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Gotham Gazette

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Citizens Union

Public Safety

Cop Killings -- Will The New Laws Do Any Good?


In the wake of two fatal shootings of New York City police officers in the space of less than two weeks, the New York State Legislature sprang to action so that it could, well, appear to be springing to action.

At the end of the special legislative session, they had passed two new laws. The first increases penalties for those caught with illegal guns, while the second increases penalties for those who kill or threaten police officers. It was an impressive exercise for a legislature that routinely struggles with such tasks as passing a budget, and which has failed in its attempts to pass similar bills for several years running.

However, the more important question is whether the new laws will lead to less gun crime and fewer attacks against police officers, and that question is still an open one.

Police Shootings and the Tabloid Crusade

In the early morning hours of December 10th, off duty New York City police officer Daniel Enchautegui was shot and killed as he investigated an ongoing burglary in a neighbor’s home. According to news reports, Enchautegui identified himself as a police officer before one of the suspects shot him. Though injured, the officer apparently returned fire at least six times, hitting both suspects. Officer Enchautegui was taken to the hospital, where he died less than an hour later.

Police officers responding to Enchautegui’s call for backup arrested the two wounded suspects. The suspects were identified as 48-year old Steven Armento, and 29-year old Lillo Brancato Jr., an actor who had starred in 1993 in "A Bronx Tale," directed by Robert DeNiro, and had gone on to a recurring role in The Sopranos and minor parts in other movies. Armento and Brancato were arraigned several days later in the Bronx hospital where they were being treated, on charges including murder.

Enchautegui was the second New York City police officer killed in 2005. The first, Dillon Stewart , was killed less than two weeks earlier, on November 28th.

While the tabloids initially played up the Sopranos link, their reaction quickly turned to rage. Both the New York Daily News and the New York Post ran a series of editorials demanding that the state legislature convene a special session to increase penalties for gun crimes. An guest essay in the Daily News called for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

The Special Legislative Session

At least partly in response to these calls, on December 16th Governor George Pataki called a special session of the state legislature to consider his proposals to fight violence against police officers and trafficking of illegal firearms. Pataki’s proposed bills included authorizing the death penalty for the killing of a police officer. The Post, uncharacteristically, opposed the governor’s move as an inappropriate attempt to reinstate the death penalty through the back door, and Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno eventually agreed to drop the provision. Democrats in the State Assembly were pursuing new regulations on gun dealers that would have required better record-keeping and training of employees, which they said would prevent illegal sales and assist in investigating gun crimes. The Republican-controlled State Senate opposed such measures, however, and Assembly leader Sheldon Silver agreed to drop the provision.

The Senate and Assembly reached a compromise on December 21st, passing two new bills, which Governor Pataki signed into law that evening. The bills enhance punishments for the sale and possession of illegal firearms, including making it a felony to possess three or more firearms illegally (it was previously only a felony to possess twenty or more). The bills also increase the maximum penalty for the murder of a police officer to a life sentence without the possibility of parole, and enhancing punishments for other crimes against police officers, peace officers, and corrections officers.

Will the New Laws Do Any Good?

It is easy and perhaps unfair to question the motives behind the special legislative session. Had the deaths of Officers Stewart and Enchautegui not come so close to each other, it is unlikely that these new laws would have been passed. The fatal shooting of two New York City police officers is two too many, but it is worth remembering that four officers were killed in the line of duty in 2004, unaccompanied by fevered editorial campaigns by the city’s newspapers.

But what of the merits of the laws? Will they prevent gun trafficking and violence against cops?

Supporters of the new legislation contend that the new law will send a “tough on crime” message, and deter illegal gun trafficking by increasing the penalties for those who possess and sell illegal guns in New York.

But surely enhanced penalties are not a panacea. New York already had programs in place to provide greater penalties for gun crimes. Specialized gun courts in Brooklyn and Queens, for example, have been operating for several years, and have resulted in jail time for a number of defendants who otherwise would have been given probation. In addition, many gun possession cases, especially when the defendant has a criminal record, are passed up to federal prosecutors, since penalties for gun possession are much harsher under federal law.

Moreover, studies have suggested that the certainty of punishment deters crime more effectively than the severity of punishment . With this in mind, Governor Pataki’s recent pledge to commit one hundred state police officers to work with federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents to track illegal guns is a welcome one. According to the governor, the officers will also be deputized to make arrests in other states.

The general consensus seems to be that the new laws are a necessary first step. State legislators on both sides of the aisle have pledged to revisit the issue in the next session. In the end, however, it is likely to take more than action by the state legislature to make a real dent in the problem of illegal gun trafficking. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg argued on his weekly radio show, after the passage of the new legislation, lax gun control laws in other states fuel much of the illegal trafficking of guns that end up on New York’s streets.

David Dean, a student at New York University School of Law, worked as a policy analyst in the Mayor's Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator. 

High Profile Crimes Post Election


Mayor Michael Bloomberg won re-election in part because he fulfilled an unlikely promise he made in his first campaign four years ago -- to continue the drop in crime –- and spent millions of dollars making sure New Yorkers knew about it. Assuming you believe the numbers (and Paul Moses, writing in the Village Voice, clearly does not), major crime has decreased by 18 percent citywide since Bloomberg was first elected in 2001.

Yet for all his efforts at publicizing the drop as his major accomplishment, New Yorkers may (as a recent poll suggests) give primary credit for the drop in crime to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his several initiatives:

Operation Spotlight targeted the low-level, quality of life offenders that repeatedly cycle through the court system by providing stiffer penalties for these “career misdemeanants.”

Operation Impact sent floods of rookie officers and police resources into targeted “impact zones,” an initiative that Kelly credits for reducing violent crime in those neighborhoods.

Operation Atlas focused on protecting the city from future terrorist attacks.

No new Operations were promised (nor further crime-fighting strategies specified) in the re-election campaign, and if Bloomberg is not getting the credit for the good crime news of the past four years, it is probably safe to assume that he will be blamed for any bad crime news over the next four.

The bad news seems to have begun; at the end of November, the New York Post, in an article entitled Bloody Legacy, reported an increase in shootings of six percent from last year.

While crime levels remain low for now, the public perception of public safety can be easily shaped by the kind of high profile cases that have been in the news since the election last month.

