Reduce and Reform Flawed Police Patrols in Public Housing

Target: New York City Police Department Commissioner William J. Bratton

Goal: Reduce and reform vertical patrols for New York City’s public housing developments.

The New York City Police Department’s vertical patrol practices have wrought tragic and counterproductive consequences in many of New York City’s public housing developments. Most recently, the accidental shooting death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley by Officer Peter Liang in an unlit stairwell has brought significant attention to this flawed approach. Sending police officers into public housing in order to look for crimes-in-the-making is a misguided and ultimately harmful tactic, especially when most officers treat their surroundings as an active crime scene or criminal search. The lack of clear protocols for officers conducting vertical patrols, as well as the excessive number of them, are exacerbating poor conditions in New York City’s public housing buildings. NYPD Commissioner William Bratton needs to reduce and reform his department’s vertical patrols.

These patrols and the practices they entail are also considered to be illegal by many scholars and activists, who point out that undercover officers often stop and question individuals in these housing developments under a supposed suspicion of trespassing offenses. Such illegal stops, along with the presence of uniformed officers with guns drawn, send a threatening message to the innocent residents of New York public housing.

Moreover, that Gurley’s death occurred in a stairwell with broken lighting in a building with a broken elevator goes to show that the city of New York would rather invest in an intimidating police presence rather than simple maintenance when it comes to these housing developments. Vertical patrols should be reduced and reformed so that officials can focus their efforts on improving conditions in public housing instead of simply policing them.

There is no evidence to suggest that vertical patrols actually lower crime rates. They only increase risks for conflict while generating an atmosphere of fear and distrust between officers and residents. Commissioner Bratton must reduce and reform the NYPD’s vertical patrols.


Dear Commissioner William J. Bratton,

The NYPD’s vertical patrol practices in public housing are fraught with issues. The recent accidental shooting death of Akai Gurley by Officer Peter Liang, along with countless instances of questionable trespassing stops, speak to the flaws of vertical patrolling. Without clear protocol for officers regarding their conduct during these assignments, vertical patrols create an atmosphere of fear and distrust between officers and residents.

There are too many vertical patrols and not enough evidence to prove that they are effective. Treating public housing as a potential crime scene at all times does nothing to actually lower crime rates in those areas. These tactics are ultimately harmful to the well-being of many innocent residents living in these developments.

Vertical patrols in New York City’s public housing developments are ultimately doing more harm than good. I urge you to reduce and reform the NYPD’s vertical patrols.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Michael Nagle

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