NYPD Will Disband Its Citywide Plainclothes Anti-Crime Teams

New York City, facing a spike in shootings and murders, will disband its precinct anti-crime teams, deploying about 600 mostly plainclothes officers to its detective, intelligence and counterterrorism bureaus.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea described the move as “closing one of the last chapters” in reforms begun with reduced stop-and-frisk street tactics six years ago.

The commissioner took the action with thecity experiencing a 22% increase in shootings and a 25% jump in murders through June 7, according toNYPD statistics. The reversal comes after 30 years of decreased crime that brought city murder totals to 319 last year, from 2,262 in 1990.

The 36,000-officer department has been through one of its most challenging periods since January, Shea said. That month, the state legislature restricted judges’ discretion to set bail, followed by the Covid-19 outbreak and most recently nights of protests and looting after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. It’s now facing demands from the City Council that it slash $1 billion from its $5.6 billion operating budget.

“It’s not confined to one neighborhood or one gang,” the commissioner said of the recent crime increase. “That storm is on the horizon. And it even more so makes me concerned about any discussion of budget cuts, specifically around headcount. New York City residents deserve to be protected. They want more cops, not less cops.”

Plainclothes police will still work undercover on narcotics and other crimes, but won’t be assigned to patrol streets looking for law violators, he said. Police activists have complained that officers disguised as civilians engender neighborhood residents’ distrust of the department, and that interferes with police efforts to gain residents’ cooperation.

Shea said the anti-crime officers had a disproportionate percentage of complaints against them and shootings. “They were doing exactly what was asked of them,” he said. But “policing in 2020 is not what it was five, 10 or 15 years ago.”

Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, the union representing 50,000 active and retired NYPD officers, opposed the move, saying the city’s leaders “will have to reckon with the consequences” as crime increases.

“Anti-Crime’s mission was to protect New Yorkers by proactively preventing crime, especially gun violence,” he said. “Our city leaders have clearly decided that proactive policing isn’t a priority anymore.”

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