After years of aggressive, centralized enforcement of its most minor rules, New York City is changing the way it disciplines its police officers, says the New York Times. Police Commissioner William Bratton is giving his commanders in the field far more authority in deciding how, or or whether, to punish minor infractions, like misplacing a memo book or being late for court. Bratton comes down hard in politically combustible cases, as he did by placing a plainclothes officer on desk duty for mistakenly arresting the retired tennis star James Blake with the kind of aggression that many blacks, particularly young men, say they endure frequently, and with far less attention.
On day-to-day internal disciplinary issues, Bratton is seeking to alter departmental culture: He halted a “tow-away” squad that had been giving tickets to and towing department cars on official business but parked improperly. He ordered the Internal Affairs Bureau to stop sending investigators to Traffic Court waiting to pounce on officers’ errors. The changes are evident in the number of vacation days officers have been docked, a common sanction for low-level violations. Officers were docked 10,000 days last year, down from 20,000 in each of the previous two years under Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Bratton aides argue that the effort mirrors one being deployed on the streets, a departure from some of the blunt tactics of the past that represents a new incarnation of a more neighborhood-oriented style of policing. “I'm practicing community policing on the cops,” he said.