January 2, 2015
“The New York Police might have just solved the national community-policing controversy.” If angered NYPD can so dramatically reduce arrests and citations, many are suggesting it could offer an ironic path to better policing nationwide
Earlier this week, responding to initial news reports that the New York Police Department had drastically reduced the number of arrests and citations following the murder of two of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos on December 20, New York-based journalist and radio host Allison Kilkenny took to Twitter and noted, “Arrests plummeted 66% but I just looked outside and nothing is on fire and the sun is still out and everything. Weird.”
Though the public debate over the relationship between City Hall and the NYPD has seemingly started to cool, many people are now looking at the “work stoppage” itself—which reportedly resulted in drastic reductions in arrests, citations, and even parking tickets—as rather positive evidence that a city with less arrests may be something to celebrate, not criticize.
Writing for Rolling Stone on Wednesday, journalist Matt Taibbi described the situation in the city as “surreal,” but noted positively that, “In an alternate universe, the New York Police might have just solved the national community-policing controversy.”
In his article, Taibbi explores that if the police protest was done for “enlightened reasons”—as opposed to what he described as “the last salvo of an ongoing and increasingly vicious culture-war mess that is showing no signs of abating”—there would be something wonderful about living in a city that called on officers to prioritize building-up community members instead of finding ways to put officers “in the position of having to make up for budget shortfalls” by issuing unnecessary fines and citations to people who can barely afford to make ends meet in the first place.
“If I were a police officer, I’d hate to be taking money from people all day long,” Taibbi writes. “Christ, that’s worse than being a dentist. So under normal circumstances, this slowdown wouldn’t just make sense, it would be heroic. Unfortunately, this protest is not about police refusing to shake people down for money on principle.”
But as Matt Ford asks in a new piece for The Atlantic, the stoppage—whatever its motivation—still raises this key question: “If the NYPD can safely cut arrests by two-thirds, why haven’t they done it before?”
The “human implications” of that question, he continues, are not insignificant, especially for those most impacted by aggressive forms of policing. He writes:
Instead of shining a light on the broader issues he mentioned, Taibbi says, it will unfortunately be “just more fodder for our ongoing hate-a-thon” that plays out on cable news and elsewhere.
Sardonically, Taibbi signed off, “Happy New Year, America.”