Did Broken Windows Theory Kill Garner?

Kai Wright marshals the evidence pointing to yes:

As WNYC’s Robert Lewis reported back in September, Pantaleo is a poster boy for broken windows policing. He’s been on the force since 2007, and in that time records show him as the arresting officer in 259 criminal court cases. They are overwhelmingly for minor crimes like pot possession; just 24 of them were for felonies. “Two-thirds of Pantaleo’s cases that made it to court ended with a dismissal or a guilty plea to a disorderly conduct violation,” Lewis reported, “which is a little more serious than a speeding ticket. He is one of the most active cops on Staten Island.”

This is what broken windows cops are supposed to do.

They beef up their ranks in priority neighborhoods and get in folks’ faces over anything and everything. I’ve lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, for about a decade. Our neighborhood has for many years been on NYPD’s list of target spots for broken windows—“impact zones,” as they’re called. It’s unexceptional here to swap stories of run-ins with bizarrely unreasonable cops—telling us stop lingering by the subway entrance, to get out of the street, to move along. Eric Garner’s frustrated response to that constant harassment will appear routine to anyone who’s lived in neighborhoods like ours. He’d just broken up a fight, and now here was NYPD in his face, again. “Every time you see me you wanna arrest me,” Garner snapped. “I’m tired of it. It stops today.”

Justin Peters is on the same page:

The cornerstone of effective policing is discretion. If the cops enforced every single law on the books in every single precinct at all hours of the day, New York City would become a police state. Is that what de Blasio and Bratton want?

For mayors and police commissioners, being “tough on crime” means actively implementing some specific policy. But given that violent crime seems to be declining on its own regardless of what they do, there’s a case to be made that de Blasio and Bratton are only making things worse. Here’s a suggestion for a new policing policy for New York City: First, do no harm.