Broken Windows
- New York City 08/02/2014 by Linda Perry (WBAI)

Mayor Bill de Blasio Holds Media Availability with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, City Hall, July 28, 2014
While Mayor Bill de Blasio was on vacation with his family in Italy, outrage grew over the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died in police custody after he was put in an apparent chokehold. The videotaped scuffle was widely viewed here in New York City and throughout the country. It is seen as an example of police brutality and why communities of color distrust the NYPD, a longstanding problem which de Blasio seeks to improve. 

At a news conference on Monday the Mayor defended his administration's approach. "We’re going to make sure that all the members of the NYPD work closely with communities, that they are trained to work effectively with communities and respect every citizen."

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the department is reviewing NYPD policies, practices, and procedures and implementing more training.  He said there will be significant oversight of the department.

And then he touted his policy of Broken Windows.  "Sir Robert Peel’s first principal of policing is pretty basic. The basic for which the police exists is the prevention of crime, fear and disorder. I would argue in this city in particular in this country, that there was no focus on prevention in the ‘70s and ‘80s. There was certainly no focus on disorder. And this city, the way it looked in 1990 was the prime example of that – 6,000 subway cars, totally covered with graffiti, behavior on the streets that was creating a great deal of disorder and fear. The mistake of American policing in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we focused on responding to crime, primarily serious crime, and really did not pay any attention to dealing with the disorder. And we saw the results.

Part of the benefit of the city at this time is that half of the city’s population never experienced the New York City of 1990. They live in a very different environment. They have a very different set of expectations, in some instances because their reality is very different than those of us who lived here in 1990. Going forward, there is – from the 1990s we focused through CompStat on not only improved quick response to serious crime, but moving toward basically dealing with it when it was two or three incidents, not 20, 30 or 40. Similarly, what we also focused on for the first time in 25 years was disorder, quality of life enforcement so that those 250,000 fare evaders every day, one out of seven was [inaudible], one out of 21 was carrying a weapon. That we basically eliminated that problem and saved the State of New York $80 million a year. We also had the peace dividend that I talk about. By 1996, New York State was leading the country in terms of the fact that it was starting to reduce its state prison population. Rikers in the mid-1990s, as we surged to take the city back, had a population of about 22,000. The Rikers population today is I think about 12,000. New York State is one of the few states in the country closing prisons because of that peace dividend or benefit, if you will.

So the balance that I have to, as police commissioner, to maintain is in this much safer city, we still are trying to find ways to improve our ability to fight what crime remains, thus the mayor’s initiative this summer in those 12 precincts. But also, something as basic as dealing with the Elmo craze in Times Square or dealing with the house parties. House parties that – I had a meeting last week with a group of City Council members, and to a person they were complaining about quality of life crime, house parties that 300, 400 people showing up in a neighborhood at 3 o’clock in the morning where police have to go to disperse them. In three of those house parties over this weekend, we had extensive violence. In two instances, partygoers being turned away, who just basically turned on the house party and began shooting into the party. In a third instance over in Staten Island in the 121 Precinct, an AK-47 was found on the lawn of the front of that house when we responded. So would you not want us to deal with that quality of life crime of house parties? That unfortunately, if not prevented early on, when there’s 30 or 40 people and grow to 300 and the violence that ensues, it is a delicate balance that we’re in. And we’re continually trying to like a doctor, prescribe the right about of medicine, the right prescriptions to make it work." 

Bratton said the department is committed to all this lawfully and respectfully. He said the NYPD needs the public's help. If an officer approaches to correct behavior Bratton says the person should respond. But that's the problem isn't it.. How does the NYPD approach a person. Is force used as it was in the death of Eric Garner? And why is the person being approached in the first place, for selling loose cigarettes, for panhandling? These are all questions being raised in communities across the city. Bratton says it's important for communities to work together with the NYPD "We want to build that trust back where it was, if it existed. And if it never existed, to build it for the first time."

However critics say Broken Windows is not the way to police in New York City. They say it's a broken policy, one which oppresses and harrasses New Yorkers and instills fear in the communities where the NYPD says it wants to build trust and cooperation.  

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