Police Officer Killed in Brooklyn

Dillon Stewart, a 35-year-old New York City police officer, was shot and killed on November 28th after stopping man for running a red light in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Reports indicate that even after being shot, Stewart continued driving after the suspect until the chase ended at a nearby parking garage.

The next day, police arrested 27-year old Allan Cameron and charged him with the murder of Stewart, as well as the attempted murder of another New York City police officer, Wiener Philippe,on November 19th. According to the New York Times, Cameron has had run-ins with the law before in both New York and Pennsylvania. Cameron was arraigned in Brooklyn after being led to the courtroom through a hallway lined with police officers.

Governor Pataki used Dillon Stewart’s death as an opportunity to call for the reinstatement of the death penalty/ Mayor Bloomberg responded by restating his opposition to capital punishment , noting that he’d “rather lock somebody up and throw away the key.” The mayor also reiterated his support for stricter gun laws. With the Post reporting that the gun used to shoot Stewart has quite a criminal history of its own, perhaps this time people will listen.

High-Profile Sexual Assaults

In recent weeks, several sexual assault cases have also gotten traction in the local media. While the Police Department’s statistics say that reported cases of rape are down 4.3 percent compared to a year ago, these cases play on some of our most basic fears about violent crime.

On November 21, two police officers were arrested and charged with sexually abusing a woman while they were on duty. The officers allegedly attempted to assault the woman after stopping her car in Bushwick, Brooklyn, then followed her back to her apartment where the assault continued.

More prominent has been the case of Peter Braunstein, which has captivated the local papers and television news for much of November. According to reports ( “An assailant on the loose. A city in fear,” said the Daily News), the police suspect that Braunstein, a former journalist, is the man who attacked a Chelsea woman on Halloween night. Police say he dressed up as a firefighter, and set several small fires to get into the woman’s apartment, where he assaulted her. But Braunstein has remained at large, and New Yorkers are reporting Braunstein sightings all over town -- a cafe, a dry cleaner, etc.

Extended Sentences and Increased DNA Collection

Governor George Pataki and Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau have both recently called for an end to the five-year statute of limitations for rape cases . With backlogs at DNA laboratories and delays in identifying perpetrators even where a DNA sample exists, there have been cases where police have identified probable rapists too late to bring charges. In Manhattan, prosecutors have attempted to bring so-called “John Doe indictments” where they have a DNA profile but do not know a perpetrator’s identity. However, as the Daily News notes, only thirty-two such indictments have been handed up, and the legality of the practice is an open question.

The governor has also advocated for a law requiring the state to collect DNA samples from anyone convicted of a crime, including misdemeanors. In a statement , Pataki said that expanding DNA collection will help “convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent, and bring justice to victims.” Opponents argue that such a measure is an invasion of privacy, and brings the potential for abuse. Those who might look to DNA as a panacea would also be wise to recall recent large-scale foul ups at DNA labs in Virginia and Houston, Texas as suggesting that the technology is still vulnerable to human error.

An even more questionable strategy has been the attempts to keep sex offenders locked up after their prison terms have run out. On November 15th, Manhattan judge Jacqueline Silbermann ordered the state to release twelve individuals who had been involuntarily committed to state psychiatric hospitals following their state prison sentences. Noting that, for example, two of the men had been diagnosed only with Antisocial Personality Disorder (a diagnosis shared by 75 percent of the prison population, and, one imagines, many outside the prison population), Judge Silbermann said that the twelve (dubbed “The Dirty Dozen” by the tabloids) were being held in violation of state law. Governor Pataki responded by locking up fourteen more offenders , and appealed the judge’s ruling to a higher court, where he was granted a stay.

Bloomberg stopped short of endorsing Pataki’s tactics, instead calling on the legislature to impose higher mandatory sentences for sex offenders, including up to life in prison. D.A. Morgenthau has called for a similar change in the law.

David Dean, a student at New York University School of Law, worked as a policy analyst in the Mayor's Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator. 

Gun Control And The New Federal Law Shielding Gun Manufacturers From Lawsuits


When President George W. Bush signed the newly-passed Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (in pdf format) into law on October 26th, it marked a major victory for the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers, who have been pushing for the legislation for years. It also marked a tremendous defeat for New York City and the many other cities that have pending lawsuits against the gun industry.

The law is specifically designed to end those lawsuits. It specifically exempts firearm manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers from civil liability for injuries and deaths caused by their products (it was quite a week for shielding big business, as the House of Representatives also passed the so-called “Cheeseburger Bill,” which prohibits lawsuits against fast food restaurants for causing obesity). While the law allows lawsuits in the case of a defective gun or criminal conduct by a manufacturer or dealer, it prohibits lawsuits of the kind filed by numerous individuals and municipalities, including New York City, and calls for any pending suits to be dismissed immediately.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is also likely to frustrate local efforts to control the flow of guns into New York City. The City Council passed a law in January (in pdf format) that allows victims of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers and dealers who have not adopted strict standards to prevent illegal trafficking. Manufacturers and dealers that abide by those standards are exempt from being sued. While the city’s lawyers will likely argue otherwise, it is likely that the new federal law effectively overturns the city’s law.

Supporters of shielding the gun industry from liability argue that it is necessary to protect firearms manufacturers from “frivolous” and “reckless” lawsuits designed to bankrupt the gun industry. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the ability to sue is necessary to hold gun manufacturers and dealers responsible for negligent practices that result in shooting deaths.

A Brief Issue In The Mayoral Campaign

Fallout from the law’s passage even entered into the mayoral campaign. Fernando Ferrer criticized Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s contributions to six members of Congress who voted to pass the bill, and suggested that the mayor had “joined the gun lobby.” In criticizing the law and the mayor, Ferrer pointed out that shootings have increased by six percent this year over the same period in 2004(in pdf format), even as crime in the city has decreased overall. Bloomberg, who had lobbied against the new law, released a statement after the bill passed, calling it “a disgraceful piece of legislation” that “will make it easier for criminals to get firearms and put our law enforcement officers at greater risk.”

Are the Lawsuits Effective in Preventing Gun Violence?

