Critics slam NYPD over ‘broken windows’ theory

Bratton says it’s ‘key’ to crimefighting
July 24, 2014
Peter C. Mastrosimone
Queens Chronicle

Civil rights organizations, including some who prodded the city to reduce the searching of individuals police deem suspicious, are now demanding the NYPD abandon the broken windows theory of crimefighting, which they say unfairly targets minorities — the same argument they made against stop and frisk.

The criticism against broken-windows policing — which involves strict enforcement of minor crimes in order to deter, prevent or uncover bigger ones — follows the death last week of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died in police custody after resisting arrest. Garner was allegedly selling single cigarettes. Many, including Mayor de Blasio, said it appears as if one officer used an illegal chokehold on the overweight, asthmatic man, who told the police he couldn’t breathe before dying.

Selling single cigarettes, or “loosies,” is illegal, but the activists say police should not have confronted Garner in the first place.

His death was “yet another example of unnecessary police encounters resulting from broken windows-style policing that targets New Yorkers of color — in this case with fatal consequences,” Communities United for Police Reform said in a statement echoed by the NAACP.

Federal investigators are looking into the incident, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Tuesday, according to published reports.

A protest against broken-windows policing was held Monday in Manhattan, with activists also calling for the resignation of Bratton, who applied the theory during his first round as the city’s top cop in the 1990s, under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Supporters say the approach was a major factor in the drastic reduction of violent crime since then, though some analysts differ. Bratton said Tuesday the NYPD will stick by it, and was quoted in Capital New York as saying, “That’s a key part of what we’re doing.”

He did say, however, that the department will thoroughly review how officers are trained to take people into custody, something he will examine firsthand.