Published in City & State
The New York City Council wants the city to hire 1,000 new police officers and to explore decriminalizing marijuana. Unfortunately for them, Police Commissioner William Bratton is not too keen on either subject.
Instead of adding the additional 1,000 cops that the Council asked for as part of their executive budget priorities, Bratton talked about focusing on resource allocation, overtime utilization, improving morale and negotiating a new contract for current police officers. Bratton, who testified before the Council’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, said that no police commissioner in the country would turn down more officers, but indicated that the decision was not solely his–Mayor Bill de Blasio has also been unwilling to add more officers. Bratton added that the effect of those officers would not be a sudden panacea, and would likely not reduce crime until the summer of 2015.
For now, the NYPD plans to increase overtime and rearrange police officers, including reassigning CRV patrol cars (traditionally used for terrorism in Manhattan) to high-crime housing developments in other boroughs, perhaps satisfying some Council members’ call for additional resources for local precincts seeing a spike in crime. The department’s total number of officers will remain at 35,437 in fiscal year 2015.
As for decriminalizing marijuana, Bratton was quick and firm in his response. “I will not be supporting decriminalizing marijuana,” he said. “I think it’s a major mistake and something I will never support.”
However, NYPD Chief Philip Banks pointed out that marijuana arrests have decreased and were not a departmental priority. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, at a mid-hearing press conference, affirmed her commitment to decriminalize marijuana.
Critics argue that law enforcement efforts to crack down on marijuana disproportionately target minorities. In 2013, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ Computerized Criminal History system, there were 28,644 5th-degree marijuana arrests for people found in possession of 2 ounces or less. Of those arrested, 49.5 percent were black, and 37.1 percent were Hispanic, while only 9.2 percent were white.
The hearing ended with a short discussion of drones. John Miller, the NYPD’s counter-terrorism chief, testified: “[As] tech develops to make this a potentially valuable crime fighting tool, it’s something we’ll continue to look at.”
While Bratton said he was supportive of drone use, Councilman Corey Johnson was among those expressing concern at the prospect of aerial drones being used for police work.
“I understand this as a crime fighting tool,” he said. “Given New York City’s uniqueness and it’s density, people have had serious concerns about drones in terms of privacy in our city.”