At best, it remains an open question whether the recent spate of lawsuits is an effective way to deter gun crime. Opponents of gun control argue that there is no evidence to suggest that gun control reduces violent crime, and that it may in fact increase crime by taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. Lawsuits, they say, are an attempt by gun control advocates to bankrupt gun manufacturers.

However, the lawsuits that have been filed against the gun industry in recent years have been focused not on gun sales to law abiding citizens, but against what the suits claim is negligent behavior by gun manufacturers and dealers that allows guns to wind up in the hands of criminals. Evidence suggests that a small number of dealers are responsible for selling a majority of the guns used in crimes.

New York City’s lawsuit attempted to show that many of the guns used in crimes here in New York are originally sold in states with weaker gun control laws and brought to the city illegally. For example, the New York Post reported on October 15th that authorities had arrested a man suspected of bringing as many as 75 illegal firearms into New York City in less than a year. The suspect was allegedly part of a ring that purchased the guns in Virginia and sold them on the streets of New York. Virginia recently weakened a state law limiting the number of handguns a single individual could purchase in a month, a law initially passed in an attempt to curb gun smuggling.

The theory behind the litigation is similar to efforts in recent decades to use lawsuits to improve the safety of a number of consumer goods, from automobiles to children’s toys. Individuals and cities filing these lawsuits hope to give gun manufacturers and dealers the financial incentive to do what they can to prevent this illegal gun trafficking.

Is the Liability Shield Necessary?

While proponents of shielding gun manufacturers from lawsuits argue that such a measure is needed to discourage frivolous lawsuits, the irony is that the legal system has been doing a good job, in New York City and elsewhere, of weeding out the lawsuits that are without merit. In 2001, for instance, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, overturned a Brooklyn jury’s verdict that had awarded close to four million dollars in damages to Stephen Fox, who was permanently disabled after being shot by a friend. In the case, Hamilton v. Baretta U.S.A., the court argued in part that “the connection between defendants, the criminal wrongdoers and plaintiffs is remote, running through several links in a chain,” and thus legal liability for the manufacturers was inappropriate. Similarly, a federal judge in Brooklyn dismissed a suit brought by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), saying that the organization had failed to prove its public nuisance claim against the gun industry’s marketing practices. And a New York State appellate court found the trial court had properly dismissed another nuisance lawsuit , this one filed by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on behalf of the state.

Yet the lawsuit filed by New York City seemed to have avoided the problems that doomed the attempts by Stephen Fox, the NAACP, and New York State. In fact, the same judge that dismissed the NAACP’s suit allowed the city’s to go forward (in pdf format). Now that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act has become law, it is likely only a matter of time before the city’s suit is also dismissed. Any attempt to invoke the local law passed by the City Council in January is also likely to fail.

Gun control opponents could be right when they claim that lawsuits against the gun industry will not reduce gun crimes. Now, because of the new liability shield law, New York City will not have an opportunity to find out.

David Dean, a student at New York University School of Law, worked as a policy analyst in the Mayor's Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator. 

Ethics Code for Administrative Judges Vote No


The two city charter amendments on the ballot unnecessarily and unwisely shift power to the mayor and away from our city council. The proposals come from a little-known charter revision commission appointed by the mayor.

They are unnecessary because these changes could easily be enacted as a local law, proposed by the mayor and enacted by the council.

They are unwise because the shift of power goes against the traditional American system of government, in which the legislative branch writes the laws and the executive branch carries them out. The separation of powers has served our country well.

These proposals are the latest in a series of proposals by mayoral administrations to carve out areas where they could make their own rules and not have to deal with the city council. They are not good government.

This is not about whether you like the current mayor; it’s about how the city government should be set up.

Proposal 3 would require the mayor’s administration to adopt an ethics code governing the city’s various administrative law judges (hearing officers). The charter revision commission itself concedes that the hearing officers are already covered by the conflict-of-interest and ethics laws, including the penal law, enacted by the state legislature which apply to all state and local public officials. A specific ethics code focusing on these hearing officers may be helpful. But it is wrong to put that code exclusively under control of the mayor.

These proposed changes give significant power to the mayor or mayoral appointees and shut out the city council.

You won’t see anything about shutting out the city council if you read the proposals. But the courts have repeatedly ruled that if the city charter (the city’s “constitution”) says the mayor may do something, or that certain regulations shall be made by a particular agency, then a local law enacted by the city council on that subject is not valid. The courts say that the charter gave that power to the mayor or the agency, not to the council.

Why did the mayor’s charter commission put this on the ballot? That’s a good question.

It is not because the mayor proposed it as a local law and the council stubbornly refused to pass it. The mayor never submitted it to the council. (The same is true for Proposal 4.)

The mayor has two reasons for wanting this on the ballot. One is that under state law, if a charter commission proposes a charter change to go on the ballot – even a change just to move a comma – that automatically blocks any charter change proposed by petition from going on the ballot that year. This year, the mayor wanted to block the petition for a charter amendment dealing with public school class size.

The other reason is to shift power from the city council to the mayor.

The substantive idea in Proposal 3 – an ethics code specifically directed at hearing officers – might be helpful and the mayor could easily propose a bill to the city council.

But locking into the charter language that puts that issue exclusively in the mayor’s hands is bad government.

Assemblymember Richard N. Gottfried represents the 75th assembly district, which includes parts of Manhattan, in the state legislature.  

Ethics Code for Administrative Judges


Until they are unlucky enough to get caught parking their cars illegally, setting up their pushcarts too close to curbs, or insufficiently ventilating their dry-cleaning businesses, most New Yorkers do not give much thought to administrative law tribunals.

This November, however, the mayor’s city charter revision commission is asking voters to turn their attention towards these quasi-judicial tribunals. Despite their low profile, these tribunals have a wide reach into the lives of New Yorkers. A total of 500 administrative judges and hearing officers hold hearings on minor violations to ease congestion on regular courts. The network of tribunals collects over $600 million in fines, fees and taxes annually, according to the city bar association, yet their judges are not bound by a common code of ethics.

Ballot Proposition Three (in .pdf format) asks New Yorkers to amend the city’s charter to require that the mayor create a code of ethics for administrative law judges and hearing officers. It says nothing about the actual content of the code itself.

There is not much debate over whether to have an ethics code; everyone seems to agree it is a good idea. The disagreement is whether the City Charter is the proper place to address the issue.

