For nearly two decades the NYPD has been practicing a style of discriminatory and abusive policing known as “Broken Windows” that aggressively focuses on minor offenses and misdemeanors arrests. It is also referred to as “order-maintenance” or “zero tolerance” policing. “Stop and frisk” when you’ve done nothing wrong, asking for your ID when you’re trying to go home, telling you to “move” when you’re in your own neighborhood and other forms of constant surveillance are common tactics of “Broken Windows” policing. This type of policing has disproportionally targeted communities of color.
By removing what is assumed to be “disorder”, the NYPD believes it is maintaining order and preventing incidents of serious crime. Cracking down on selling loosies, dancing on the trains, riding bicycles on the sidewalk, having a beer outside, standing on the corner with a group, smoking marijuana, being in the park after-hours – all examples of disorder to the NYPD – does little to protect us from serous crime. Many researchers, lawyers and some big-city police departments have convincingly demonstrated the flaws in the “Broken Windows” logic. Evidence suggests that focused, community-based strategies, in partnership with police, are much more effective.
The costs of “Broken Windows” policing are too high. The NYPD targets whole communities of color by criminalizing everyday activities. Residents feel like “training dummies” for new officers. Their lives aren’t meant for “practice.” The police swarm the schools, building hallways, subway stations and streets. People report fearing involvement with the criminal justice system every time they set foot outside the door, spend times with loved ones or just go down the block for milk. Why is it considered order when people drink alcohol on a blanket in Central Park but disorder to drink alcohol on a South Bronx stoop? Policing doesn’t look like this in wealthier (often whiter) neighborhoods.
The police do not acknowledge how damaging their aggressive presence is to the fabric of the communities they target. Summons and arrests for minor things, harassment, abuse, or murder at the hands of police are not classified as disorder and go unrecognized. Commissioner Bratton and Mayor de Blasio say “Broken Windows” is here to say. Don’t be fooled by their “either/or” justification: EITHER “Broken Windows” OR an unsafe neighborhood. We deserve safe communities AND a style of policing that allows everyone of us to go about our day with dignity and respect.
Visit this link to find more detailed information about broken windows policing. Visit this link to find out more about the active police reform campaign in NYC that is successfully pushing back on discriminatory aggressive policing practices.