It’s the end of policing as we know it.
That sentiment, while maybe not as manifest as calls for “defunding” police have been of late, has grown as criminal-justice reforms enacted by city and state lawmakers, as well as by the NYPD itself, have taken hold.
Add one more prominent voice to that chorus: that of Chris Monahan, the head of the Captains' Endowment Association.
Captain Monahan, a 30-year city cop, has called on the NYPD to get rid of CompStat, the data tool the department uses to compile and analyze crime statistics and trends, and shuffle police resources to address spikes in shootings, killings, robberies and other offenses. It has been the basis for weekly meetings of NYPD commanders and executives to discuss crime-control strategies since its inception in 1994.
But, the union head wrote in a June 23 letter to Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Dermot Shea, CompStat has created fissures between police and residents, particularly those living in predominantly black and brown communities.
The tool “has always been used as a means of embarrassing and coercing commanders into more proactive policing,” he wrote. “I believe COMPSTAT to be the primary driving force that is undermining police/community relations in New York City.”
In a subsequent phone interview, Captain Monahan said he would like CompStat meetings to be replaced by community meetings where residents—particularly those with a distrust or even dislike of the police—can air out their grievances.
“Find a way to get them in,” he said, “instead of just doing an analysis of crime and hot-spots.”
Such a “neighborhood stat” forum, he said, could forge needed cooperation and understanding between cops and communities.
He also questioned the NYPD’s strategy of flooding neighborhoods experiencing spikes in crime with officers who might not be familiar with a community’s particular attributes. That unfamiliarity, he said, can alienate both residents and officers when misunderstandings arise because of enforcement.
“We like to be held accountable,” he said.
CompStat, on the other hand, “puts pressure on precinct and division commanders to go into minority neighborhoods for targeted enforcement...by way of arrests and summonses,” Mr. Monahan wrote the Mayor and Commissioner.
That, he said, “creates inherent tension” between police and residents since “subordinate officers are expected to produce activity.”
If they don't get those results, Captains are put through the wringer by department higher-ups in front of colleagues and “often” elected officials.
Coupled with the department’s dissolution last month of its Anti-Crime Units, the 600-odd plainclothes contingent charged with addressing gun violence by getting firearms off the street, Mr. Monahan wrote that “The days of ‘aggressive policing’ are over."
Shea: ‘Effective Tool’
Eli Silverman, a Professor Emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, who has written extensively on police use of statistics and CompStat in particular, said doing away with the data tool would severely curtail the NYPD’s crime-fighting abilities.
“It’s the major driving engine of the crime decline since 1994,” he said.
CompStat allowed the “major actors” in the crime prevention and anti-crime deployment to act in concert to address trends, Professor Silverman said.
“Before CompStat, that never happened,” he said. “You have to have the responsibility, you have to have the resources…and you have to have accountability. Without that trifecta, there is no effective crime prevention and crime-addressing.”
Commissioner Shea dismissed the possibility of doing away with CompStat, calling it “a very effective tool at managing an agency,” particularly the NYPD.
In fact, he said during a June 24 meeting with reporters, CompStat is not just a data tool, but an instrument that allows police to create alliances within communities experiencing crime.
'Never Only About Numbers'
“It was never about summonses, arrests, for the sake of numbers,” Mr. Shea said. “It’s about improving the quality of life of New Yorkers.”
The Police Benevolent Association’s president, Patrick J. Lynch, was supportive of Captain Monahan’s call to do away with CompStat, particularly, he contended, with policing weakened as a result of the slew of reforms.
“The problem with CompStat is that it just pushes ‘accountability’ for failed policing strategies down onto the cops who did not create them,” Mr. Lynch said in a June 25 statement. “Why push cops to make arrests that will not be prosecuted, or summonses or other enforcement actions that our elected leaders have made clear they do not want? That only serves to alienate both cops and the communities we serve. The NYPD should just publish the crime statistics and let the blame fall where it belongs: City Hall.”