 

Pro:

 

Supporters of the proposal say that an ethics code is important, though they acknowledge that Mayor Bloomberg already has the power to create one. All it would take is an executive order. But some believe a charter revision would be preferable to mayoral action because a charter revision carries more weight than an executive order.

Others, including the New York City Bar Association and Citizens Union, whose sister organization publishes Gotham Gazette, have concerns about using the charter for such an action, but believe the need for an ethics code is important enough to outweigh these concerns.

 

Con:

 

Critics of Proposal Three disagree and say the mayor is using a charter revision to weaken the power of his political rivals. State law says that in years when the mayor puts a proposed charter revision on the ballot other groups cannot do so. Assembly member Richard Gottfried criticizes both of the mayor’s ballot proposals this year because they block a petition for a referendum on class size in public schools. City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, a key supporter of the class size referendum, has argued that actual crises in the charter are the only reason to alter it – and that the ethics code is not a crisis.

As it stands, the city council could pass a law creating an ethics code, which would hold the same weight as the proposed charter revision. So by creating an ethics code through a charter revision, critics say, the mayor is stripping the city council of its power to pass future laws on administrative tribunals.

 

Indifference:

 

Neither the mayor nor the council has shown much interest in using their existing powers to create an ethics code. Bloomberg’s charter revision commission put a similar measure on the ballot in 2003, but when it was defeated the mayor didn’t issue an executive order to create an ethics code. He didn’t urge the council to pass legislation to put a code into place, and the council didn’t pick up the issue of its own initiative, either.

Nor has either side in the lackluster debate over this year’s ballot initiative taken pains to forward their side of the argument. Mayor Bloomberg issued a statement in favor of the proposal for the Campaign Finance Board’s voter guide, but neglected to give a reason why people should vote for it. Even this, though, was more of an effort than that put forth by the public officials who oppose it. The board didn’t receive a single statement in opposition.  

City Strengthens Human Rights Law


When Mayor Mike Bloomberg approved the Local Civil Rights Restoration Acton October 3 despite some unspecified concerns, he signed into law the most extensive strengthening of the city’s human rights law since 1991.

I wrote extensively about this bill and its provisions in June 2005. Last month, the measure -- Intro 22-A-- passed the City Council by a vote of 42-3 with one abstention. Councilmember Gale Brewer, a West Side Democrat, said that the “farthest-reaching” provision of the law is that it must “be interpreted independently of its federal and state counterparts.” This means that New York City cannot enact protections weaker than those in federal and state law -- but it can institute stronger rights measures.

The bill was backed by a coalition of 40 groups, but Bloomberg singled out the support of District Council 37, the municipal employees’ union, as important and stood with its president, Lillian Roberts, at the bill signing. Leonard Polletta, assistant general counsel of District Council 37, many of whose members are people of color, said, “We have hundreds of thousands of members daily affected by civil rights laws. Those laws have to be broadly interpreted.”

Craig Gurian, executive director of the Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York, who was instrumental in the drafting of this bill and the 1991 reforms, said this measure "gets our Human Rights Law out from under the shadow of its federal and state counterparts.” He said that many areas of the law that have been restrictive will now have to be reexamined by judges, including "the doctrine that throws a woman out of court whenever a judge decides she hasn't been harassed enough." The city Human Rights Law may also help some persons with disabilities seeking to rent or buy an apartment, Gurian said. Some federal courts have resisted letting disabled persons use cosigners to guarantee their rent or mortgage. The new act, according to Gurian, will fill that gap.

“New York City has now done all in its power to provide the entire bundle of rights that are protected in housing, employment and public accommodations to domestic partners,” Gurian said.

Some legal experts see this new law as a powerful tool to compel private employers to provide domestic partner benefits. While other experts think federal insurance laws under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act -- or ERISA -- may prevent that, many .private insurance plans have nothing to do with ERISA and, under the new city law, employers would be hard-pressed to deny domestic partner benefits if they provide spousal benefits. (For more on the law’s effect on domestic partner benefits, see my article in Gay City News.)

Irum Taqi, legislative director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that for years the city’s human rights law has been “compromised” by federal and state court rulings. “Intro 22-A sends a strong message that New York City--a city that prides itself on its diversity and openness--aims to preserve the strength of its local civil rights laws.”

TRAILBLAZERS IN CIVIL RIGHTS

Civil rights and liberties battles continue in New York over everything from riding bicycles en masse to the right of same-sex couples to marry(see Links in the News). But over the last several months, five of the most eminent leaders of the civil rights movement who lived here or made some of their most important contributions here have passed away.

Constance Baker Motley, 84, civil rights lawyer: Constance Baker Motley made history in 1964 as the first African American to hold a New York State Senate seat in 1964, in 1965 as the first to be Manhattan borough president , and again in 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson made her the first black woman to be appointed a federal judge. She died in Manhattan of heart failure on September 28.

Motley was part of a small corps of lawyers at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund led by Thurgood Marshall. In the 1950s, they put their lives on the line to end racial segregation, mostly in the American South. She was known, according to the New York Times, for her “quieter, painstaking preparation and presentation of lawsuits,” her elegant dress, lilting voice, and brilliant courtroom tactics. “She argued 10 cases before the United States Supreme Court and won nine of them,” the paper said.

Marshall, who later served as a justice of the United States Supreme Court, was said to believe that, despite death threats and the physical perils of their work in the South, she was safer as a woman. Two of her major cases in the early 1960s involved getting James Meredith, a black man, admitted to the University of Mississippi and Charlayne Hunter-Gault into the University of Georgia in the early 1960s.

Donald S. Harrington, 91, minister and party leader: The Rev. Donald Szantho Harringtonwas best known as a state chairman of the New York Liberal Party and the pastor of the Community Church of New York in Manhattan, a Unitarian congregation. He died on September 16.

His involvement in city politics grew out of his commitment to social justice. In 1938, he founded the magazine of the International Association for Religious Freedom. In 1952, he and A. Philip Randolph created the American Committee for Africa, an early anti-apartheid group. His church hosted a memorable debate between Malcolm X and Bayard Rustin in 1962, contrasting the different strains in the African American community striving for racial justice. In 1968, he helped found Black and White Action to step up racial integration. He was also an active participant in the movement against the United States war in Vietnam.

