By Robert J. Hansen
In response to an increase in violent crimes, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Police Department announced the creation of the Citywide Crime and Quality-of-Life Enforcement Initiative last week.
NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell assured New Yorkers that “this is NOT a return to Stop, Question, and Frisk—nor is it ‘policing for numbers.’”
The NYPD stated they are going to be taking a “proactive engagement with offenders who commit violations that lead up to an act of violence,” which leads to disputes and shootings including things like public drinking, open-air selling of narcotics, and dice games.
Retired New York area police officer Joe Ested is concerned that this initiative will be abused by officers they did like stop and frisk or broken windows policies.
“It’s never the tools that are wrong, it’s the innocent people that are abused by the officers that don’t follow the law when applying those tools,” Ested said.
Stop-and-frisk was a controversial NYPD policy that allowed police officers to stop, interrogate and search citizens on the sole basis of “reasonable suspicion.”
The policy was scaled back in 2019 after investigations found that nearly 9 out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent and that it predominantly targeted people of color.
Ested, author of Police Brutality Matters, was with the NYPD during the stop-and-frisk era and never had a complaint or problems because he understood how to use stop-and-frisk.
“Stop-and-frisk got out of control because you had thousands of cops randomly searching people and that’s not how it was designed,” Ested said.
Ested is “all for” anything Mayor Adams or the police department implements targeting crime and reducing violence as long as it’s not at the expense of innocent people.
“You can do the job without targeting innocent people, you just gotta put the time and the leg work in and a lot of guys weren’t doing that,” Ested said. “There was no accountability for the guys who were doing it wrong and that’s why it was ineffective.”
Staff attorney with Legal Aid’s Cop Accountability Project, Jennvine Wong, condemned NYPD’s decision to reintroduce broken-windows policing, saying “Broken-windows policing has long been discredited for furthering mistrust between the police and the communities we serve, and this rebranded version will yield those same results, with the same disparate enforcement.”
Ested said that a return to “broken windows’ policy is essentially what this is.
“It’s targeting the small violations which lead to bigger crime like shootings, so in essence, it is,” Ested said. “Those are the exact same elements of broken windows theory.”
Retired NYPD commander and author, Corey Pegues, says this is a recreating of the wheel.
“When Bratton came in, he had new innovative ideas. He came in with the broken windows theory, he had stop-question-and-frisk which is established in case law because of Terry stops so that’s always been essential to using that,” Pegues said. “It was something new and unique.”
Pegues said these were used for over 25 years until things began to spiral out of control.
“With Mayor Adams bringing it back he’s just recreating the wheel,” Pegues said. “We gotta come up with something different.”
Pegues want the NYPD come up with something new and engaging.
“Do I want to see people urinating outside, do I want people jumping turnstiles, no,” Pegues said. “I don’t necessarily buy into people who commit big crimes, commit small crimes. It’s just not my experience. People are committing small crimes and they don’t commit big crimes.”
Pegues said bringing back policies like broken windows and stop-and-frisk is going to open up wounds in Black and Brown communities.
Mayor Adams and NYPD Police Commissioner Sewell should have done a five borough tour of the policy engaging each community according to Pegues.
“What I would have liked to see is the Mayor and more importantly, the Police Commissioner pushing it out, going on a five borough tour, explaining to people exactly what it’s going to be,” Pegues said. “The people have to be involved. If you’re not involving the people, it’s not gonna be good.”
Mayor Adams’ office did not respond to an email request for comment.