Gotham Gazette Thu, 04 Mar 2021 21:13:08 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) NYPD 'Peace Dividend' Reveals Truth About Unnecessary Arrests nypd photo bratton and co

Commissioner Bratton and others (photo via @NYPDnews)

Last May, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton issued a 41-page report extolling the virtues of Broken Windows and quality-of-life policing, and promoted what he termed a “peace dividend” of “nearly a million fewer enforcement contacts like arrests, summonses, and reasonable-suspicion stops when compared to their respective highs.” He explained further in a letter to City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito: “there has been a drastic reduction in enforcement contacts between police and citizens, a benefit of lower crime that I call the Peace Dividend.” He clarified that the “dividend” is the “diminished need to use enforcement tools for every problem."

The use of the phrase “peace dividend” is telling and alarming. The term was frequently used at the end of the Cold War when many nations cut their military spending and money originally intended for the military became available for other purposes. No doubt while the Commissioner was fighting his war on crime, the police felt like an occupying army to black and Hispanic people living in neighborhoods that bore the brunt of a policy of massive arrests for trivial things.

While the commissioner’s notion of a dividend does not seem to correspond to additional government funds allotted to badly needed social programs in the affected communities, it does at least mean that more people in those same communities might be left in peace. On the other hand, Bratton’s pronouncement is redolent of an omnipotent overlord magnanimously bestowing a gift upon the residents of neighborhoods like South Jamaica, Brownsville, Mott Haven, and East Harlem, where rampant arrests and summonses have created immeasurable alienation, damage, and suffering.

Recently, in the course of another round-up of crime statistics, Commissioner Bratton noted that arrests were down by about 10 percent in April. In an effort to explain the drop, he said that the police were making fewer arrests for minor offenses and that “[w]e are trying to reduce the number of contacts we have with the public that [are] not necessary.”

On its face, continued evidence of the so-called peace dividend is laudable. Decreasing unnecessary police-citizen interactions is obviously a worthy goal. But upon closer inspection, the commissioner’s explanation is troubling and revealing.

Shouldn’t he try to eliminate, rather than reduce, unnecessary police-citizen contact? While the commissioner’s acknowledgement that some number of police-citizen contacts is unnecessary is notable for its candor, it is also disturbing for its veracity – it begs the questions of just how many unwarranted interactions there are and upon whom are they inflicted. Answering these questions is not easy, but is essential.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, repeatedly and defiantly argued that the ever-rising number of stops-and-frisks – that peaked at almost 700,000 in one year (2011) – were necessary for public safety. When a federal judge ruled that the stops were unconstitutional, Bloomberg excoriated the judge saying, "[T]his is a very dangerous decision made by a judge who I believe does not understand what good policing is."

To drive his point home, he observed that he was glad that the implementation would likely take place after the end of his term, saying, "I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a lot of people dying." Well, crime continues to decline even as the number of recorded stop-and-frisks has plummeted to a current estimate of 25,000-35,000 for 2016 (a drop of around 95 percent from the high), providing powerful evidence that hundreds of thousands of stops were unnecessary, as well as illegal.

In similar fashion, the 10 percent reduction in misdemeanor arrests has not corresponded to an uptick in crime, suggesting that perhaps the ‘peace dividend’ is being miserly applied. Why not 15 or even 25 percent? Why not try a pilot program in some precincts to see how far the dividend could go? The NYPD issues about 1,000 summonses each year for riding a bike on the sidewalk in East New York. What if the officers in that precinct were instructed not to issue any summonses for unlawful bike-riding for some period of time? If crime did not correspondingly increase, the same approach could be taken with similar low-level offenses in that and other precincts, and the number of unnecessary police contacts with the public could be further reduced.

The awareness of necessary versus unnecessary contacts even runs through the NYPD rank and file. Back in December 2014 and into early 2015, police officers engaged in a slowdown to express unhappiness with Mayor de Blasio’s handling of Eric Garner’s death at the hands of Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo and the killings of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. An email, widely believed to be from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, was circulated instructing officers to make arrests only when it was “absolutely necessary.” Arrest numbers dropped precipitously over the next few weeks leading to the recognition that the NYPD’s standard operating procedure included an awful lot of unnecessary arrests. Consider as well that the crime rate continued to drop even in the face of drastically reduced arrests, tickets and stops.

Hyper-aggressive policing tactics like stop-and-frisk and Broken Windows enforcement drove the number of unnecessary police contacts with the public into the millions. More specifically, it did indeed amount to a war waged in and upon communities of color. Commissioner Bratton’s peace dividend has a long way to go to rectify that reality.

Steven Zeidman is a professor of law at CUNY School of Law. He is on Twitter @SteveZeidman.

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NYPD 'Peace Dividend' Reveals Truth About Unnecessary Arrests Mon, 16 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, Feb. 15-19 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York

Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday February 19

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Mayor de Blasio celebrates the launch of the LinkNYC wifi hubs, via The Mayor's Office; Governor Cuomo rallies to promote paid family leave, via The Governor's Office.

de blasio LINKNYC

cuomo paid family leave motion


1. Closing Rikers: City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called for a commission to study the potential of closing Rikers Island jails during her State of the City address last week, sparking discussions on what to do about the city’s notorious complex. Mayor de Blasio said closing Rikers is a “noble concept,” but unrealistic, while his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, called closing Rikers a “great idea.” Mark-Viverito has continued the discussion this week, explaining that the criminal justice reforms aim to reduce the number of New Yorkers who end up in Rikers, diminishing the population in the jail. [Read: Mark-Viverito 'Doubles Down' on Criminal Justice Reform in State of the City]