The New York Timesreferred to him as a “liberal crusader,” in both upper and lower cases. He chaired the state Liberal Party for 16 years, but was, according to the paper, a “figurehead for Alex Rose,” the party’s founder. Harrington was ousted as leader by Ray Harding in 1986. Harding moved the party to the right to endorse Rudy Giuliani for mayor in 1989 and eventually it lost its ballot status in the state.

Rabbi Balfour Brickner, former city human rights commissioner, 78: One of the city’s leading social justice activists, Rabbi Balfour Brickner, died of lung cancer. He was the senior rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue from 1980 to 1992 and worked for civil rights his entire life.

In the 1960s, he worked for voting rights in the American South and was jailed for his activities. He was a leader in the movement for a woman’s right to choose an abortion, founding Religious Leaders for Choice. A Zionist since his adolescence, he also advocated for the rights of Palestinians and worked for an end to apartheid in South Africa.

In the early 1980s, Rabbi Brickner was one of the few religious voices for lesbian and gay rights at a time when the city’s Catholic and Orthodox Jewish blocked passage of a city bill to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. He testified for the bill in 1986 when it passed after a 15-year campaign.

In 1990, Mayor David N. Dinkins appointed Rabbi Brickner to serve as a commissioner for human rights. In that capacity, he was active on a wide range of issues, including the improvement of police-community relations.

Jack Nichols, early gay activist, 67: Jack Nichols came out as gay as a teenager in the 1950s, and in 1961, at the age of 23, joined forces with Frank Kameny to form the Washington chapter of the Mattachine Society, a pre-Stonewall gay rights group. He organized the first gay protest at a federal building--the White House in 1965--and conceived the idea of challenging the American Psychiatric Association’s classification as homosexuality as a mental illness, a campaign that came to fruition in 1973.

Nichols moved to New York with his partner, Lige Clark, in the late 1960s; and the two became gay columnists for Al Goldstein’s “Screw” magazine, soon spinning off “GAY,” one of the first gay publications sold on newsstands in the United States. They were active participants in the Stonewall Riots of June 1969 that led to the formation of the modern, militant gay and lesbian rights movement.

Nichols never abandoned gay activism, writing several books on the subject and editing the Gay Today Web site in recent years. He died in May at age 67 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. He was remembered at a memorial serviceat New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in late September as the indispensable activist that he was.

Sandra Feldman, labor leader with roots in the civil rights movement, 65: Sandy Feldman was known primarily as the president of the United Federation of Teachers from 1986 to 1997 and the leader of the national American Federation of Teachersfrom 1997 to 2004, but her activism grew out of her involvement in the civil rights movement of the 1960s when she worked to “integrate Howard Johnson restaurants along route 40 in Maryland,” according to the New York Times.

Freedom House issued a statement at her death mourning her “as a champion of freedom, human rights, and racial equality,” including “support for freedom struggles in the Soviet Union, China, and other countries under despotic rule.” She worked closely with the late civil rights leader Bayard Rustin.

Her first big involvement in the teachers union was as an aide to union president Albert Shanker during the racially divisive teachers’ strike of 1968 that was followed by legislation giving local communities a higher degree of control over the schools.

The Brooklyn-born Sandra Abramowitz was a graduate of James Madison High School and Brooklyn College. She died of breast cancer on September 18.

Andy Humm, a former member of the City Commission on Human Rights, has been in charge of the civil rights topic page since its inception in 2001. He is co-host of the weekly "Gay USA" on Manhattan Neighborhood Network (34 on Time-Warner; 107 on RCN) on Thursdays at 11 PM.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death Penalty, NYC Style


When Governor George Pataki capitalized on widespread public fear of violent crime in his successful campaign against Mario Cuomo in 1994 by pledging to bring back the death penalty in New York, his tactic was far from unique. Many candidates for public office have used their opponents' opposition to capital punishment to suggest that they are "soft on crime".

The use of the death penalty as a campaign issue resurfaced in the 2005 Democratic primary for Manhattan district attorney, but this time with a different twist.

Facing his first real election challenge in decades, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau attacked his opponent, former judge and prosecutor Leslie Crocker Snyder, for her support for capital punishment. In a television ad, Morgenthau's campaign highlighted a passage from Snyder's autobiography where she said that she would have been willing to give one defendant a lethal injection herself. The ad declared that Snyder was "wrong on the death penalty, wrong for Manhattan."

It is a testament both to Morgenthau's position as a long-time, well-respected incumbent and to the liberalism of Manhattan voters that such a tactic could be successful. But if we are to believe Snyder's protestations, her support for the death penalty was less than unequivocal. During the campaign she repeatedly said that she would seek the death penalty only for the most heinous crimes, and only then where there is strong corroborating evidence such as DNA.

The prominence of the death penalty debate in the Manhattan district attorney race is even stranger because New York state does not currently have a functioning death penalty, although the law allowing prosecutors to seek death sentences is still on the books.

No Real Death Penalty In New York

In 2004 the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, declared the state's death penalty statute unconstitutional in the case of People v. LaValle.(in pdf format). The law required the jury in a capital case to choose either a sentence of death or of life without the possibility of parole. Either choice had to be unanimous. The law also required the judge to instruct the jury that if it could not agree on either choice, the judge would sentence the defendant to life with parole eligibility after twenty to twenty-five years. This "deadlock instruction," said the court, violates the state constitution. Citing studies showing that a crucial consideration for juries in a capital case is whether the defendant will eventually be released from prison, the court concluded that the instruction created "the unacceptable risk that it may result in a coercive, and thus arbitrary and unreliable, sentence."

The court left it to the legislature to enact a new "deadlock instruction." The State Senate passed a new version of the law in March, 2005. After holding extensive hearings (in pdf format) , however, the State Assembly failed to vote the new law out of committee. While some supporters of capital punishment suggest that the legislature is likely to revisit the issue in 2006, an election year, for now New York's capital punishment law is itself effectively dead.

It is still possible, of course, for the legislature to reinstate the death penalty in 2006. However, it is unlikely that there will be a massive groundswell of the kind that propelled Governor Pataki to victory more than ten years ago. Though a majority of voters in New York State continue to support the death penalty in principle, when given a choice between the death penalty and life without parole, those same voters prefer life without parole by a margin of 53 - 38 percent. In New York City, the City Council passed a resolution in 2002 calling for a moratorium on executions in the state.

