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Film Update

The Every Mother's Son filmmakers provide this update on police-community relations in New York City since Mayor Bloomberg entered office in January, 2002.

  • August 7, 2004

According to the Stolen Lives Project, 44 people have been killed by law enforcement in the five boroughs of New York City since Mayor Bloomberg took office in January of 2002. Whether these shootings were justifiable can only be determined through the courts and is not clear at this time.

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly address security concerns

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly address security concerns on August 1, 2004. (Courtesy: Mayor Bloomberg's website, Photo by Kimberlee Hewitt.)

In all but one of the shootings, the police officer involved was not indicted.

In 2002 and 2003, rates of violent crime continued to decrease citywide.

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly disbanded the Street Crime Unit in early 2002, and many feel there has been a steady transition away from some of the hardball tactics of the Giuliani era that inflamed neighborhoods in northern Manhattan, central Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The current administration put most Street Crimes Unit detectives back into local precincts. Smaller firearms units, with far fewer officers and detectives, now go after illegal gun dealers. Today, most street-level enforcement is the responsibility of local precincts and of Operation Impact, a program that suppresses street crime by flooding troubled neighborhoods with uniformed rookie officers and setting up visible, accessible command-post trailers. The program also includes meetings with residents and merchants, and a clear explanation of strategy and tactics. (Andrew White, Center for New York City Affairs, New School University)

After a 66 percent increase in misdemeanor arrests from 1993 to 1998, the level of arrests and pretrial detentions for such minor crimes as turnstile-hopping and public drinking has declined. While misdemeanor arrests remain high compared to the early 1990's, they dropped by more than 20 percent in Manhattan between 1998 and 2003, with the largest decline coming during Mr. Kelly's first year in office.

In January 2002, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly launched Operation Clean Sweep, a direct and comprehensive quality of life enforcement program designed to respond to reports of an increase in quality of life offenses in the weeks after the September 11th attacks. The program targets quality of life violations reported to precincts and the NYPD's quality of life hotline, aggressively combating low-level offenders. To date, the initiative has generated more than 20,000 arrests and 209,000 summonses throughout the five boroughs.

The NYPD launched several anti-gun initiatives in 2002. The NYPD expanded its Firearms Investigations Unit, created the Bronx Gun Investigation Unit, engaged in a new initiative with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to bring more federal gun cases, and began tracing illegal firearms to source states to identify the traffickers for federal prosecution. In 2003, Operation Gun Stop led to 379 arrests (up from 273 in 2002) and the seizure of 186 guns, and Operation Cash for Guns captured 2,219 guns (432 more than in 2002).

There has been no substantial change in the structure, composition or enforcement capability of the Civilian Complaint Review Board. In a 2003 report, the New York Civil Rights Coalition harshly criticized the Mayor's choice of executive director of the Civilian Complaint Review Board. At that time, the incumbent was acting director of CCRB and the subject of a whistleblower's accusation that investigations on her watch were "biased" in favor of cops. Despite these criticisms, the CCRB board's mayoral and police commissioner appointees "lined up" against the City Council's appointees to hire her anyway, though she "had no public reputation as a fierce fighter of police misconduct or as a person who engages the communities of color about the problems associated with police-community tensions." (New York Civil Liberties Coalition, 2/24/03)

In September of 2003, an Albany Supreme Court Justice struck down the 48-hour police department regulation concerning the questioning of officers, deeming it unconstitutional. The regulation gave police officers two days to remain silent before they could be questioned by the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau regarding incidents of misconduct. Justice Edward Sheridan ruled that the 48-hour provision must be removed from the NYPD contract with the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA), which expires next year. (Amsterdam News, 9/25/03)

Across the city, 5,581 people issued complaints about New York police last year, a 21 percent increase from 2002 and the highest number since 1995, according to a report by the Civilian Complaint Review Board released last month, as reported in Newsday.

Overall, public opinion of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has been positive; in January of 2004 the Commissioner had an approval rating of 70 percent (New York Times, January 20, 2004).

— Kelly Anderson and Tami Gold





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