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Let’s have that ‘honest conversation’ on policing

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For weeks, reform advocates have demanded an honest conversation on policing in cities like New York.  Well, let’s have at it. 

The Big Apple has dipped its big toe in a bathtub of wokeness on criminal justice reform, and — as it turns out — the water is too hot.

The year is barely half way over, and shooting victims abound. We have already crossed the annual mile marker for 2019, and the stats of higher crime years are well within reach. We are all mere passengers on a time machine of gunplay, and our feckless mayor and governor have set the dial to the darker days when violence plagued our city. Final destination unknown.

No one decision in recent memory is, alone, the sparkplug of our new direction, but collectively, all are the cause of our redirection.

The first ingredient of this soup of despair is a false narrative, one that is paraded by angry mobs and uncorrected by elected leaders. Our city was brought to a simmer by the demonstrable falsehood that police are the cause of violence in our troubled communities and the oppressors of innocent people.

In 2018, on-duty NYPD officers fired their weapons just 23 times. In contrast, New York’s criminals left us with 897 shooting victims. Police officers used justified physical force on 6,467 individuals, compared to the 74,010 victims of assault. The mayor could remind us of these ratios now and again.

Nonetheless, New York’s media battleships bring their guns to bear on each sporadic incident, whether it’s a cop wrongfully pushing protestors or a warrant squad making a lawful arrest. This, while the masthead dwellers on the poop deck willfully ignore the rampant shootings, slashings and burglaries that weekly turn hundreds of honest families into victims.  

The year when crime started paying again began with the implementation of the state’s bail reform law, and soon devolved into our release of prisoners on Coronavirus grounds. Now that the pandemic is under control on Rikers Island and the city in general, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate why these folks were condemned to jail in the first place.

In one of our cringe-worthy mayor’s most cringe-worthy moments, he boasted that city jails have their lowest population since World War II. Despite declaring, “We are safer for it,” the bells tolled that week for a baby killed by gunplay. Another child held her father’s hand as he was shot dead in the street.

We used to have police units that patrolled specifically for violent criminals; these anti-crime teams are no longer needed, it seems, by Bill de Blasio. They used to work field intelligence, gumshoe senses, and, believe it or not, tips from countless confidential informants from the community to figure out who was carrying an illegal gun, and how best to pry it away. 

In a bygone era, these officers — who at great personal risk made their city safer — might be bought a beer at the neighborhood watering hole. In 2020, the bottles get sent other ways. In a grander sense, many departments around the country study the NYPD’s tactics, even hiring our retirees. Leaders in dangerous cities were envious of the way our police department, including its anti-crime units, made our city safer. Now, some here denounce them.

Defunding the police as policy became the predominant issue for city leaders in a budget year requiring their full attention on a broader financial calamity. Instead of well-thought blueprints, City Hall settled for oft-parroted hashtags. The #defundthepolice set decided $1 billion dollars was the price. Why that number? Who knows? To live up to ideals set in 15 characters by random twitter accounts? Ideals that shifted, by the way, to $3 billion as soon as the digital ink was dry.

The cuts have consequences. Slashing overtime is a morale killer when it translates into workers earning thousands less than the year before. Morale affects job performance, not just within the NYPD, but within every organization. It is why management does things to cheer their employees, from annual bonuses to bagel Fridays.

Operationally, we will have fewer police to keep the public safe at major events. Perhaps that’s manageable, but it will also play out in detective squads and on arresting officers, all while the state’s new discovery laws that accompanied bail reform have added to the complexity of building prosecutions. This will require more police man-hours, not less; and as a result, we will see fewer cases closed, more investigations scrapped, and justice delivered to fewer New Yorkers.

Lastly, let us not forget the city’s “chokehold ban;” a law so ill-conceived that some District Attorneys may ignore it and some neighboring police departments have warned their officers away from entering the city. It is extremely difficult to subdue a resisting suspect without compressing their diaphragm, and doing so now makes an officer a criminal. This changes the balance of criminality in a potentially deadly scrum and places new liability on cops, while ignoring the arrestee.

We could live in a world where officers are not calculating the risks of life, career, pension, and a criminal record against taking physical action against a suspect — or we could live in the real world. Not both.  

We do not need new policy to begin swinging the pendulum back the other way on violent crime in New York and large cities around the country; we simply have to reevaluate the choices our elected officials have already made. The most honest conversation we need to have with our perpetual and professional protester posses is that we may not always have to heed to their demands.

Joseph Borelli is the minority whip of the New York City Council, a spokesman for the N.Y. State GOP and state co-Chairman of Trump 2020. He’s also a Republican commentator, author, professor and former Lindsay Fellow at the City University of New York’s Institute for State and Local Governance. He has been published in the NY Daily News, NY Post, Washington Examiner, and appears on Fox News, Fox Business, and other networks. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeBorelliNYC.


Tags anti-crime units Bill de Blasio crime rates Criminals defund the police gun violence Law enforcement New York City New York City Police Department Police abolition movement shootings

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