A great way to improve police community relations, eliminate the backlog in outstanding criminal and civil warrants and ease congestion in the court system is blanket amnesty according to New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton.
The other side says amnesty would cause crime to skyrocket. Why worry about punishment for small crimes like urinating in public, pot smoking or disorderly conduct if there is a chance that some future amnesty is granted to address future backlogs?
Either way, enforcement of outstanding warrants leading to further discord between cops and civilians in New York City or waving a magic wand to make the legal backlog go away, supporters of either approach need to ask themselves if this is any way to run a city.
Bratton argues that amnesty should be on the table for 1.2 million city residents wanted for low-level beefs like drinking in public, graffiti and disorderly conduct so police resources can be freed up to investigate major crimes and arrest criminals charged with felonies.
Reporting for CBS2 News, Marcia Kramer reported that of the hundreds of thousands of tickets written for low-level offenses, 40 percent of the accused skipped proceedings or didn’t bother showing up.
Several members of the City Council, concerned with police-community relations, quickly embraced amnesty as an idea worthy of consideration. Council Public Safety Chair Vanessa Gibson said she favors taking some action to eliminate the backlog starting with decades old summonses.
“I think it would be a very delicate conversation where we want to find the right balance,” said Gibson, D-Bronx. “We also want all New Yorkers to respect the laws we have on the books because laws are meant to be implemented. They’re meant to be enforced.”
Kramer reports that experts like former police officer Jon Shane, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, believe amnesty is a bad idea because it could lead to a spike in crime.
“You always have to be answerable for your behavior and unchecked behavior, we know, leads to larger things and those things manifest themselves in violent crime and property crime, like auto theft and burglary, and things like that,” said Shane.
City residents have reacted to the amnesty idea in various ways.
“I absolutely think they have to go through the justice system before we just boot people out and get rid of them for space,” said Upper West Side resident Elizabeth Miller. “I think it’s a pretty good idea as long as it’s not a felon,” added Upper West Side resident Nick Damacco. Louis Brown of Brownsville, Brooklyn said “They did a crime, right? So they should be punished.”
Bratton has said that he doesn’t know whether his amnesty idea is feasible. A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio said a lot of things need to be examined and that certain offenses including drug crimes should not be forgiven.
One question not addressed is the effect amnesty would have on police morale and law enforcement in general. If beat cops believe they are wasting their time enforcing minor crime laws, they probably won’t and the negative impact on the quality of life in the city could be incalculable.