NYPD disbands plainclothes anti-crime unit

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) will disband its plainclothes anti-crime unit, and transition some 600 officers to other assignments including neighbourhood policing and detective work, the force’s commissioner said.

At a press conference at the NYPD headquarters in Lower Manhattan on Monday, Commissioner Dermot Shea said it was “a seismic shift in the culture of how the NYPD polices this great city”, reports Xinhua news agency

Officers of the anti-crime unit specialize in undercover operations and perform patrol services in unmarked vehicles, in an attempt to spot criminals of usually violent crimes.

The unit has caused some tension between the NYPD and the community.

According to The New York Times, it has been involved in some of the city’s most notorious police shootings.

The overhaul is also “in the realm of closing one of the last chapters of stop-question-and-frisk”, said Shea, referring to a controversial policing practice that often targets minorities.

“What we always struggle with, I believe, as police executives, is not keeping crime down — it’s keeping crime down and keeping the community working with us.

“I think it’s time to move forward and change how we police in this city. We can do it with brains. We can do it with guile. We can move away from brute force,” he added.

The announcement came after weeks of protests against police brutality in the city, during which a number of officers were disciplined for using heavy-handed tactics toward largely peaceful protesters, and one was charged with assault, criminal mischief, harassment and menacing for shoving a woman to the ground.

However, Shea noted on Monday that it is a policy shift “coming from me personally” instead of any reflection on NYPD officers, adding that discussions about the overhaul had occurred for about a year.

Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a police reform agenda that would ban chokeholds by police and allow for transparency of offices’ disciplinary records, among other reforms.