NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Friday that the push in the City Council to decriminalize some quality-of-life offenses would hobble cops' ability to enforce his "broken windows" policy. But Bratton also signaled that ongoing negotiations between City Hall and the council would substantially change things to his liking.
Some council members, notably Democratic Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Rory Lancman (D-Queens), have advocated for making such offenses as public urination and public drinking civil matters, not crimes. Offenders wouldn't face jail but would be fined.
In talking to reporters Friday, Bratton said that as proposed the council idea would "significantly limit the ability of police officers in this city to do their job safely and keep citizens safe."
"In our discussions with the council, I expect we will have resolution of those discussions very shortly," Bratton predicted.
Bratton said he was standing fast and has the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio to keep the broken windows policy, in which cops tackle small, nuisance crime problems before they become larger issues.
A major issue for Bratton is that under current state law, police can't compel civil offenders to identify themselves.
"The suspect committing the offense does not have any legal obligation to identify himself or herself," said Lawrence Byrne, deputy commissioner for legal matters. "He can simply say nothing or tell the officer my name is Donald Duck and my address is One Disney Place."
There is also little ability to enforce civil fines, Bratton and Byrne said. Last year, the state criminal courts were able to collect in criminal summons cases only about 26 percent, or $8.9 million, of the $33.8 million in fines and mandatory assessments, according to court records. Officials said those arrears might be recouped in later years.
A spokesman for Mark-Viverito didn't return a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Lancman said Bratton raised legitimate issues, which need to be worked on.
While some critics of broken windows policy believe many minorities are sent to jail for quality-of-life offenses, Bratton indicated Friday that he would have a report next week to give facts on enforcement.
"In fact, you have to work very hard to go to jail in this city," Bratton said.
Sources said one area of compromise between City Hall and the council would be to keep offenses such as public urination as crimes but make others, such as bike riding on the sidewalk, only civil matters.