NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea announced today that he is putting an end to anti-crime units staffed by plain-clothes police and instead moving those officers to other units.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea described the move as a massive cultural shift for the department, saying the 600 officers who are part of the unit will be transitioned to other departments, including the detective bureau and neighborhood policing.
“This is a seismic shift in the culture of how the NYPD polices this great city,” he said. “I would consider this in the realm of closing one of the last chapters of ‘Stop, Question and Frisk’…I think it’s time to more forward and change how we police in this city. We can do it with brains. We can do it with guile. We can move away from brute force.”
Anti-crime officers are often closest to criminals, and Shea said the move is “not without risk” as he questioned whether the decision would result in fewer firearms being taken off the streets.
It’s not clear why Shea announced this change today. Mayor de Blasio has previously said he intended to cut funding for the NYPD in the wake of recent protests. That move seemed to be prompted by an unpleasant reception the mayor received during a recent memorial for George Floyd.
However, Commissioner Shea made clear that he does not support plans to defund police. In an interview with NBC4 in New York, he said, “When you start hearing terms like defund the police I get beyond concerned.” He added, “We had 40 incidents where people were shot this week. We haven’t had a number that big in five years.” Here’s the interview published one week ago.
That was last Monday. By last Friday members of the City Council were proposing to cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget. That’s about 1/6th of the total. Even Mayor de Blasio thinks that would be going too far:
The cuts would include reducing uniform headcounts through attrition, cutting overtime, shifting responsibilities away from the NYPD, finding efficiencies and savings and lowering fringe expenses, the announcement said in part.
“The mayor has said we’re committed to reprioritizing funding and looking for savings, but he does not believe a $1 billion cut is the way to maintain safety,” said Mayor de Blasio spokesperson, Freddi Goldstein.
So that’s the backdrop to today’s announcement. The City Council appears eager to slash the NYPD budget and the mayor and commissioner are trying to prevent that from happening. Nearly 90% of the NYPD budget goes to personnel so you can’t make cuts of that magnitude without cutting officers. Maybe this announcement today is intended to reduce some of the political pressure by showing a willingness to make significant changes within the department without cutting budgets dramatically.
Here’s Commissioner Shea’s announcement from earlier today. At the end of this he returns to the discussion of budget cuts: “I said a month or two ago, there’s a storm on the horizon. And that storm is on the horizon and it, even more so, makes me concerned about any discussions about budget cuts, specifically around headcount.”