2. Mayor Signs Raises, Reforms: Mayor de Blasio signed a package of legislation into law today that raises the salaries of the city’s elected officials by at least 12 percent and reforms the job descriptions of City Council members, even though the raises for Council members were $10,185 higher than what he initially approved. While the Council has been praised for several good government reforms included in the bills, the lack of public input, rushed timeline, and size of the pay increase has sparked criticism. [Read: De Blasio to Sign Higher Raises for Council Than He Previously Approved]

3. Stop-and-Frisk: A report released Tuesday by a court-appointed federal monitor found that NYPD officers are still unclear about changes to stop-and-frisk rules, leading many to continue to stopping New Yorkers on the streets without providing a just cause. Stop-and-frisks have decreased from 685,000 in 2011 to 24,000 in 2015, yet according to the report, officers failed to explain the grounds on which they stopped someone to question them in more than a fourth of all stops.

4. Vacant Lots: An audit released by city Comptroller Scott Stringer criticized the city for not using vacant lots to create more affordable housing after finding that more than 1,000 city-owned lots have been sitting vacant for over 30 years. The audit faults the Department of Housing Preservation and Development for routinely failing to properly turn over land to developers. City officials have called Stringer’s report “false and misleading,” saying many of the properties lack basic infrastructure and that many others are in line for development.

5. Shelter Squalor: An audit released by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli slammed the Cuomo administration for a severe lack of oversight of homeless shelters, saying the state’s failure led to squalid living conditions, including rodent infestations, fire hazards, and mold. Auditors noted that 22 of the 47 most serious issues had previously been pointed out in annual inspections, but had never been corrected. Governor Cuomo has since conceded “the state was not aggressive enough for a period of time.”


  • 10,000 people are currently locked up at Rikers Island, NY1’s Errol Louis writes for the Daily News.
  • 24,000 stop-and-frisk stops in 2015 - a 661,000 decrease in the number of stop-and-frisks since 2011, the Times reports.
  • 75 schools across New York City will overhaul math teaching, Chalkbeat reports.
  • 1,000 city-owned lots or more have been sitting vacant for over 30 years, according to an audit from city Comptroller Scott Stringer.
  • $47 million from the state will be spent on the development of the Empire Outlets on Staten Island as part of a “multi-pronged subsidy that increased after the developers contributed $85,000 to the governor’s campaign,” Politico reports.
  • 16 shelters with rodent and vermin infestations statewide, 18 with fire safety issues, and 8 with mold growing in residents’ rooms, an audit by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli criticizing the Cuomo administration for failing to provide adequate oversight of homeless shelters revealed.
  • 200 recommendations for improving East Harlem and informing Mayor de Blasio’s rezoning plan from a coalition of East Harlem stakeholders, Gotham Gazette reports.
  • 490,000 New Yorkers on the welfare roles over the course of 2015, with the average family of three receiving $826 per month under the system, and an individual receiving about $485, Gotham Gazette reports.


  • It was a good week for First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray, who made several media appearances this week to discuss the city’s mental health roadmap, which McCray spearheads, and was extensively and favorably profiled in The New York Times Magazine and in Jezebel.
  • And, it was a good week for the city’s 64 elected officials, all of whom received at least a 12 percent increase to their salaries today.
  • It was a bad week for Governor Cuomo after state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released an audit that criticized the Cuomo administration for failing to provide enough oversight of homeless shelters.


  • Around this time 65 years ago, on February 16, 1951, the City Council passed a bill barring racial discrimination in housing projects, according to NY1.
  • Around this time 63 years ago, on February 17, 1953, a New York federal court delayed the executions of Cold War spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to allow time for a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Their appeal failed, and the two were executed in New York months later, according to NY1.



In Departure from Predecessors, De Blasio Administration Overhauls City Welfare System, by Samar Khurshid

De Blasio to Sign Higher Raises for Council Than He Previously Approved, by Meg O’Connor

To Influence Rezoning, East Harlem Stakeholders Preempt City Plan With Own, by Maggie Calmes

Eyeing 100 Schools, Will Success Academy Expand to Staten Island? by Samar Khurshid

'New York Values' in Historical Perspective, by Bruce W. Dearstyne (opinion)

'Making A Murderer' Flaws All Around Us, by Christopher Beall (opinion)

Rebuilding NYCHA: A Fresh Look, by Nicholas D. Bloom (opinion)

Goodbye to ‘First Generation’ NYCHA, by Nicholas D. Bloom and Matthew G. Lasner (opinion)

Looks Matter, Especially in Public Housing, by Nicholas D. Bloom and Matthias Altwicker (opinion)


Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max and DNAinfo reporter Danielle Tcholakian discussed Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan on BRIC TV.

Council members Donovan Richards and David Greenfield spoke with NY1’s Grace Rauh about Mayor de Blasio’s city-wide rezoning plan.

Daily News reporter Greg Smith joined NY Slant’s Alexis Grenell and Nick Powell to discuss all sides of the affordable housing debate, and whether the de Blasio administration has assuaged concerns about gentrification.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito appeared on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the criminal justice reforms proposed in her State of the City address and potentially closing Rikers Island.

Mayor de Blasio spoke with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer about the proposed federal cuts to counter-terrorism funding for New York City, the pay hikes for elected officials, the debate between Apple and the FBI, and more.

NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

The Week That Was in New York Politics, Feb. 15-19 Fri, 19 Feb 2016 17:20:17 +0000