New York City’s police department will transition the roughly 600 plainclothes officers that make up its “anti-crime” units into other roles, amid protests nationwide calling for an end to racist police brutality.
In a press conference Monday, NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea said “meaningful reform starts from within.” The anti-crime officers – whose units responded to violent crime — have represented a “disproportionate percentage” of complaints from civilians and officer-involved shootings, Shea said.
The NYPD did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request to clarify exactly what proportion of police shootings involved these units.
The hundreds of officers in question will be moved into neighborhood policing, detective bureaus and other assignments, Shea said. He said the police’s job of responding to violent crime can be done with “21st century policing,” using data, intelligence, video and other methods to build their cases.
“Make no mistake, this is a seismic shift in the culture of how the NYPD polices this great city,” Shea said, describing this “big move” as “in the realm of closing one of the last chapters” of the city’s notorious stop-and-frisk policy, which disproportionately targeted Black and Latinx residents.
“It is lost on no one, certainly not people that live in the neighborhoods we serve, that endure being stopped… we can do it better. And we will,” Shea added.
The reform comes after over nearly three weeks of protests nationwide, including in New York, calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a white officer, Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for several minutes, even as Floyd pleaded, “I can’t breathe.”
As activists call for “defunding” of police ― a phrase interpreted in different ways ― some cities have moved to redirect funds from police departments to social programs.
In New York, amid the recent protests, lawmakers passed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law a package of police reform laws, including banning chokeholds and repealing 50-a, a statute that shielded police disciplinary records from the public.
On Friday, New York City leaders proposed cuts of up to $1 billion from the NYPD’s about $6 billion budget.
Shea said Monday other plainclothes units still will operate within the NYPD, including surveillance and narcotics teams. He also said that transit “anti-crime” teams, who work in the city’s public transportation system, will not be affected by the new overhaul as these “exist for completely different purposes.”
The commissioner said Monday’s decision to reassign hundreds of anti-crime officers was “not a reflection” on the officers, who he called “amazing” and said were “doing what I and others before me asked.”
In the early days of the recent protests in New York City, under the curfews set by Mayor Bill de Blasio, some NYPD officers violently cracked down on largely peaceful demonstrations, beating people with batons and using pepper spray on others.