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by Peter Moskos

September 20, 2015

NYPD Discipline

Some stats about the NYPD in the New York Times. Bratton is giving more discretion to local commanders for disciplining cops for minor offenses. That's good. It's another move away from the micro-managed overly top-down approach of former Commissioner Ray Kelly. The article then tries to say Bratton is not applying Broken Windows within his own department... but that once again mistakes Broken Windows for Zero Tolerance.

Seemingly arbitrary and pernicious discipline is a major cause for low officer moral. The idea that you can get punished for wearing the wrong color socks just as easily as excessive force, for instance. (Though seriously, I hate seeing cops with white socks. They make black cotton sports socks. Go buy some. A pick up a few more white t-shirts while you're at it.)
Arrests dropped to 388,368 in 2014 from 394,537 in 2013.
Summonses fell to 359,202, from 424,850.
Street stops plunged to 46,235, from 191,558.
Those stats are not hard to find. But these don't surface as often:
The number of officers suspended without pay each year hovers around 200. A total of 172 were suspended last year and 117 have been suspended so far this year, through Friday. Those put on desk duty, or “modified”, reached 134 last year and number 98 so far this year.

Last year, 96 officers were arrested, mirroring an average of about 100 each year, a majority of them on drunk driving and domestic violence charges, the department said. (An arrest automatically leads to a suspension so all of the arrested officers are among those counted as suspended.)
That means that about 70-75 NYPD officers are suspended without pay at the department's discretion. For those who believe in some mythic Blue Wall of Silence, how do you account for an NYPD officer being arrested, mostly by other NYPD officers, every 4 days? (About one in every 350 officers is arrested each year, which seems like a lot to me. For non-police, the number is about 1 arrest for every 20 people).

I leave you with this quote:
“Chief got kicked; chief kicked inspector; inspector kicked captain; captain kicked lieutenant; lieutenant kicked sergeant; sergeant kicked cop; cop kicked civilian. This is what Bratton has to undo.”


David Woycechowsky said...

Blue Wall applies much less consistently and/or rigorously for stuff police officers do off-duty.

Adam said...

I think I agree with David here. To the extent there is a Blue Wall of Silence, it comes mostly in the form of cops not running to Internal Affairs when they see mid- to low-level misconduct. I think cops are less willing to outright lie to an investigator to cover for another officer. So if an officer has responded to a domestic dispute and discovers that some off-duty cop has punched his girlfriend, the responding officer isn't taking any chances with his own career. Drunk driving is similar. No officer is going to let an off-duty cop continue driving and potentially kill someone, and if the off-duty cop has already caused an accident involving or in view of civilians, the responding officers aren't going to cut any corners.

I like the kicking quote. I remember hearing that good sergeants are supposed to stop that chain of events, and that the sergeant's chevron points upwards in order to form an umbrella and allow the shit raining down from the command staff to roll off to the sides and not hit the rank-and-file.

Anonymous said...

So a quick web search shows that there are about 40k sworn officers in the NYPD. If that is true, then the number of arrests is BELOW random chance. AND since we know that police officers have HIGHER rates of problem drinking and domestic violence, my working hypothesis is that indeed, cops get a PASS (in other words, Blue Wall, professional courtesy, benefit of the doubt - whatever you want to call it). The responding cops can't cover up/ignore/minimize everything plus some are actually going to do their job. Way to not do the correct analysis. That's because you wear cop-colored shades and everything is rosier (mirrored?) when looking through them.

Moskos said...

I wish I had your brilliance. And your writing style.

Adam said...

Can I find mirrored, cop-colored shades on eBay? Those sound pretty neat.

Moskos said...

Since we KNOW cops love shades and I LOVE rose-tinted REFLECTION, I'm going to GUESS that we can find cop-colored shades on ebay. But they'd probably be REALLY expensive with all those COPS bidding on them.

Anonymous said...

I want to know if it wasn't some fashion accessory how you came to a conclusion that an arrest rate less than 10% of the general population shows that cops don't cover up for each other. The arrest rate you quoted is, I think, the general population arrest rates for DWI alone. You may be amused by me, but I'm baffled by your math.

Anonymous said...

Are you the odd man out at your faculty meetings because your colleagues have not doubt that the Blue Wall of Silence exists. https://www.pdcnet.org/pdc/bvdb.nsf/purchase?openform&fp=ijap&id=ijap_2001_0015_0001_0001_0024

Moskos said...

I don't doubt it *exists*. I doubt the magnitude and significance (the "mythic" part some people believe), especially compared to other cultures and occupations.

John and I get along great. Thanks for asking.