New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton confirmed Friday that police officers are engaged in a work slowdown amid a political standoff between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s police unions.
"We're coming out of what was a pretty widespread stoppage of certain types of activity, the discretionary type of activity by and large," Bratton told NPR’s Robert Siegel, adding that police were mainly not enforcing low-level, quality-of-life offenses.
According to WNYC, Bratton said that despite the slowdown, major crime is still down overall.
For the week ending Jan. 4, only 48 tickets were issued citywide for drinking in public, compared to 1,061 tickets during the same period last year, a fall-off of 95 percent, according to NBC. Additionally, there were only nine summonses for urinating in public in the week ending Jan. 4 -- a 94 percent drop from the 160 such summonses during the same week in 2014.
Overall, officers issued 92 percent fewer criminal summonses and made 56 percent fewer arrests during the week ending Jan. 4 than during the same week in 2014. The number of traffic tickets, a major source of revenue for the city, has also plunged.
Bratton’s comments Friday mark the first time the commissioner has acknowledged that these low numbers are the result of an organized slowdown. He told reporters earlier this week that he’d ordered a “comprehensive review” into the low number of summonses, adding that, if a slowdown were shown to exist, “we will respond forcefully.”
The slowdown started over two weeks ago, following the execution-style murders of two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. After the murders, an email allegedly sent by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, instructed officers not to issue summonses or make arrests "unless absolutely necessary."
The PBA denied sending the email, but hasn’t spoken out against the ongoing slowdown.
Ed Mullins, head of another New York police union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, also denied any union involvement in the slowdown, telling reporters instead that "people are talking to each other” and that “it became contagious."
New York City Council member Rory Lancman (D-Queens) told The Huffington Post this week that “the language of the unions has encouraged the slowdowns.”
Lancman accused the union leadership of “fomenting a culture of lawlessness and disrespect among rank-and-file cops.”
The slowdown is seen as part of a growing rift between the police unions and Mayor de Blasio. The mayor, unions have argued, didn’t show enough support to police when protests swept the city in December after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who put 43-year-old Eric Garner into a fatal chokehold.
After the deaths of Officers Liu and Ramos last month, PBA President Pat Lynch blamed the deaths on those who had "incited violence on the street under the guise of protest.” Lynch said de Blasio had “blood on his hands.”
At Liu’s and Ramos’ funerals, many officers turned their backs as the mayor spoke.
Although Bratton met with union heads this week to try to alleviate tensions, it’s unclear what progress, if any, was made. After the meeting, de Blasio spokesman Phil Walzak told the New York Daily News that “the mayor is committed to keeping crime at historically low levels, supporting the brave men and women of the NYPD who protect us every day, and bringing the police and community closer together in every neighborhood across New York City."
“Mayor de Blasio has a strong record of supporting our cops," Walzak went on, "from adding more than $350 million in new investments to bolstering our police force to appointing the nation’s finest police leader as NYPD commissioner to clearly denouncing anti-cop rhetoric. That’s leadership."
Neither the mayor’s office nor the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association responded to a Huffington Post request for comment Friday.