The New York Police Department is reportedly making a lot fewer arrests for the week of Dec. 22 than it did during the same time frame last year — 66% less.
The decrease comes at a time of great tension between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD unions, many have interpreted it as a work slowdown.
A work slowdown is a labor organizing technique in which workers put pressure on an employer by doing less of their job than usual. It's a way for employees to protest what they see as unfair conditions without declaring an all-out strike.
Relations between City Hall and the NYPD have been tense since a gunman killed two police officers in Brooklyn on Dec. 20. Many cops, including union leaders, accused de Blasio of enabling the climate that led to the killings by showing solidarity with protests calling an end to police brutality.
It also doesn't help that three out of the five unions are currently in contract negotiations with the city.
Whether the apparent slowdown was ordered by the NYPD unions remains unclear. Al O'Leary, the spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, declined BuzzFeed News' request for comment on the situation.
But whether it is a union organizing technique or simply a coincidence, the decrease in arrests has pleased many of the NYPD's fiercest critics, who have taken to Twitter with the hashtag #NYPDSlowDown.
Some have pointed out that the crime rate has not skyrocketed since the drop in minor arrests, which are central to the "broken windows" theory of policing.
The Broken Windows approach holds that policing minor crimes — such as public drinking — prevents major crimes from taking place.
Supporters of the theory — among them Police Commissioner William Bratton — credit it with the staggering drop in crime that transformed New York City from one of the most dangerous cities in America to one of the safest.
The problem, according to the theory's critics, is that aggressive policing of low-level misdemeanors unfairly targets lower-income and minority people.
Many saw Eric Garner's arrest for selling loose cigarettes as a prime example of the "quality of life" policing supported by broken windows — and his death as a sobering reminder of its dangers.
Whether the apparent slowdown will continue after the union's contracts are signed remains unclear. But for now, people in New York are getting a glimpse into what a new style of policing may look like.
Nicolás Medina Mora is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Nicolás Medina Mora at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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