STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- As protests against police brutality continue across the United States, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea announced on Monday that the department would move to end the use of plainclothes anti-crime units — moving over 600 of these officers to other assignments including neighborhood policing.
“I would consider this in the realm of closing one of the last chapters of stop, question and frisk,” Shea told reporters on Monday.
The relocation of the units, which constitute just under 2% of the department’s uniformed workforce, will begin “effective immediately” and will disperse the officers between the detective bureau, neighborhood policing and other assignments, Shea said.
“When you look at the number of anti-crime officers that operate within New York City, and you look at a disproportionate, quite frankly, percentage of complaints and shootings — and they are doing exactly what was asked of them,” Shea said.
Touting the move, among other recently-passed reforms, as a “seismic shift in the culture of how the NYPD polices this great city," Shea said the decision was not a reflection of the police officers on the ground, but rather a policy decision made as an effort to “move forward and change how we police in this city.”
“We can do it with brains, we can do it with guile — we can move away from brute force,” Shea said.
However, Shea noted that the resolution is “not without risk," and questioned whether the decision would result in fewer firearms being taken off the streets. Still, he said the risk is “squarely on my shoulders.”
PBA President Patrick Lynch was critical of Shea’s announcement.
“Anti-Crime’s mission was to protect New Yorkers by proactively preventing crime, especially gun violence. Shooting and murders are both climbing steadily upward, but our city leaders have clearly decided that proactive policing isn’t a priority anymore," Lynch said. "They chose this strategy. They will have to reckon with the consequences.”
Plainclothes cops will still be utilized for narcotics and surveillance units, according to Shea.
The NYPD’s decision comes after weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis after officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin has since been fired, and arrested and charged in Floyd’s killing.
Floyd could be heard on video saying “I can’t breathe” while being pinned on the pavement — the same words spoken by Eric Garner in Tompkinsville six years earlier when plainclothes officer Daniel Pantaleo wrestled Garner, 43, to the ground and applied a banned chokehold during an arrest for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.
Pantaleo was fired from the NYPD in 2019 following a department trial.
On Monday, Shea recognized the reforms aimed at improving department transparency made at both the state and city level.
“We welcome reform, but we also believe that meaningful reform starts from within," Shea said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that he will be signing three bills related to officer weapon discharges, police and court data on arrest demographics, and requirements that officers lend mental and medical health aid to detainees who require it, in addition to a four-bill package he signed Friday.
The governor also signed an executive order Friday requiring about 500 local police agencies across New York to engage the community, and implement a plan by April 1, 2021 that addresses police reform.
“What we do in New York is we take the outrage, and we seize the moment,” Cuomo said. “It’s about people wanting change. Well, New York will be the place that actually makes the change.”