NYC Congressman says outdated ‘broken windows’ policing a factor in Eric Garner death


U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries says New York City’s “broken windows” policy contributed to Eric Garner’s death.

Many have credited the targeting of minor offenses, like turnstile jumping and “squeegee men” in the 1990s, for New York City’s turnaround two decades ago from a city riddled with crime to one where it’s safe to walk the streets.

But in light of the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after being put in a chokehold by a police officer, some officials are rethinking that approach, known as the “broken windows” policy.

“That philosophy may have made sense 20 years ago when crime was extremely high, but the windows in New York City are largely together, and have been repaired,” Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) told PBS NewsHour a day after a grand jury in Staten Island chose not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo.

“And so there’s no reason to engage in the same aggressive approach that had taken place in the past.”

Pantaleo and other officers attempted to arrest Garner for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes on the street. Jeffries contends that their aggressive handling of the minor offense led to Garner’s death.

Researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research found “that the ‘broken windows’ approach does not deter as much crime as some advocates argue, but it does have an effect, particularly on robbery and motor vehicle theft.”

The policy was instituted under Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has defended the grand jury’s decision and attacked current Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was an aide under Mayor David Dinkins, who preceded Giuliani.

“One of the things the mayor and [civil rights activist Al] Sharpton and the others are doing, they are tearing down respect for a criminal justice system that goes back to England in the 11th century,” Giuliani said in an appearance on Fox News Thursday.

He added that de Blasio, with speeches like the one he delivered Wednesday in which he empathized with Garner and his family and drew a connection to his own son Dante who is biracial, “helps to create this atmosphere of protest and sometimes even violence. First of all, there was no racism in this case. If this man were a white man resisting arrest at the same size, the same thing would happen. If I recall correctly there was an African American sergeant on the scene observing, in charge of the entire situation, never did anything to stop it.”

“We’ve got to get at the broader problems,” the congressman said, “the broader disease, the broader cancer that is leading to these types of encounters.”