February 1, 2014

Operation Impact Comes to an End

According to a report in today's New York Times, newly appointed NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton is ending the NYPD's Impact patrols. And not a moment too soon. Operation Impact was one of Commissioner Ray Kelly's signature policies in which rookie officers, fresh out of the academy, were put on foot patrols in the highest crime neighborhoods in NYC, often alone, and with little to no immediate supervision. The idea was to flood the streets with uniformed officers, increasing police presence and visibility, and giving the officers important experience in policing. Kelly publicly lauded the policy for it's role in reducing crime. But the program had plenty of potential pitfalls, many of which occurred far too frequently.

Picture this: a rookie police officer, with little or no professional experience, walking a patrol beat on foot in one of the City's most dangerous neighborhoods. He is often alone, or maybe with another rookie. The nearest supervisor in a car somewhere in the precinct. Meanwhile these officers were expected to carry out the NYPD's stop and frisk program, a requirement that could trigger angry confrontations with innocent people who were insulted by the policy and all it suggested. These officers lacked the training, experience, and judgment to defuse these situations, which were often needlessly escalated when these rookies (likely scared, nervous, and unsure of themselves or how to respond) felt it necessary to further establish their authority as they had just been trained at the academy.
This dangerous combination was a recipe for disaster. Feeling incapable of allowing the slightest insult from a civilian to pass, the officers would aggressively respond to any perceived insult. The violence and arrests that followed was predictable, and entirely avoidable. The attorneys at Lumer & Nevile have been involved in many cases of excessive force and false arrest (and sometimes malicious prosecution and denial of a fair trial) that flowed from these encounters, and the similarity of the clients' experiences was striking, as was the inevitability of the conflict. 
There is a definite need for a visible police presence on the streets. And it is clear that rookies can benefit from this baptism by fire. But it is critical that these rookies and younger officers have more seasoned officers onhand to guide and train them.  We applaud the NYPD's policy shift, which suggests an open minded approach to resolving abuses of authority and social conflict without reducing police efficiency. So far so good for Commissioner Bratton.
Click here for the full post from LumerNeville.com.

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