The Mayor vs the NYPD: the public battle for NYC’s future.

English: A NYPD police car in New York.

English: A NYPD police car in New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Therapists often say that the presenting problem is not the real issue. The surface is a symptom of the deeper issue. When the police turned their back on the mayor at Officer Ramos’s funeral, they expressed their dislike for him and his statements.[1] However, their actions show a deeper issue the struggle to reform the NYPD. The media have focused on the surface issue. The deeper issue, the desired reform, has received some attention, but it has not been explored in detail that connects it to the budget and the Mayor’s vision for NYC. The desired reform has three broad and connected parts. The first is improved accountability. The second is affordability.[2] The third is enhanced capability.

Improved accountability

The public want the NYPD to be accountable.[3] After Eric Garner’s death, the calls for police reform increased.[4] The demand is not new. What is new is that technology allows for better accountability either through police body cameras or through social media such as public videos. However, it more than technology that allows for greater accountability. The data systems that improve police capacity also improve the way the public can hold the police to account. The improved HR computer systems allow the “problem officers” to be identified.[5]

Improved Affordability

New York can no longer afford the world’s largest police force.[6] All American cities have faced the same problem, but NYC has been slow to respond.[7] The financial issue is wages with increased healthcare costs and the pension costs. The city has to cut police numbers and the police union want to protect those jobs.[8]

The numbers tell the story.[9



Population All Law Enforcement Employees Total Officers Employees / 10K Pop. Officers / 10K Pop.
8,336,002 50,068 34,817 60.1 41.8


If we compare NYC to other cities, the difference is stark.[10] NYPD has the largest work force. If the Mayor is to provide other services that the public want, the police budget has to be reduced. The goal is to cut police numbers without reducing police effectiveness. To this end, three areas will be developed technology, improved data and community policing.

Improved capacity and better community policing

The City wants to improve policing with technology. The technology will help the police to target resources effectively. The technology creates data. In turn, the data helps the police measure how their resources are used and whether that use is effective. The NYPD relies on increased surveillance, like others, to cut its work force and increase capacity.[11] The data and technology also provides accountability. Accountability is improved by HR systems that help to find “problem officers”. (see footnote 5) The improved accountability helps to improve community relations. Improved community relations make community policing possible. The term refers to the improved relationship between community and the police. When it is successful, it strengthens the community’s ability to govern itself.[12] One result is the need for fewer police officers.[13]

The struggle for NYC’s future: the Mayor or the NYPD?

The three goals reinforce each other and create the vision for a new NYPD. However, do the Mayor and the NYPD share this vision? The Mayor and the NYPD are fighting a public battle to influence the public opinion on this vision. The winner will decide NYC’s future.

[1] De Blasio’s advice to his son is not the presenting problem. His candid remarks have been used to fuel police outrage, but they are not the source of the problem.

[2] The budget figures that cause concern are the healthcare costs and the pension costs. One has to note that Mayor Bloomberg had the same conflict with the NYPD at the end of his term. See for example

[3] Consider that NYC now has its first ever police inspector general. see also

[4] The NY Civil Liberties Union has made these calls.

[5] The desire for accountability is also behind the use of data to track problem cops.

[6] A cynic might argue that de Blasio is creating a budget deficit to strengthen his hand in forcing the police cuts.

[7] The problem is the same across the United States. Since 2008 local governments have had to reduce their police costs. They have done this through a number of measures and NYC has been slower to make these cuts because of the institutional political power the police union have developed over the years.

[8] See the proposed staffing levels for the city over the next three years.


[10] Here is the top 5 cities in terms of total law enforcement employees.

City Population All Law Enforcement Employees Total Officers Employees / 10K Pop. Officers / 10K Pop.
New York 8,336,002 50,068 34,817 60.1 41.8
Chicago 2,833,649 13,318 12,515 47.0 44.2
Los Angeles 3,841,707 12,754 9,858 33.2 25.7
Philadelphia 1,558,378 7,532 6,734 48.3 43.2
Houston 2,280,859 7,054 5,351 30.9 23.5


[11]The issue is more than CCTV, it is the way technology can be used to assist traditional policing as a force multiplier. For an example from the United Kingdom consider  for a general review of public surveillance consider

[12] Here is how community policing is defined.  Consider this article on the early attempt in the 1990s to implement it. This was augmented by further events that wanted to improve police community relations. By 2013 the idea had returned in a different guise because technology and data made it possible to implement.

[13] See for example,


About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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