by many in communities of color) and a back-turning mini-protest by cops last winter and voilà, the police have had the mayor and the council in a political chokehold.
To placate his base, de Blasio has joined the uncritical chorus over at the City Council in pointing to “community policing” as the honey to make black and Latinos swallow the more-cops pill. Bratton himself famously derided the idea as “social work” back in the 1990s when he was first in charge at 1 Police Plaza. Even NYPD sergeants union head Ed Mullins has scoffed at community policing as “a joke.” Another popular City Council argument that the hiring would help limit overtime spending is being walked back. The day after the budget was finalized Councilwoman Liz Crowley, along with Bratton, suggested overtime may not be “something you can control.”
Although it was during the Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg eras that the infrastructure for broken windows and stop-and-frisk was erected, the size of the force has been expanded under Democrats, like de Blasio. And ever since former Mayor David Dinkins, who gave the police 6,000 more cops during his tenure, also saw the police unions attacking him, it seems that the NYPD has enjoyed wiping the floor with Democrats the most. In all of those administrations, however, the power of police has grown one way or another.
Putting eventually hundreds of millions toward the NYPD — as opposed to education, housing or youth employment resources — should make clear to New Yorkers the outsized power of the police department at City Hall.
The police having their way with our elected officials should make it no surprise, then, a future where they can continue having their way with our communities.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist with the Coalition to End Broken Windows.