New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton
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New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is defending his department’s use of the “broken windows” strategy, which, as Al-Jazeera reports, is “the practice of cracking down on minor offenses” because if they go unchecked, the argument goes, “they create visible signs of public disorder that encourage more serious crimes.”

Bratton co-authored a 4,500-word essay for City Journal backing the tactic, but critics are not convinced that it’s fair game. Reform groups are concerned that the strategy actually reinforces the racial biases in law enforcement because African-American and Hispanic people are often the targets of this kind of policing.  

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Joo-Hyun Kang, director of Communities United for Police Reform, emailed a statement to Bratton and the essay’s co-author, Rutgers University professor George Kelling, to communicate these concerns.

“Misdemeanor arrests that disproportionately target people of color for the lowest-level offenses have severely strained relations between local communities and the police,” Kang wrote. “These arrests have real consequences on people’s lives, including jeopardizing housing, employment, educational and immigration opportunities.”

Kang’s organization argued that the broken-windows strategy is a regurgitation of the “same old stop-and-frisk” policy that has been another point of contention for the New York City Police Department.

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Bratton and Kelling countered that idea and described how working-class communities are actually in favor of police officers being strict about low-level crimes in order to deter major crime. 

“Our experience suggests that, whatever the critics might say, the majority of New Yorkers, including minorities, approve of such police order-maintenance activities,” Bratton and Kelling’s essay read. “After all, most of these activities come in response to residents’ demands. … Contrary to conventional wisdom, citizens almost invariably are more concerned about disorderly behavior than about major crimes, which they experience far less frequently.”

According to a New York Post report, since shortly after two New York City police officers were shot dead on Dec. 20, “traffic tickets and summonses for minor offenses have dropped off by a staggering 94 percent” as an apparent retaliation against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is believed, by some, to have thrown New York police officers under the bus when communicating his support for protests against police brutality.

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The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the labor union representing NYPD officers, “has warned its members to put their safety first and not make arrests ‘unless absolutely necessary,’” the Post explained.

Read more at Al-Jazeera and the New York Post.