The police commissioner is signaling a willingness to compromise on his broken windows strategy of arresting people for low-level offenses, offering some options as the City Council pushes for change. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Police Commissioner William Bratton told his highest-ranking officers that enforcing violations of low-level crimes will continue.
"In many respects, we need it now more than ever," Bratton said.
He says that's because overall, major crime is at historic lows, and he wants to keep it that way.
He believes tackling small crimes prevents disorder that breeds more serious offenses, what's called the broken windows policing strategy. But he says the NYPD is evolving, and that with serious crime falling, there is less of a need to take a hard line on offenses like drinking alcohol or urinating in public.
"Everybody can benefit from this," Bratton said. "Fewer people with criminal records."
Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio are facing pressure from the City Council to make some low-level offenses civil violations instead of criminal matters. Many have pointed to broken windows as the reason why many young black and Latino men end up being arrested.
In a report he released Thursday, though, Bratton said people of color are not being targeted. He says enforcement of minor offenses often is based on complaints from many of those same communities.
Bratton: The bulk of what we do with quality-of-life enforcement is community-directed, 911, 311.
Q: Are there many 911 calls for public consumption of alcohol?
Bratton: You better believe it.
The New York Civil Liberties Union is demanding dramatic change, saying, "No New Yorker should ever spend a night in jail for carrying an open container or for peeing behind a dumpster. No child should be pushed into the criminal justice system for jumping a turnstile or riding a bike on the sidewalk."
Bratton says the bottom line is that broken windows policing isn't going away as long as he is commissioner. But he admits it has to change with the times. He says one way to do that is to give police discretion to hand out civil summonses that don't require a criminal court appearances for minor offenses. But he says police still have to hand out criminal violations at times.
"I am insistent that we need to keep the tool that out officers have, the ability to make an arrest when a person can't produce an identification, when they are, in fact, found to wanted on warrants." he said.
He suggested having officers also hand out warnings for low-level offenses.