The law is the law, police will tell you, and we’re the law enforcers not the lawmakers. You don’t like it, change it.
That tune changes when the law does, and the police don’t like that change. Then, they start sounding like lawyers.
Take Local Law 47 of 2018, which took effect on Jan. 11 and requires the NYPD to produce public reports on fare-beating arrests and summonses broken down by station and race, age and sex four times a year, starting Jan. 30.
Seventy-nine days and no such report later, the bill’s author, City Councilman Rory Lancman, has come out blazing with a letter to Police Commissioner James O’Neill accusing the NYPD of, well, breaking the law.
Lancman (D-Queens), who now is chairman of the Council’s Justice System Committee, wrote Wednesday morning that, “The first report was due in January, and good-faith efforts to obtain this data, as required by law, are at a dead end.”
He says the data have to include a breakdown of arrests and summonses at each station by race, age and gender. The NYPD, though, interprets the letter of his law as requiring only a citywide demographic breakdown, according to one police official involved in the now-broken-down negotiations.
And while everyone agrees that the law requires arrest and summons numbers for each of the system’s 476 stations, the department wants to limit the public list to the 100 stations with the most arrests and summons.
“Local Law 47 was enacted in response to widespread concern that fare evasion enforcement both unfairly and disproportionately targets nonwhite New Yorkers,” Lancman wrote in his letter to O’Neill.
“The department’s failure to fully comply with the law would be a substantial blow to the public’s confidence that policing policy in New York City is fair and nondiscriminatory.”
Department spokesman Peter Donald fired back Wednesday that the NYPD has “provided extensive information two months ago (to Lancman), and has been in conversations to work together to make this information available publicly, while also balancing important safety issues. It’s unfortunate those good-faith conversations are now apparently over. The department will of course post the data required by the local law, as was always the plan.”
If the cops and pols can agree on anything, it’s that “good faith” between them is in short supply.
A report last year by the Community Service Society, using fare arrest and summons data provided by two public defender groups in Brooklyn, found enforcement is heavily “concentrated at stations near high-poverty black neighborhoods,” and that neither income levels nor criminal complaints “fully account for this racial disparity.”