The Police’s Role in the Police Reforms

The Police’s Role in the Police Reforms

States struggle with pushback after wave of policing reforms

(This is a guest post by Robert S. Smith, a criminologist at the University of North Carolina’s School of Justice Studies )

In the spring of 2014, New York City adopted controversial police reforms known as the Stop and Frisk Act and the Real Time Police Information System (RTIPI). The impetus for the two laws were largely racial: the Stop and Frisk Act sought to address and curtail violence associated with illegal activity (i.e., New York’s street gangs) by disproportionately targeting blacks and Hispanics, while RTIPI was aimed at ensuring the police are equipped with robust information systems to better respond to people in need.

The legislation passed the City Council unanimously and Mayor Bill de Blasio signed it into law in April 2014, but police unions, law enforcement veterans and civil rights organizations fought against the new policies. The fight was over resources: the city allocated $500 million to the police in 2014, but critics contended that the policy and funding were insufficient to properly address the problem or correct existing problems. Ultimately, RTIPI was withdrawn due to lack of funding.

A couple of months after the law’s enactment, a group of prominent New York City lawyers met to discuss the implementation of the laws that would be enforced with the new RTIPI program. The attorneys asked the city to suspend the implementation of the programs with the law while they discussed their implementation. As it turned out, the program was never fully implemented and it was canceled in 2016.

The fight over RTIPI highlighted the role that policy, policing operations, and political power play in shaping the way people interact with the police. The fight also demonstrated a problem with how politicians and the police are currently addressing their relationship with the public. Even if citizens feel that the police will work to solve their problems, they also need to believe police will use force to do so, or that they will be held accountable.

The New York City officials who opposed the RTIPI were able to

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