The massive reduction in the number of arrests and citations by the New York Police Department has lasted long enough now to filter down to the courts. As a result, New York City courts are a lot less busy. The New York Times focuses on idle clerks fiddling with smartphones and courtrooms shutting down early, but buried further into the story is good news for those the police do arrest. Public defenders now have more time to spare for them:
Few managers in the court system expect the current downturn to last. Many public defenders, however, said they hope the steep decline in minor arrests will become permanent. They noted felonies did not rise over the last three weeks as arrests for low-level crimes plummeted.
"This proves to us is what we all knew as defenders: You can end broken-windows policing without ending public safety," said Justine M. Luongo, the deputy attorney-in-charge of criminal practice for the Legal Aid Society.
Legal Aid lawyers and veteran clerks in the courts said the police appeared to be bringing in only people who they must have taken into custody: shoplifters caught by store owners, drunken drivers, people accused of assaulting their spouses or others accused of violent crimes. Felony arraignments did decline but not nearly as precipitously as misdemeanors, decreasing 25 percent to 1,026.
One public defender finished with her work "early" at 11 p.m. and noted that she was normally overbooked. We can only hope that the drop in clients also means each client's case gets a more thorough review, and poor defendants who can't afford lawyers are less likely to be pushed to take possibly bad plea deals. The Times ends its story noting that because of the NYPD slowdown, the silly arrests are now particularly notable:
Those arrested for relatively minor offenses now stand out. On Wednesday morning in Manhattan, William Talen, 64, who calls himself Reverend Billy, awaited arraignment. He had been arrested on Tuesday afternoon as he gave a sermon in Grand Central Terminal — protesting police brutality.