CRIME

NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton Mulls Pardoning 1.2 Million Low-Level Offenders

05/19/2015 10:35 am ET | Updated May 19, 2015

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has proposed granting amnesty to 1.2 million low-level offenders with open warrants for minor offenses such as drinking in public and disorderly conduct, according to CBS New York.

Some of the summonses stem from unresolved tickets that are more than a decade old, the station reported. Although hundreds of thousands of tickets for minor offenses were given out last year, 40 percent of offenders failed to show up in court, according to The Associated Press.

"Warrants never go away. There's no expiration date," Bratton said in an interview with the AP. "It would be great to get rid of a lot of that backlog. It's not to our benefit from a policing standpoint to have all those warrants floating around out there."

Mayor Bill de Blasio's office said officials are already investigating how pardoning minor offenses would work. A spokesman for the mayor told WCBS that drug crimes shouldn't be forgiven.

Critics of the proposal are worried that excusing offenses to clear the backlog of open warrants could lead to a higher crime rate and more serious crimes.

“You always have to be answerable for your behavior and unchecked behavior, we know, leads to larger things and those things manifest themselves in violent crime and property crime, like auto theft and burglary, and things like that,” Jon Shane, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told CBS New York.

Issuing summonses for petty infractions is an element of "broken windows" policing, a strategy that focuses on aggressively enforcing quality-of-life offenses in an effort to deter more serious ones.

That law enforcement philosophy has come under fire, particularly in the wake of the Eric Garner case. Garner, a Staten Island man, died in July 2014 after being put in an apparent chokehold by NYPD officers who were arresting him on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes.

Critics of "broken windows" have pointed to racial disparities in the issuing of summonses for minor infractions.

Roughly 81 percent of the 7.3 million people hit with these violations between 2001 and 2013 were black and Hispanic, according to a New York Civil Liberties Union calculation of available race data on summons forms, the New York Daily News reported last year.

Data indicates that summonses issued by police in NYC have soared since "broken windows" was implemented citywide in 1994, during Bratton's first term as police commissioner. He has since said that the policy may have been enforced too zealously, according to a separate WCBS report.

Last month, Bratton said he'd be open to changing the penalty process for minor crimes, leveling fines and warnings for quality-of-life offenses instead of jail time.

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