NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s popularity may be slipping, but he received a backhanded compliment from one of his harshest critics Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a new poll has shown widespread support for Bratton’s quality of life crackdown known as the “broken windows” policing strategy, which has come under fire in recent weeks in New York City.
“We asked, when a cop enforces some low-level offense, does it increase neighborhood tensions, or does it improve the quality of life?” Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb. “Quality of life wins hands down, according to New Yorkers.”
By a margin of 60 percent to 34 percent, with very little difference among black and white voters, the poll found New Yorkers support officers making arrests for low-level quality-of-life offenses.
Since Staten Island resident Eric Garner died last month during an arrest for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, critics of the police have zeroed in on “broken windows,” the idea that targeting low-level, quality-of-life offenses will reduce the sense of disorder and make an inherently chaotic place like New York feel safer.
Bratton issued a statement saying that he’s “gratified but not surprised” that New Yorkers “understand and support quality of life enforcement initiatives.”
WEB EXTRA: Read The Full Quinnipiac Poll
“They are the foundation upon which policing in a democracy rests,” Bratton said. “The return to quality of life enforcement and crime focused CompStat accountability policing began the crime turnaround in the early 1990s that has continued uninterrupted for over 20 years, allowing New York to become one of the safest large cities in America. The challenge remains to do it in a way that is both lawful and respectful and as New York City Police Commissioner that is a goal the mayor, myself, and the 52,000 members of the NYPD are committed to achieving throughout the city’s many diverse neighborhoods,” Bratton added.
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, Bratton was not in attendance at a news conference Wednesday about security in city public housing developments. But Bratton’s policies were the hot topic as Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the news conference at the Lincoln Houses next to the Rev. Al Sharpton – who has been a critic of the broken windows strategy in recent weeks.
“People want to see enforcement on quality of life crimes,” de Blasio said. “They don’t want to see small acts of vandalism or situations where people affront their neighbors go unaddressed.”
De Blasio did not seem surprised by the poll findings.
“I think it’s clear around the city people want to see enforcement on quality-of-life crimes,” the mayor told reporters during an event in East Harlem. “They want it to be fair. They want it to be equal treatment under the law in all parts of the city.”
Just four days ago, Sharpton led a march to protest Garner’s death. On Wednesday, he reiterated his position that the quality-of-life arrests that are part of the “broken windows” policy have unfairly targeted minorities just like stop-and-frisk.
“You’re going to have to make examples of policemen that target. You’ve got to send the message that they will not tolerate targeting based on race,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton added: “People want fairness, but people also want to see crime taken. And they don’t want to be under siege from cops and robbers.”
Sharpton admitted he had a rocky relationship with Bratton during his first tour as police commissioner under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. But Sharpton praised Bratton for saying early on that he thought police used an illegal chokehold on Garner.
“That showed a difference,” Sharpton said. “Does that mean we’re getting married? No. But on that night, we could have gone to dinner.”
George Kelling, who co-authored a 1982 article in The Atlantic introducing the “broken windows” concept, told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman he thinks it makes sense that African-Americans support the policy, despite allegations that it disproportionately targets minorities.
“African-Americans are victimized out of proportion to their population,” said Kelling, a longtime Rutgers University criminologist who is now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “It shouldn’t be surprising that African-Americans would support the kind of things that protect them, protect their children, protect their property. And ‘broken windows’ is one of those things that has demonstrated that it works, especially in minority communities.”
Kelling also said comparing “broken windows” to the controversial stop-and-frisk policing tactic is unfair.
“Stop, question and frisk is based on suspicion,” he said. “‘Broken windows’ is a response to illegal behavior.”
The Quinnipiac poll also found that 68 percent of those surveyed believe there is no excuse for how police acted in Garner’s death — and 64 percent said they support bringing criminal charges against the officer who put Garner in a chokehold.
The medical examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the officer’s chokehold as well as chest and neck compressions and prone positioning “during physical restraint by police.” Asthma, heart disease and obesity were contributing factors, the medical examiner said.
When asked if he believed police should have been trying to arrest Garner in the first place, Kelling said all the circumstances must be weighed before making that determination.
“Depends upon how big of a problem it was for … that neighborhood, what it meant for the larger community, what it meant in terms of a federal offense,” he said. “In some respects, one has to be familiar with the entire context before making such judgments about whether or not they should have been enforcing the laws regarding loosies.”
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