New York Cops Protest Pantaleo's Firing by Hassling Fewer People. Crime Is Still Going Down.

The police union's attempt to punish the city for dismissing Daniel Pantaleo is instead showing the problem of overpolicing,


A union-encouraged police slowdown of arrests in New York City is backfiring; police officers are doing less work and making fewer arrests, but crime continues to drop.

The reason for the arrest slowdown? Officers are in a snit that one of their brothers in blue was held accountable for misconduct on the job.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo was recently fired five years after he was captured on video choking Eric Garner, an unnecessarily violent confrontation partly fueled by the belief that Garner was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Garner subsequently died and the coroner's report put the blame on Pantaleo's chokehold.

But, of course, any level of accountability among police officers is just shocking to the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), whose president called for a no-confidence vote against Mayor Bill de Blasio (which is the equivalent of pouring a bucket of water into the ocean) and Police Commissioner James O'Neill.

Slightly less formally, PBA Chief Patrick Lynch told New York Police Department (NYPD) officers to "proceed with the utmost caution when answering calls," which apparently was not a suggestion that they don't get unnecessarily aggressive or violent, but rather a suggestion that they arrest fewer people in an unofficial work slowdown.

The New York Post reports that's exactly what happened. Calling it the "Pantaleo Effect," New York City saw a plunge in arrests—a drop of 27 percent in mid-August when compared to last year at the same time. Criminal summons (citations) dropped 29 percent during that same period.

The Post piece is written with an emphasis on these poor heroes in blue being cautious and worried because they no longer feel they have the backing of City Hall or the police department and won't be protected if something bad happens. And the story presents the plunge in arrests as something New Yorkers should be deeply concerned about.

The problem, though, is that as these arrests are declining, the city continues to see crime levels largely dropping. According to the NYPD's CompStat crime data, crimes are dropping in almost all areas, particularly violent crimes. When compared to this same time last year, major crimes—which encompasses murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and auto theft—dropped 7.6 percent in the last week, and 2.7 percent in the last 28 days. Overall, major crimes in New York are down 3.7 percent at this point in 2019 when compared to 2018.

Despite the PBA trying to encourage New Yorkers to be fearful of less police coverage, they are not actually in increased danger due to this informal slowdown.

And this isn't the first time that these calls for a police slowdown have highlighted that New York actually has a problem with overenforcement. Back in December 2014, after two officers were killed in the line of duty—and after outrage by citizens boiled over again after a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo—NYPD officers slowed down arrests. Petty crime enforcement came to a near standstill.

A study years later analyzing that slowdown in 2014–2015 found that major crime actually dropped in the Big Apple during that time frame, just as it's doing right now. And it threw into question whether New York's philosophy of "broken windows policing"—relentlessly enforcing petty laws to discourage more severe crimes—actually accomplished anything.

In other words, the data show that New Yorkers should not be cowering in fear in their homes simply because NYPD cops aren't citing or arresting as many people as usual.

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29 responses to “New York Cops Protest Pantaleo's Firing by Hassling Fewer People. Crime Is Still Going Down.

  1. Damn. We should fire and imprison more cops! Who knew that holding them (mildly) accountable for murder would get them to back the fuck off of peaceful citizens.

  2. From the NY Post: “Who wants to be the last cop standing?” a Manhattan cop said. “If someone’s in trouble and needs help or if a cop’s in trouble, obviously, you do what you have to do as a police officer. But if it’s discretionary, why put yourself in harm’s way?’’

    Trust us, we feel the same way. A person is selling loose cigarettes on the corner? Why put yourself in harm’s way?

    If they had that thought process to begin with, the NYPD wouldn’t have Eric Garner’s murder on their conscious.

    1. LOL, of course they don’t have a conscience.

  3. If the cops are spending more time in the donut shop and less time on the street and the crime rate is dropping, maybe that’s a “because” relationship rather than a “despite” relationship.

    1. My first thought too. Where do the stats come from — police reports? Where do they get the reports from — street cops?

