Bratton Pushes Back Against Council Speaker's Proposal to Decriminalize Some Minor Violations

The debate over the NYPD's broken windows policy of attacking low-level offenses raged on Friday, as Police Commissioner William Bratton pushed back against a proposal by the City Council speaker to decriminalize certain minor violations. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report. 

Police Commissioner William Bratton says offenses like jumping turnstiles, urinating and drinking alcohol in public are criminal acts and should be treated as such. 

"Under no circumstances will I, as police commissioner, support anything that weakens the ability of my officers to police and keep this city safe," Bratton said.

Bratton was responding to a push by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to decriminalize seven low-level offenses. She wants to treat them as civil matters, like parking tickets. 

The proposal strikes at the heart of Bratton's broken windows policing tactics, which believes that cracking down on quality-of-life offenses prevents more serious crimes.

"I think I can assure you that quality-of-life policing will continue, and continue very assertively in this city," Bratton said. "It's what made the city safe in the first place."

The NYPD says the problem with decriminalizing minor offenses is that people stopped by police for a civil violation are not required to provide ID, making the summons difficult to enforce.

"The suspect who is committing the offense does not have any legal obligation to identify himself or herself, can simply say nothing or tell the officer, 'My name is Donald Duck and my address is 1 Disney Place,'" said Lawrence Byrne, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of legal matters.

The City Council speaker says treating so many low-level offenses as crimes gives too many people criminal records and even jail time .

Two reports will be issued next week on the NYPD's summons activity, one by John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the other by the NYPD. Bratton says his department's analysis will show people are not being jailed in large numbers because of low-level offenses. However, the commissioner also says the NYPD is negotiating with the Council, and that there may be a way to have both criminal and civil enforcement options available to officers when they find people committing minor offenses.

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