Don’t Make Resisting Arrest a Felony

Target: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

Goal: Do not let the New York Police Department pressure local lawmakers to turn resisting arrest into a felony.

A figure in the NYPD has recommended substantially increasing the penalty for resisting arrest. The Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Bill Bratton, has expressed concern over how few people charged with resisting arrest are actually convicted. He has now testified that the punishment for resisting arrest should be upgraded to a felony, claiming that when a suspect resists arrest, they could potentially do harm to the officer and/or themselves.

Resisting arrest is a tough and often subjective crime to pin down, however. Some officers will use it to justify excessive force, while others disregard it entirely. In fact, in New York City, only five percent of officers were responsible for 40 percent of filing resisting charges in the past four years, and a majority of officers never filed any claims. Black suspects are also a whopping 65 percent more likely to be charged with resisting arrest.

Clearly the charge of resisting arrest is a shaky one, and it is often used to justify brutality against minority suspects. Supporters of the increase have even mentioned Eric Garner, claiming he would not have died had he not resisted arrest.

In reality, Garner’s death should highlight why this increase in punishment is unnecessary. It will be used just to punish minorities even more, many of whom end up being innocent. Let the mayor know that resisting arrest is a subjective crime, and should never be a felony.


Dear Mayor de Blasio,

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has expressed a strong interest in turning the charge of resisting arrest into a felony. Given the statistics, this is a very dangerous idea, and we are writing to express our disapproval of the proposition. Resisting arrest is a subjective crime based on what the arresting officer decides. Bratton has said that suspects are rarely punished for resisting arrest and wants the penalty to be more heavily enforced.

The statistics show that only a handful of officers file resisting arrest charges frequently–five percent of officers have been responsible for 40 percent of charges in the past four years. Plus, they unfairly target minority suspects by a wide margin. Resisting arrest is already being used to target and punish minorities, and bringing the charge up to a felony will likely only increase that.

It seems as if many officers know that resisting arrest charges do not lead anywhere, or are aware of how the charge is not grounded in anything solid, as many of them never actually file any resisting arrest charges. The ones that do file it frequently and have used it to justify excessive force. The system of resisting arrest is already broken, and upping the punishment to a felony is only going to make it worse. Please do not let Bratton get his way.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Policy Exchange

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