Eliminate Military-Style Ranks in the NYPD. We need a police service, not a police force. Unfortunately, our police officers are given training that overemphasizes combat, and are equipped with increasingly powerful weapons. Emblematic of this wrongheaded mindset was Mayor Bloomberg’s statement that the NYPD was “his army” and the “seventh biggest army in the world.” Unfortunately, the NYPD is organized like an army with sergeants, lieutenants, and captains. We should eliminate the military-style titles we currently give to our officers, which will go a long way towards ending the militarized mentality that pervades the police. Instead of the military-style ranks that are currently used, officers on street patrol could be called “Patrol Officers,” supervising officers could be called “Managing Officers,” and precinct and department heads could be called “Directing Officers.”
Redesign the Police Uniform to be More Approachable. Unfortunately, the uniforms that our police officers wear have become more militaristic in recent years. Not only does this foster an “Us-vs-Them” mentality, but also, these aggressive uniforms instill a warrior mentality in our officers. Many other police departments have redesigned their uniforms by replacing military-style uniforms with polo shirts, natural colors, and/or blazers. In fact, when one city redesigned their police uniforms, police-caused injuries of civilians were cut in half. Redesigning the NYPD uniform to make our officers more approachable will improve their effectiveness and will help instill trust between New Yorkers and our officers. Under the Giuliani administration, the police uniform was purposely redesigned to make our officers appear more militaristic and intimidating. This was a mistake. Aaron will correct this wrong by redesigning our police uniforms to convey assistance and approachability.
Facilitate Coffee Meetings Between Officers and Our Citizens. Presently, the overwhelming majority of police interactions with our citizenry are negative, whether it be a traffic stop, filing a complaint, or being arrested. This degrades the community’s trust and their willingness to cooperate with the police. Today, when our officers are patrolling the streets, they are often disengaged, typically buried in their phones, and do not to interact with people in our neighborhoods. We need to rebuild trust between the police and our communities. Aaron will introduce a new “Coffee with a Cop” program in which police officers will be paid to have monthly coffee sessions with small groups of interested New Yorkers at a local coffee shop. Coffee will be free for both our officers and residents who would like to attend. These coffee meetings will create a much-needed dialogue that will help rebuild the trust police officers need to do their jobs.
Teach Our Police When They Should Use Force. Currently, our police are told when they can use force but not when they should use force. In basic training, an NYPD officer will receive over 60 hours of firearms training but only eight hours on conflict deescalation. This despite the fact that 95% of officers will never have to discharge their firearm. Such an outsized emphasis on combat causes our officers to view their role as a fight for survival, rather than providing a community service. We must instead focus police training on conflict management and how to build relationships within our diverse communities while giving our officers adequate training in self-defense.
Support Officers’ Mental Health. The fact that nine uniformed NYPD personnel committed suicide in 2019 highlights the stressful nature of police work. Over 10% of our NYPD officers have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and over 20% of our officers have substance abuse disorders. We have failed to protect New York’s finest. Tragically, our officers are discouraged from getting the help they need because they fear that doing so will adversely impact their careers. Aaron will reorient basic training so that it focuses on mental health literacy and ensure that our officers have the resources they need to stay both mentally and physically fit.