The NYPD ‘job’ is far from over
The NYPD ‘job’ is far from over
To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.
Recently you may have seen various eulogies for the New York Police Department. It’s the generations-old, tired response of a recalcitrant few who sneer at progress and openly fear change. They claim: “The Job is dead.”
For those who pine for the “good old days” — let’s take an honest look at the health of the NYPD and the city it so proudly serves.
In the past five years, violent crime here has seen its steepest decline since the mid-1990s. Our Detective Bureau, our field intelligence officers and our patrol cops citywide seized about 28,000 illegally possessed firearms — including the stashes of more than a few interstate gun traffickers. And the reorganization of our resources has resulted in the most effective detective work in a generation.
Our cops are paralyzed, though, right? They’re afraid or unwilling to do their jobs. The city has hopelessly decayed and the rule of law is utterly ignored.
Please. Don’t buy the “The Job is dead” crowd’s hype. They claim our numbers are fake, goosed to make it look like (gasp!) NYPD cops are actually doing their jobs well. They yell, because they know what it’s really like out there.
Let’s compare 2010 (the supposed “golden age” of NYC policing, when The Job was still very much alive) to 2018 (the NYPD’s death rattle): In 2010, there were 241 more murders — so where are we hiding the bodies these days?
In 2010, there were 719 more shootings — though today’s ShotSpotter technology means we’re detecting, responding to and reporting more actual shooting incidents than before. In 2010, there were 7,600 more robberies, 7,000 more burglaries, and nearly 5,000 more auto thefts — all major crimes that, last I checked, victims have never been hesitant to report.
What about 2019 (the NYPD’s post-mortem period)? Through August, crime was down another 3.4 percent — including a 4 percent drop in homicides and a nearly 12 percent drop in burglaries.
The Job sure doesn’t sound dead to me. Let’s look beyond the numbers. The most significant innovation of the past five years — Neighborhood Policing — is building trust and strengthening relationships throughout our city, which greatly contributes to fighting crime and keeping people safe.
These days, patrol officers are jump-starting local crime investigations by swiftly gathering evidence. And their community contacts are delivering a far higher quality of local criminal intelligence, which aids our detective work.
We’re hitting crime from every angle — from patrol to long-term investigations — in a coordinated strategy that has reduced violence to historically low levels.
It’s clear that tough guys taking shots at NYPD leadership don’t care one iota about community relations. But great street cops know that a strong rapport with the people we serve is vital to successful police work.
That’s why another set of metrics is worth noting: While crime was falling, so were arrests, police-firearms use and, notably, civilian complaints. Compared to 10 years ago, arrests are down some 41 percent. We went from 47 police gun battles with adversaries in 2009 to 17 in 2018. Civilian complaints dropped by 38 percent, and force complaints by 55 percent. Combined with the massive crime declines, this illustrates the positive equilibrium that has emerged between assertive enforcement and community connection.
Critics cite recent examples of some who diss police as proof of increasing community hostility. Nonsense. The cop-hating element, which defies authority for sport, has always existed — long before I became a cop in 1983. Such behavior will never be tolerated — police have always handled it, and we’re handling it now, too. Our cops aren’t victims. We protect victims.
Cops haven’t checked out. Crime and disorder aren’t winning. The city is safe. And the police officers who are sworn to protect everyone who lives, works and visits here will keep it that way — courageously, conscientiously and with a continuing sense of urgency.
That’s what The Job is and always will be. And that will never die.
James O’Neill is New York City’s police commissioner.