Why The Decline In Support For The Death Penalty

The decline in support for the death penalty can be attributed in part to the increasing number of death row prisoners across the country that have been exonerated and released, as well as misgivings about racial and class disparities in the application of the death penalty. But another reason for the decline in support is surely the precipitous drop in violent crime that occurred throughout the 1990s and continues today. The number of murders in New York City peaked in 1990, when 2,245 murders were reported. The decline in the years since has been dramatic. In 2004, just 572 murders were committed citywide, a drop 75 percent from 1990, and a drop of 63 percent from 1994, the year Governor Pataki rode a wave of fear into the governor's office. Thus far in 2005, the incidence of murder in New York City has declined an additional six percent. Occasionally, an individual crime still results in calls for the death penalty, such as the case of Ronell Wilson, who is accused of killing two undercover NYPD detectives in Staten Island in 2003 and is currently facing trial in federal court, where the death penalty is still available. But violent crime is no longer at the forefront of voters' minds.

Moreover, in the ten years between the revival of the death penalty and the LaValle decision, prosecutors rarely sought death sentences. In that period there were 864 cases statewide where the death penalty was available, and only 19 times did prosecutors go to trial seeking the death penalty. Only seven of those trials resulted in death sentences, and just two men remain on death row. None have been executed, and the possibility of an execution in the near future is slim.

The decision to seek the death penalty has been even rarer in New York City. Only two of the seven death sentences handed down since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1995 came out of the five boroughs. Darrell Harris was convicted of killing three people in a Brooklyn social club in 1996. John Taylor was convicted for his part in the infamous "Wendy's massacre" in Queens in 2000.

Bronx district attorney Robert Johnson has refused to seek the death penalty for any case. Morgenthau has been outspoken in his opposition to capital punishment, and went so far as to testify in front of the state Assembly in December, 2004 that the legislature should not revive the state's death penalty law.

Whatever the cause, it seems clear that Morgenthau was able to tap into a strong sentiment among New Yorkers who believe it is possible, and even preferable, to control crime and keep the city safe without capital punishment.

David Dean, a student at New York University School of Law, worked as a policy analyst in the Mayor's Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator. 

Rockefeller Drug Law Reform?


After 32 years of struggle against the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, New York public officials are claiming that these laws finally have been reformed. Earlier this year, and then again this month, Governor George Pataki and the state legislature enacted changes to the law that, in theory, would affect about 1,000 prisoners. Yes, this seems to pale besides the 16,000 people locked up under the laws – a staggering 93 percent of them black and Latino. But it sounded like a good start.

As a person who spent a dozen years in prison for a first-time non-violent drug offense -- and was released early only because I was granted clemency -- I have made it a mission of my life to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which mandated a harsh sentence for me, as it has for thousands of other New Yorkers.

Since 1973 when the Rockefeller Laws were enacted, we have witnessed a badly created law that incarcerated many drug offenders from the inner city neighborhoods of New York. This in turn, created smart upstate rural politicians, who saw the Rockefeller Drug Laws as a tool to help make the business of imprisonment a major industry in their districts – creating a disincentive in the legislature to reform these laws.

Under these laws, people convicted of drug offenses face the same penalties as those convicted of murder, and harsher penalties than those convicted of rape.

As I wrote on Gotham Gazette earlier this year, through constant political pressure we managed to get the point across to New York politicians. When the pressure mounted to the point of affecting their political careers, politicians reacted. Finally, early in 2005 a revision was made that affected 446 prisoners sentenced under the A-1 felony statute. A huge applause was heard. Politicians felt the pressure easing. Individuals who had called for reform began backing off. After all those years of fighting finally a change had occurred.

Now early this month, Governor George Pataki and the state legislature proudly announced another change that would affect about 540 prisoners sentenced under A-2 felonies. From a cursory glance at those who were not familiar with the history of the struggle, it seemed as though the problem was fixed.

However, if we take a good look at the history of the first change most of the 446 A-1 felons eligible for relief are still in prison. According to the Department of Correction as of July, 2005, only 86 were set free.

I sat in the courtroom with a middle-aged mother who had been arrested in 1999 with a few ounces of cocaine. Though it was a first offense, she was sentenced to 17-to-life. She was a drug mule, according to the facts of the record. But the Queens district attorney's office twisted and manipulated the facts to make her look like she was a kingpin who had abused her young daughter because the child was present in the room with a package of cocaine.

That daughter, now a traumatized teen, has been placed in a foster home. She had lost her mother and her childhood. She was in the courtroom praying for her mother along with two nuns with whom she now lives. The judge and Queens District Attorney Dick Brown agreed to reduce her mother's sentence to nine years-to-life--leaving her to serve an additional five years. The daughter left the courtroom in tears.

 

"These reforms are just symbolic if they're not implemented," Bill Gibney, lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, has said. "The vast majority of people eligible to petition for early release are still behind bars. The Governor and Legislature shouldn't pat themselves on the back until they've ensured that these reforms are duly acted upon. Without granting freedom along with reform, the reform remains the same political rhetoric we have heard for years.

Anthony Papa is author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom 

 

 

Mayoral Issue Grid: Crime



Mayoral Issue Grid

CRIME

-Anti-Terror Plan?
-Other Crime Priorities?
-More police?

Crime is down in New York City; the murder rate is the lowest since 1963. Yet the challenge of keeping New Yorkers safe remains a critical issue.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, terrorism became the number one priority for the New York Police Department. The recent subway bombings in Madrid and London have also raised concerns about the safety of the city's transportation system.

In the last four years, the size of police force has been reduced by about 3,800 officers to 34,824, but overtime expenses cost the city more than $200 million a year.

Fernando Ferrer

Fernando Ferrer has outlined a plan to try to make the transportation system safer from terrorism. Ferrer wants to integrate transit employees into security planning. He promises to put more security cameras in subways and stations, set up an Advisory Council for Best Security Practices, and build better coalitions with officials in Washington DC.

"Random bag searches aren't enough on their own," said Ferrer. "We need agencies to coordinate with each other, instead of developing their own plans and policies."

