The New York Police Department announced Monday that it is disbanding the plainclothes so-called "anti-crime units," which have been involved in a disproportionate number of the city's fatal officer-involved shootings, particularly some of the highest-profile shootings that have drawn local condemnation in recent years.
According to the New York Times, there are approximately 600 officers currently in the plainclothes units, and they will be reassigned to other duties.
The change was announced by New York Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea, who said, "This is a seismic shift in the culture of how the N.Y.P.D. polices this great city. It will be felt immediately in the communities that we protect." Shea also stated that the use of plainclothes police officers is part of an "outdated model" of policing that pitted police against the communities they are supposed to protect, according to the Times.
Shea went on to say that in light of improved intelligence-gathering methods developed by the department, the NYPD plans to spend more time on intelligence-gathering and technology and can move away from "brute force."
According to the Times, there will still be some plainclothes officers on the force, including those who work the New York City transit system and in some other areas of the police force, but the anti-crime units will all be shut down. Shea stated that these units were a vestige of the "stop-and-frisk" era, referring to a highly controversial tactic used by police to control the drug trade. Critics of "stop-and-frisk" have long alleged that the practice disproportionately targets minorities and destroys trust between police and citizens.
Police unions, predictably, criticized the move. Patrick J. Lynch, head of the Police Benevolent Association, said, "Anti-crime's mission was to protect New Yorkers by proactively preventing crime, especially gun violence. Shooting and murders are both climbing steadily upward, but our city leaders have clearly decided that proactive policing isn't a priority anymore."