New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is facing the most momentous decision of his still-new mayoralty: whether to take his public safety cues from the New York Times editorial board and anti-cop activists or from his police commissioner, William Bratton, writes Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute. Pressure has mounted on de Blasio from his political base to repudiate the strategy known as broken-windows policing. That pressure follows the death of a man who resisted arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes, an arrest (minus the death) that exemplifies broken-windows or public-order enforcement. Now that de Blasio is back from vacation, his handling of the growing controversy over Eric Garner's death will give an indication what the city will be like over the next four years, MacDonald says.
The anti-cop forces have shifted the focus of attention from the tactics used to subdue Garner after he resisted arrest to the very enforcement of misdemeanor laws themselves, such as the one against illegal cigarette sales. The Times opined, “How terrible it would be if Eric Garner died for a theory, for the idea that aggressive police enforcement against minor offenders . . . is the way to a safer, more orderly city.” The Times suggested that the total number of arrests last year—394,539—was too high, without saying what a proper number would be. The link between broken-windows policing and greater safety is only “hypothetical,” the editorial contended. MacDonald argues that, “De Blasio must reassure Bratton and the public that he respects Bratton's expertise and will back him unequivocally in his policing strategies.”