As part of his crime plan, Ferrer proposes hiring 1,900 new police officers. He would hire 1,000 local officers and add 900 more from the federally funded Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. Ferrer also points toward his efforts to help create the Civilian Complaint Review Board while in the New York City Council.

(Read Ferrer's security plan)

Michael Bloomberg

In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Michael Bloomberg launched Operation Impact, the New York Police Department's anti-terrorism unit that devotes more than 1,000 officers to the protection of the city.

"We can't rest - not for a minute - nor can we stop in our intelligence, counter-terrorism, and response capabilities," said Bloomberg.

In addition, Bloomberg points to the overall decrease in crime in the city. Crime is down 20 percent citywide. The city's murder rate is the lowest since 1963.

Bloomberg has also focused efforts on reducing "quality of life" crimes. He has created special task forces to deal with noise, graffiti, and minor crimes.

Crime has decreased even as Bloomberg has reduced the size of the police force. In 2001, there were 38,630 full time cops working for the New York Police Department. Today, that number has dropped to 34,824.

(Read Bloomberg's crime platform)

RELATED ARTICLES:
Operation Atlas
Ray Kelly on Security
Terrorism and Anti-Terrorism in NYC
Domestic Violence
Police Misconduct

 

Campaign 2005: Crime Declines, Public Safety Worries Continue


The continuing decline in crime during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term in office ranks first among the accomplishments listed on his campaign Web site: “2004 was the third year in a row with fewer than 600 homicides and brought the murder rate to its lowest level since 1963. According to FBI statistics, NYC is America's Safest Big City.”

There is some evidence, though, that New Yorkers remain concerned about different kinds of public safety, especially the threat of terrorism. In a recent poll, done shortly after the July 7th terrorist attacks in London, half of the registered New York City voters surveyed said they believed the city was not adequately prepared for another terrorist attack. The poll was a mixed bag for Bloomberg’s Democratic challengers, however: 62 percent of those surveyed nevertheless approved of the way Bloomberg has handled terrorism.

The major candidates may focus on security when discussing public safety, but there are other issues as well. They offer different ideas about how to make New York a safer city, and each of them has put forth at least a few details about what changes might take place should they be elected.

Anti-terrorism Efforts

Anti-terrorism efforts are handled by the New York Police Department. To be sure, the police have had their critics. An official from the New York Fire Department, Chief of Department Peter Hayden, spoke before the City Council in May against giving the police primary authority when handling incidents involving hazardous materials; the standard protocol in most cities is to have the fire department in charge. And the police department has also at times angered the F.B.I. and other federal officials with its aggressiveness.

But there has not been another terrorist attack in New York since 9/11, and while the reasons may not be clear, some say good police work may be a major factor. The department, under Commissioner Ray Kelly, has reportedly worked to build up a strong network of informants, as well as build closer links with federal intelligence.

This has come at a steep price tag, however; the police reportedly have been spending about $200 million a year on anti-terrorism initiatives. Neither Bloomberg nor any federal legislators representing New York have had much luck wrangling substantially more federal funds for general anti-terrorism security efforts, though Bloomberg did raise the issue in a speech at the Republican National Convention last year.

Bloomberg’s opponents say he hasn’t been doing enough. They particularly criticize the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for spending only $30 million out of $600 million earmarked for security improvements in the subways, and say the mayor bears some responsibility for that lapse.

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller has proposed creating a new Office of Homeland Security to make sure the MTA and other organizations, like hospitals, are on the same page when making plans against terrorism. He wants improved communications for first responders.

Former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer has called for the creation of a new Advisory Council on Best Practices to review security ideas, as well as a renewed focus on security in subways, including a greater police presence, better training for MTA employees and improved communications technology. He also called for better leadership in securing federal money.

Congressman Anthony Weiner also has talked about the need for more federal money, and suggested the federal Transportation Security Agency should screen passengers entering New York by train or boat. Weiner also says that the federal government should pay for the 2,000 intelligence officers currently part of the police budget.

C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan borough president, said that she also wants to revamp subway security, with more security cameras and announcements made in different languages.

More Police, Better Paid?

The Democratic candidates share a desire to hire more police officers. Miller wants 1,000 more officers, Ferrer 1,900, Fields 2,000 and Weiner 3,000.

The police department has decreased from about 41,000 in 2001 to 37,000. A protracted labor dispute between the city and the largest police union was finally resolved in June, with state arbitrators awarding the police a substantial raise, although starting salaries were reduced to $25,100 for the first six months on the job (after six months, salary is increased to $32,700 for the next 18 months).

Acrimony remains between the city and the police union, with Bloomberg blaming the union for the reduction in starting pay. Kelly said the low salary will make it harder to recruit, although that remains to be seen.

Are more officers a luxury or a necessity? Even as the department has shrunk, the murder rate has reached historically low levels, and Operation Impact, which floods high-crime areas with officers, continues to be trumpeted as a success by Bloomberg and the police department.

Beyond the crime statistics, though, there remain causes for concern. A July Newsday article reported how some police felt that a lack of resources and an unwillingness by the department to pay overtime was leading to fewer murder cases being solved.

Police Misconduct?

With low morale can come police misconduct, an issue that never seems far from the headlines. The March indictment of two former police detectives on murder charges for allegedly participating in mob hits in the early 1990s is, if true, an extreme example of how the department has historically struggled to police itself.

The outside agencies assigned to check into corruption charges are struggling for support. The Commission to Combat Police Corruption in April weathered the resignation of its chairman, Mark Pomerantz, who became frustrated with the committee’s lack of power to access police records. Early in his administration Bloomberg completely ignored the commission before appointing Pomerantz, but in June Bloomberg did appoint a new chair, Michael F. Armstrong, a former Queens District Attorney who also served as chief counsel to the Knapp Commission in the 1970s.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board continues to struggle to handle the increase in complaints about police misconduct. At a recent meeting, officials noted that complaints increased by six percent so far this year compared to the previous year, but that fewer were being substantiated— nine percent so far compared to 16 percent in all of 2004. Officials called it good news that they received $1 million in funding, but worried that they did not receive a long-term commitment, noting that they have to continue to lobby the city for more money.

Fernando Ferrer helped found the Civilian Complaint Review Board. In the past he has spoken about the importance of good relations between the police and the community.

