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Q. Don’t we need the police to prevent crime?


  • Only 33% of New Yorkers say they feel "more secure" when they see a police officer. Nationwide, out of the 10.3 million arrests made per year, only 5 percent are for the most serious crimes, like murder, rape, and assault. The other 95 percent of arrests are for minor “crimes”  like marijuana possession. That means that police spend billions going after minor incidents that don’t threaten safety - but do lead to mass criminalization and incarceration.

  • Even if the crime rate was higher, it’s far from clear that more police = less crime. Cities with larger police forces don’t automatically have less crime. The solution to crime isn’t more police putting more people in jail and prison, it’s targeting its roots by investing in the programs that reduce the conditions that lead to crime, like poverty and underemployment.


Q. But what about violent crime; what do we do about “rapists and murderers”?


  • The police actually do a fairly bad job preventing and responding to crimes like these.
    The majority of homicides go unsolved - except when the victim is white and the perpetrator is a person of color.  Overall, most police departments only spend about 4% of their time responding to violent crime - they spend the rest of their time responding to issues that would be much better handled by other professionals.

  • Like new medications developed through scientific research, alternatives to policing need serious funding in order to scale up. More serious crimes, like rape and murder, could be dealt with much more effectively  dealt with if we stopped spending billions of dollars policing “crimes” like turnstile hopping and homelessness.

  • When it comes to sexual assault, survivors often choose not to initiate the long and traumatic process of reporting, and the police and courts have a bad track record of treating them with care and respect - in fact, police officers are often the perpetrators of rape and domestic abuse. For every 1000 sexual assaults, only about 230 are reported. Of those 230 reported cases, fewer than 5 result in incarceration. So most rapists already don’t end up incarcerated. This all tells us that something is wrong with our current system. It doesn’t meet the needs of survivors or bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.


Q. How does policing make communities unsafe?


  • Police make communities unsafe by murdering Black people and preying on poor and working class people whose daily survival requires them to break laws (like laws against loitering in subway stations or turnstile jumping) but they also make communities unsafe in more insidious ways. The NYPD subjects people of color to daily surveillance and harassment. Discriminatory policing is a public health crisis, producing stress, trauma, injury, and death.

  • The  NYPD has rooted itself in almost every bit of city social infrastructure. There are transit police in our subways, school safety officers in our schools, special units devoted to NYCHA and CUNY, police in our hospitals, in our libraries, and police partnered with community organizations. Rather than actually investing in these vital institutions, we give more money to the NYPD to occupy them and make them uncomfortable and unsafe.

  •  During Mayor de Blasio’s tenure, the city paid out an average of $252 million a year in police misconduct settlements. This means that not only do the people of New York City have to suffer through police violence, they also must litigate it in court, only to be paid a settlement funded by their own tax money. The city also continues to employ these same offending police officers, so after they’ve been charged with misconduct, we pay them to continue policing. 


Q. But haven't we always had police?


  • No. Policing was created explicitly to suppress working class unrest. In 1844, the NYPD, modeled after London’s Metropolitan Police, was created to suppress labor organizing and break union power.

  • Racism has been embedded into policing from the start. Slave patrols were among the earliest forms of American policing. These Southern units would later use vagrancy laws to further subjugate black people after emancipation. They enforced Jim Crow segregation and collaborated with groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Police enforced Jim Crow laws in the South and de facto segregation in the North.


Q. What’s wrong with supporting reforms to make policing more efficient and professional?


  • Many many attempts over the years have been made to reform the NYPD. The Civilian Complaint Review Board has existed since the 1950s, and has itself undergone many reforms, but it still hasn’t curtailed police violence or mass incarceration and remains only an advisory board. The Police Commissioner continues to hold power to discipline police misconduct and routinely rejects recommendations of the CCRB.


  • We’ve seen policy shift from broken windows policing to neighborhood policing with the proliferation of even more police officers across the city, the introduction of body cameras and a chokehold ban that goes unenforced, DAs declining to prosecute fare evasion as the NYPD continue to make violent arrests in subways, and bail reform that was rolled back as soon as the NYPD fraudulently blamed crime rates on the new legislation. The NYPD cannot be sufficiently reformed because, A) they are fulfilling their express purpose: to discipline the working class, particularly Black people and people of color, and B) because they actually derive their power from the Police Benevolent Association, not from the Police Commissioner, and when the PBA doesn’t get its way, they revolt. 


Q. Where does the NYPD’s budget come from?


  • Every year, the NYPD receives a budget around $6 billion. And every year, their actual spending exceeds that budget by around $5 billion, for a total of around $11 billion. That extra money comes right out of the city’s budget. 92% of the NYPD’s budget is funded by the city and comes from our tax dollars. The NYPD also receives much smaller amounts of money from New York State (6%) and the federal government (2%). The NYPD also gets money from real estate developers and the ultra-rich through a charity called the NYPD Foundation. Most of this money gets spent on weapons and militarized technology, in addition to perks for high-ranking police officials.


Q. When would these changes go into effect?


  • Defunding doesn’t mean that we will wake up tomorrow and have no more police officers. It will take time to implement community-based alternatives and to hire and train the hundreds of professionals needed to staff violence prevention and crisis intervention programs, for example. Defunding and divesting from policing and incarceration also requires a just transition for police officers, corrections officers, and other employees of systems of policing and incarceration. This means ensuring that they have the support and training they need to find new employment.

  • That doesn’t mean that there aren’t steps we could take to cut the NYPD’s bloated budget right now. Freezing overtime for NYPD officers would free up $800 million per year. Instituting a hiring freeze and canceling new Police Academy classes would save approximately $456 million. These funds could be reallocated to the programs and services New Yorkers desperately need during this pandemic.

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