Target: New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton
Goal: Stop using discriminatory and alienating policing methods
When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014, controversial and discriminatory “stop-and-frisk” policing ended, only to be replaced with the equally discriminatory—though arguably less intrusive—“broken windows” tactic. The philosophy behind this type of policing is that if officers crack down on smaller offenses in less-than-affluent areas, more serious crimes will be suppressed. There is no proof that this type of policing is effective, but instances like the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island do seem to support the idea that broken windows policies can have extreme outcomes.
Garner was stopped by police in Staten Island under suspicion of selling “loosies,” or individual, untaxed cigarettes. Garner expressed his wish to be left alone, saying in a recording of the incident that he was tired of being harassed by police. One of the officers put Garner in a department-banned chokehold because he was not cooperating, which caused the man to go into cardiac arrest, and ultimately led to his death. Due largely to the encouragement of broken windows policing, Garner effectively died over a cigarette.
Such an extreme and violent end is not typically the outcome of employing such methods, but the circumstances of Garner’s death do point to the method’s many flaws. Broken windows policing encourages people to avoid and fear police, unduly targets low-income neighborhoods and rewards officers for discrimination. It also spends a greater amount of police time and energy on petty crimes, while it ignores larger, more destructive crimes in more affluent areas.
Proponents of this type of policing, including current and former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, cite the decline of crime in New York City in the 1990s during Bratton’s previous term as commissioner. The flaw in that argument is that there is no proof such policing caused the decline. Crime has been steadily declining across the nation in the decades since 1990, and the rate of decline during Bratton’s term was comparable to rates in cities that did not employ such tactics during that period.
New York City has done little more than trade one discriminatory policy for another. Instead of targeting, stopping and invading the privacy of “suspicious” individuals—90 percent of whom were innocent—police now target “disorderly” neighborhoods and spend resources tracking down petty criminals while more affluent criminals remain at large.
Sign this petition in support of ending these ridiculous policing tactics, which further alienate and threaten relations between police and the civilians they are meant to serve.
Dear Commissioner Bratton,
While it is true that petty crimes are still crimes and your department is under oath to stop them, broken windows policing causes a dangerous disconnect between officers and the civilians they are sworn to protect. It also removes the focus from larger crimes and there is no proof that this type of policing is effective at reducing crime.
Broken windows policing has now replaced stop-and-frisk policy as a harassment tactic against the citizens of New York City. Such tactics are discriminatory and encourage distrust and fear, and a reason for citizens to avoid police contact. Alienating the public is a poor policy for public servants.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: William Hoiles via Wikimedia Commons