While Police Commissioner William Bratton appears to have put an end to the NYPD’s two-week-long reduction in summons activity, the slowdown seems to have been steepest in the area of Vision Zero enforcement.
The initiative is being driven by Mayor Bill de Blasio, and is already credited with having saved lives by reducing the speed limit citywide to 25 miles per hour and putting in place a host of traffic safety improvements, as well as enacting legislation designed to keep pedestrians safe.
Whether officers purposely cut down on enforcing traffic law over their feud with the mayor is impossible to prove. What is known, though, is that during the height of the slowdown statistics on parking tickets and moving violations fell off at a much higher rate than in other enforcement areas.
From Dec. 29 to Jan. 4, the second week of the slowdown, police in the 24th Precinct on the Upper West Side issued zero parking tickets and zero moving violations, according to CompStat records. Last year over the same week officers in the 24th issued 188 parking tickets and 152 moving violations, which includes the ever-important summons for failing to yield to a pedestrian.
Citing department policy, 24th Precinct officers declined to comment.
That same trend applies to police in the 20th Precinct, which covers the lower half of the Upper West Side. From Dec. 29 to Jan. 4, police issued three parking tickets and zero moving violations. Last year over the same period they gave out 180 and 125, respectively.
Contrasting another enforcement area, police in the 24th Precinct made 22 arrests compared to 40 over the same period last year, and police in the 20th Precinct made 22 arrests compared to 24 last year. While traffic enforcement is of a much different stripe than say, having to arrest an individual who poses a threat to the public, the comparison is noteworthy.
The trend also holds on the Upper East Side. From Dec. 29 to Jan. 4, police in the 19th Precinct issued 16 parking tickets compared to 310 over the same period last year, and 10 moving violations compared to 175 last year. Police in the contiguous 23rd Precinct issued 16 parking tickets compared to 225 last year and two moving violations compared to 69 last year.
In Lower Manhattan, police in the 1st Precinct gave out zero parking tickets and zero moving violations. Over the same period last year, those numbers are 271 and 129, respectively.
In the 5th Precinct, which covers Chinatown, Little Italy and Two Bridges, police issued zero parking tickets and just one moving violation from Dec. 29 to Jan. 4. Last year over the same period they gave out 134 parking tickets and 109 moving violations.
Officers in the 7th Precinct, which is responsible for the Lower East Side, gave out 21 parking tickets compared to 143 last year and zero moving violations compared to 75 last year.
On the Upper West Side, where a woman was struck and killed on New Year’s Eve and a 10-year-old girl was struck on Jan. 7, Council Member Helen Rosenthal said a slowdown damages the trust that most New Yorkers, the majority of which support the police and their mission, place in the NYPD.
“A work slowdown is not the answer to whatever grievances police officers or their representatives may have with administration policy or the environment in which uniform officers operate,” Rosenthal said. “The great confidence most New Yorkers have in the NYPD rests in police officers putting one hundred percent effort into their work, acting professionally and in many cases heroically. A work slowdown undermines this public trust.”
Across the city, pedestrian safety has taken center stage as the visibility of fatalities -- many of them involving children -- has risen. Pedestrian safety advocates have since called for New York’s five district attorneys to treat such cases involving reckless drivers as potential crimes instead of accidents. Several elected officials have lent their support to that cause, and Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson recently announced the formation of his District Attorney Driver Accountability Initiative.
In a 24th Precinct Council meeting just days before the assassination of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn on Dec. 20, police reported a 519 percent overall jump in speeding tickets on the year. In 2013, police in the 24th issued just 58 speeding tickets. In 2014, as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero drive to decrease pedestrian deaths, police in the precinct issued 359. Additionally, over 300 enforcement violations were issued against cabbies for things like running red lights and failing to yield to a pedestrian.
It was after those police shootings that the slowdown began in earnest.
The police unions and Mayor Bill de Blasio were already at odds over comments the mayor made about having talked to his biracial son about potentially dangerous interactions with the police. Officers are also rankled by de Blasio’s apparent alignment with Rev. Al Sharpton, a sharp critic of the NYPD.
Demonstrations against police brutality that occurred after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the officer that was responsible for Eric Garner’s death by chokehold, which was ruled a homicide, have exacerbated rank and file officers’ feelings of being embattled in a city they’re sworn to protect.
Relations between the administration and the NYPD were worsened when Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said after the police assassinations that City Hall had blood on its hands and that de Blasio had contributed to a climate of hostility against cops. Since then, the mayor has been heckled at police functions and some officers turned their backs to him during Ramos’ and Liu’s funerals.
De Blasio has refused to apologize for the comments he made, and Bratton has tried to strike a middle ground, chiding officers who rebuffed the mayor but allowing that their actions are reflective of how they’re feeling at the moment.
The rift between the administration and the NYPD, he said, ““will probably go on for a while longer.”
Bratton seems to have put an end to the slowdownfor now. News outlets began reporting earlier this week that officers were denied vacation time and even lunch breaks until they had brought their numbers up. Residents from across the city reported being ticketed for all manner of insignificant infractions, signaling that police were scrambling to close the enforcement gap that was so evident just weeks ago.
“Standing by while observing transgressions - small or large - only serves to endanger ordinary New Yorkers,” said Rosenthal. “[New Yorkers] who by and large support the police, and respect police work and the dangers involved in carrying it out.”