Cop Reformers Demand NYPD Change Its Culture, But Will It Listen?

Much is expected of the politician who gets 73 percent of the electoral vote, especially when it comes to police reform.


Since Bill de Blasio was overwhelmingly elected to the New York City's mayor's office last November, one of his biggest challenges has been following through with his well-publicized promise to reform the New York Police Department. Rev. Al Sharpton rightfully pointed out that de Blasio used his son, Dante, to tell New Yorkers that his father is "the only one who will end a stop-and-frisk era that unfairly targets people of color." Many New Yorkers, including the Police Reform Organizing Project, want to make sure Dante is right about his dad.

PROP released a report outlining how the NYPD can ditch its quota system in favor of a more community-based style of policing. The eight-page report used examples of how other cities turned their policing culture around to better engage its communities. The report mentioned the High Point Initiative, in High Point, N.C., which curtailed drug-related crimes and improved relations between the police and the community. The cops would arrest violent drug dealers, but nonviolent dealers would be given a call-in with social workers, the dealers' relatives and other individuals who might help guide the dealer away from his illegal activity. The dealers would have their cases suspended, once they ceased their activities.

If the NYPD implemented such policing, PROP believes community relations in New York City would improve. But the quota system is entrenched in the NYPD and changing it would be a keen challenge, even for the most reform-minded mayor. Robert Gangi, director of PROP, told AlterNet that the NYPD is capable of change but it requires a political will he feels is absent in City Hall.

"We think that strong leadership from de Blasio and Bratton, absent now, would result in significant change," he said. "The challenge for us at PROP and for other police reformers is to develop and carry out the strategies and actions that will so shift the political landscape on these issues that the new administration will feel heavy heat to enact the kind of reforms our report calls for, especially abolishing the current quota system and replacing it with performance standards that place a high value on constructive and positive interactions with New Yorkers."

The New York Daily News published a scathing report of the NYPD's "broken-windows" policy revealing that 81 percent of those arrested over a 12-year period were Latino or black. Arrests from broken-windows policing include walking through the park after dark, spitting on the ground, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk or, in the case of the late Eric Garner, allegedly selling smokes on a street corner.

Abolishing a culture in which arrests reign supreme over actually developing good relations with community members can take years to implement, but the recommendations outlined by PROP are excellent ways to reverse the course. Hopefully, deBlasio will pay close attention to suggestions for police reform so that more New Yorkers do not suffer at the hands of cops looking to make a meaningless collar that won't make the city any safer.

Check out the full PROP report.

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