Commissioner Bratton Announces a New Take on Broken Windows

Jan. 30, 2015 (NEW YORK) New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has announced a new policy that is baffling. It is also broken windows on steroids. This is called the 350 Cop unit, and it will be a specialized team to respond to events such as the one in Sidney (wait, doesn’t NYPD already have a Special Weapons and tactics team, aka SWAT, that is supposed to respond to that?). The rationale actually is far more spooky than that. It is to patrol during civilian demonstrations.

According to Gothamist this is the logic behind the unit. “It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris.”

Now a little into “broken windows” theory is in order. This is a theory, developed by a couple social scientists, and embraced by American law enforcement, that basically posits that small disorder leads to big disorder. If you have a broken window and it is fixed, there is an impulse to keep order. If the window is not fixed, it will lead to disorder. It means people do not care.

This is why NYPD has enforced small crimes for the last 20 years, and they credit that with the dramatic fall in crime rates. Small crimes are things like selling loosies in the streets, which is what Michael Garner was allegedly doing before he was chocked to death by a NYPD officer.

While there are competing theories as to why crime crashed starting in 1992, like the end of the crack epidemic, or even the removal of lead from gasoline, this is not the point. Commissioner Bratton has extended the broken window theory to legal civil protest. In essence, your rights to gather in a group and protest is seen as disorder that has to be fought back, less we have a crime wave, and this is the consequence of broken windows on steroids, such as stop and frisk, which the courts have found to be ilegal.

So what does that have to do with San Diego? After all, our local cops have for the most part escorted protesters and offered traffic protection. In effect there is a strong tradition to allow demonstrations to happen as long as they stay within legal parameters. Those legal paramagnets are simple, and include things like not disrupting businesses or for the most part, drivers. The problem with this is that NYPD is seen by many departments, not just around the United States, but around the world, as a model to follow.

The formation of this team should be problematic to any who care about the First Amendment. If the team is just a special response team for an actual terrorist attack, we again question this since there is a SWAT team in place. NYPD has serval special response units formed for a slew of goals, from evidence gathering to tactical response. Still, if they feel they need another one for a terrorist attack, this falls in the purview of response to such an event.

When they equal a terrorist attack with people protesting, that is when we all have to stand up and say enough. The First Amendment is not up for negotiation, nor is in itself a broken window.

In our view issuing police officers machine guns (likely MP-5 or anything else in that family,) and long riffles such as AR-15 is meant to suppress speech by scaring the living daylights out of people from coming to the streets and exercising their constitutional rights. This is the hallmark of a totalitarian state, not a democracy. The Bill of Rights is not just a piece of paper.

Twitter: @nadinbrzezinski

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Categories: analysis, Broken Windows, civil rights, Law enforcement

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