      And exactly what crimes are dropping? Let’s get some details. My guess is that the best ones to stop pursuing, if you want to get the city bureaucrats’ attention, is those which bring in the most money, whether by fines or asset forfeiture.

  4. Resolved, making Pantaleo the poster child for the War on Cops is just as stupid as making Michael Brown the poster child for Hands Up, Don’t Shoot. Discuss.

    1. This crowd sees red when it’s the boys in blue

    2. I was gonna comment along these line. They want to die on that hill?

      It’s not like he was fired on dubious grounds. Dude straight up choked someone to death by a method that was outlawed.

      1. Not according to all the evidence.

    3. Once you start down that slippery slope, the next thing they’ll be firing cops for copulating with those in their custody.

      1. That which is not expressly prohibited is 100% legal and clear.

        1. Unless you’re a regular citizen, in which case even the murkiest and most arcane laws whose interpretation confuses even judges can be thrown at you.

  5. These are always interesting social science experiments with singular truths being difficult to come by. It would be interesting to see this experiment run for a sufficiently long time.

    For instance, there’s evidence that if the justice system turns a blind eye to certain levels of crime, that they can and do spin out of control.

    1. It’d be interesting to see what and where the cops are slowing down their enforcement. For instance, if they’re slowing their enforcement on victimless crimes, but still responding to real crimes such as burglaries, robberies and other violent crimes (out of a sense of honor), then it’s possible the police unwittingly freed themselves up for more rapid response, thus causing the drop in crime.

      1. NYPD never did shit about burglaries and robberies without injury anyway. They show up, take a report, file and forget.

        1. If they show up, they’re already ahead of some jurisdictions.

  6. (which is the equivalent of pouring a bucket of water into the ocean)

    Have you people gone mad? If it’s fresh water, it changes the ocean’s salinity. We just had a Cat 5 hurricane hit the Bahamas! Do you think it’s not related? WHY WON’T YOU LISTEN TO AOC?????

    1. “AOC, zing!”

      –The right’s entire climate change policy program

  7. According to their own self-conception, they’re underperforming at their vital public-safety job, in the confident expectation that they won’t get the same treatment as an underperforming employee at a less cushy job.

    1. That’s the power of a union!

  8. If the NYPD really wanted to stick it to BdB, they’d stop down-coding crimes in CompStat and discouraging people from filing reports. They’d let the statistics float to where they belong, and the pols would be toast.

    What they’re trying to do here is have the best of both worlds. Frighten the pols but not get pegged with being as incompetent as they are.

  9. How do they measure crime rates? Is the crime rate lower because of less crime, or because cops are making fewer arrests?

    1. It’s hard to know. CompStat is reliant on the police accurately recording crimes reported and is notorious for being manipulated to support the crime reduction narrative, but you would think that the officers involved in this would be trying to make it look like crime is spiking if they were going to manipulate the data.

    2. They should be measuring it by reports, not arrests. If they’re measuring it by arrests only, then the whole concept of lowering crime due to less enforcement would be 100% bullshit.

      It would be curious to see a detailed breakdown which includes not only arrests, but reports and 911 call activity.

      In some cases there’s evidence that when certain types of crime get really bad, and there’s no effective police response, that even reports drop off because people give up and stop calling 911.

    3. Crime is lower by police not writing police reports, that’s for sure.

      Crime stats are literally compiled off police reports and arrest stats.

  10. the title of the article might be the dumbest argument ever offered by Reason

  11. I agree with the premise of the article but some questions remain.

    If the cops aren’t citing or ignoring petty crimes, wouldn’t that account for some of the drop in crime? They say the purported rise in hate crime is mostly the result of more agencies that report theses incidents.

    Criminologists have already found that police presence don’t really stop violent crimes, which are often acts of passion and occur in private settings. Cops can’t always stop them.

    I like the idea of cops leaving people alone for minor offenses. I was stopped a few years ago a speeding violation and that cost me an inordinate amount of money and time. What I don’t like is cops and government refusing to act out of politics. Cops are already slow to clear out homeless encampment and stand still when antifa take over the streets.

  12. Since there is less crime they should get rid of more cops.

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