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The NYPD Still Acts Like It's 1993 and Needs to Change Tactics, Sources Say

By Murray Weiss | November 26, 2014 7:34am
 Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton speak at a  recent police headquarters press conference.   
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton speak at a  recent police headquarters press conference.  
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

NEW YORK CITY — The NYPD is still patrolling the city like it's 1993 and needs to update its tactics, several current and former police officials told On the Inside.

In East New York, for example, where rookie officer Peter Liang killed unarmed Akai Gurley in what's been described as an accidental shooting, crime has fallen dramatically over the 20 years since the 75th Precinct was described as "the killing fields."

While crime still is an issue there and elsewhere in the city, police officers have employed tactics, including "vertical patrols" of housing projects with their guns drawn, stop-and-frisks and low-level quality-of-life arrests, as if it were still the early 1990s.

"From stopping-and-frisks to vertical patrols, there has not been much creativity in recent years on doing things other than what they were doing to bring down crime," a former top NYPD official said.

In 1993, there were 126 homicides and 10,355 felonies overall in the 75th Precinct. Last year, 18 murders and just 3,789 felonies were reported there. Serious crime is down this year by another 2.5 percent.

By comparison, the Upper East Side's 19th Precinct recorded five murders and 11,976 felonies two decades ago. That's roughly three times the number of today's East New York.

During the final term of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the NYPD continued to ratchet up its aggressive policies, even in the face of mounting criticism and legitimate concerns about efficacy.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has vowed to change the culture, as he did 20 years ago when he first took over the NYPD.

Some observers believe Bratton is taking too much time using focus groups and consultants to inform him on how to “re-engineer” NYPD policies to meet today's crime and community-relation issues.

They blame City Hall meddling and political storms that have enveloped the NYPD in recent years that resulted in the creation of a new Inspector General and even the prospect of a federal monitor to oversee it.

But "what people need to understand is that while the NYPD is a terrific crime fighting machine, internally it has serious problems," a Bratton insider said.

"You can liken it to buying a home that looks beautiful on the outside, but there is rot and termites inside and it needs serious repair,” another veteran police official said.  "And the repairs could take several years to eradicate."

One of those repairs would be to the tactic of sending rookie officers to patrol housing projects.

“Even if these projects still need a form of vertical patrols, you can't send two rookies into a hallway, guns drawn," a former NYPD strategist said. "Someone is going to get hurt."

Bratton has vowed to change the way the NYPD patrols the city’s projects, looking once again to training as the solution.

He previously announced the entire force will be re-trained in the wake of the tragic “chokehold” death of Eric Garner who died this summer while being arrested for selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island.

The commissioner is expected to announce shortly his broad “re-engineering” plan for the NYPD.

Even with crime down another 4.1 percent this year and the total number of murders around 320, which is another record low, experts say the transition from merely examining crime numbers to new tactics for policing a safer city is long overdue, for both the NYPD and for the Big Apple as well.