In the past, Virginia Fields has been critical of so-called no-knock warrants, setting up a hotline for people to call to complain after such a raid led to the death of a Harlem woman, Alberta Spruill, in 2003.

Hate Crimes

Two high-profile, white-on-black attacks that have been characterized as bias attacks occurred this summer in Queens and Brooklyn, raising the public’s perception of hate crimes. Police statistics suggest, however, that, overall, bias crimes involving physical attacks have decreased by nearly fifty percent since 2000.

Fields has called for greater attention to hate crimes, as well as a focus on domestic violence issues, both by police and the courts Anthony Weiner also called for more attention to hate crimes.

Quality-Of-Life, Etc.

Weiner also wants a greater focus on quality-of-life crimes such as graffiti. He also wants to expand the use of DNA matching technology. The law requiring certain violent felons to provide a DNA sample went in effect in 1994. Weiner wants to order former convicts who completed their sentence before 1994 to also give a DNA sample.

Gifford Miller has called for more money to go to District Attorney’s offices, as well as the creation of more Community Courts, which handle less serious crimes. Miller also wants to include crimes committed in city parks in the precinct-by-precinct CompStat crime tracking system.

 

Mayoral Issue Grid: Crime



Mayoral Issue Grid

CRIME

-Anti-Terror Plan?
-Other Crime Priorities?
-More police?

Crime is down in New York City; the murder rate is the lowest since 1963. Yet the challenge of keeping New Yorkers safe remains a critical issue.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, terrorism became the number one priority for the New York Police Department. The recent subway bombings in Madrid and London have also raised concerns about the safety of the city's transportation system.

In the last four years, the size of police force has been reduced by about 3,800 officers to 34,824, but overtime expenses cost the city more than $200 million a year.

Fernando Ferrer

Fernando Ferrer has outlined a plan to try to make the transportation system safer from terrorism. Ferrer wants to integrate transit employees into security planning. He promises to put more security cameras in subways and stations, set up an Advisory Council for Best Security Practices, and build better coalitions with officials in Washington DC.

"Random bag searches aren't enough on their own," said Ferrer. "We need agencies to coordinate with each other, instead of developing their own plans and policies."

As part of his crime plan, Ferrer proposes hiring 1,900 new police officers. He would hire 1,000 local officers and add 900 more from the federally funded Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. Ferrer also points toward his efforts to help create the Civilian Complaint Review Board while in the New York City Council.

(Read Ferrer's security plan)

C. Virginia Fields

To fight terrorism, C. Virginia Fields proposes expanding the Operation Atlas program, the police department's anti-terrorism initiative. She also wants to run public service announcements on television and radio to instruct New Yorkers on how to prepare better for emergencies. (Read Fields' security plan)

She promises to hire 2,000 additional police officers to patrol "so-called 'soft targets' such as the subways, department stores or movie theaters."

To improve subway security, Fields calls for more security cameras, subway announcements in multiple languages, and cell phone service in tunnels and stations. "Pulling police officers from their regular duty to perform anti-terrorism activities - such as searching bags in the subways - is not the most effective way to combat terrorism," said Fields.

Fields also promises to work to reform the court system so that domestic violence cases are addressed in a more timely manner. She says she will launch new efforts to prevent hate crimes. She also pledges to continue efforts to eliminate police misconduct by demanding changes in police training and recommendations regarding the approvals and use of no-knock warrants.

(Read more on her policing plan)

Gifford Miller

To address terrorism concerns, Gifford Miller proposes creating a position of "Director of Homeland Security for the City of New York" to implement the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. The Homeland Security chief would coordinate emergency preparedness and subway security.

"It's wrong for the mayor to leave safety of our subways and buses to a bunch of bureaucrats in the MTA who literally can't make the trains run on time as it is right now," said Miller.

Miller promises to install 911 phones and improve emergency communication systems in stations and tunnels. Miller also plans to organize what he calls "Citizen Corps," which will recruit 50,000 emergency volunteers. (Read Miller's crime platform)

Miller would hire 1,000 new police officers to focus on quality-of-life crimes, freeing up senior officers for anti-terrorism duties.

To fight crime across the city, Miller advocates extending CompStat to include parks and hiring more parks enforcement patrol officers. He also promises to renegotiate for higher starting salaries for police officers and to put a community court in every borough and increase funding for District Attorney's offices.

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner says the city must do more to secure its ports. He promises to establish federal screenings of passengers traveling into New York on boats and trains, as well as for those visiting high-profile landmarks, such as the Empire State Building.

He also promises to work to have cell phone service in transit systems and will mandate that subway platforms are equipped with necessary technology by the year 2010.

Weiner proposes hiring 3,000 additional police officers to restore the size of the department to pre 9/11 levels. Nine hundred of the additional police officers would come through the federally funded Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.

In addition, Weiner promises to work to change current laws in order to require all ex-convicts to supply DNA samples. He advocates the use of DNA samples for criminals in a greater range of crimes. He wants to ensure that rape kits are tested within 30 days and advocates reversing laws that prevent the city from prosecuting sexual offenders for crimes that they have committed more than five years before they were identified.

Weiner also promises to focus on quality-of-life crimes. He advocates punishing those who vandalize property with graffiti with the responsibility of cleaning up their own mess. He also promises to conduct greater investigations into hate crimes. (Read Weiner's crime platform)

Michael Bloomberg

In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Michael Bloomberg launched Operation Impact, the New York Police Department's anti-terrorism unit that devotes more than 1,000 officers to the protection of the city.

"We can't rest - not for a minute - nor can we stop in our intelligence, counter-terrorism, and response capabilities," said Bloomberg.

In addition, Bloomberg points to the overall decrease in crime in the city. Crime is down 20 percent citywide. The city's murder rate is the lowest since 1963.

Bloomberg has also focused efforts on reducing "quality of life" crimes. He has created special task forces to deal with noise, graffiti, and minor crimes.

Crime has decreased even as Bloomberg has reduced the size of the police force. In 2001, there were 38,630 full time cops working for the New York Police Department. Today, that number has dropped to 34,824.

(Read Bloomberg's crime platform)

RELATED ARTICLES:
Operation Atlas
Ray Kelly on Security
Terrorism and Anti-Terrorism in NYC
Domestic Violence
Police Misconduct

 



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