Instead of Scaling Down Parades, What If We Scaled Back on Police?

426772349_c44f171a90.jpgCops march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Photo: Nat Bane/Flickr

When NYPD announced Monday that, effective April 1, city parades must be shortened in distance by 25 percent and may no longer exceed five hours — period — there was an understandable sense of disappointment. But since the move was framed as an unavoidable reality of lean times — "The mayor has made it clear that New Yorkers can’t afford a tax increase now, and we can’t take our eyes off the ball when it comes to keeping crime low," said Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler — electeds don’t seem to be putting up much of an argument. After all, how you gonna enjoy the parade if you get shot, or blown up by terrorists?

According to NYPD, reducing parade sizes will save $3.1 million and help stave off cuts in "essential police services." But before New Yorkers accept as a fait accompli what amounts to another restriction on the public realm, here’s a question they should ask: Rather than abridge events, why can’t we cut back on police presence?

This issue has come up in relation to the puzzlingly short hours allotted to DOT’s wildly popular Summer Streets. Said resident gadfly Marty Barfowitz last August:

I’ve heard that in Bogota, their Ciclovia event — which takes place
every Sunday over hundreds of kilometers of streets — is mostly
officiated by young people doing their national service requirement.

We’re not about to say there’s no need for cops at public events, but is it really a question of Puerto Rican pride (or Irish, or LGBT) vs. Al Qaeda? Are car-free streets that difficult to control compared to those teeming with auto traffic? Your thoughts, please.

Bonus: City Room is taking comments on what else could stand a 25 percent cut.

  • com1

    Actually, some parades do have a lot of violence. There were four different shootings during the 2008 Harlem Day Parade and the West Indian Day parade has a long history of violence. It’s an unfortunate fact, but it’s true.

  • com1

    Here is an article about the 2008 Harlem Day Parade:

    Here is an article about a shooting during the 2007 West Indian Day Parade:

  • com1

    Notice the gunshot at approximately the one minute mark of the video:

  • Add to that the incredible number of drunks at the St. Patrick’s Day parade and several non-voluntary wet t-shirt contests at the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

  • Dave Wiley

    When there is violence at a large outdoor event police, when they are not the cause of the violence, get blamed for not anticipating and preventing it. I see their point of view on this.

  • I’m inclined to agree, although having a citizen group or groups of people helping to coordinate and keep an event like that safe can be challenging on its own and requires good coordination and training. Worth doing, but not exactly the most straight-forward thing to set up.

    St. Paddy’s is a good example, the police help to provide a deterrent against drunken brawling, and to help keep brawls from turning into full-scale riots. Generally speaking, rioting is usually the concern at parades and large gatherings, not The Terrarists.

    There’s nothing like a very large crowd of hot, crowded, angry, and drunk folks. Obviously, a car free streets day doesn’t present as much of a challenge as the pat’s parade. Worth considering. If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of a sudden riot on a hot summer afternoon, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

  • At Summer streets they could cut the number of officers in half easily especially if they put some trust in the volunteers. When I volunteered there were two cops doing the same job that I was doing in the exact same place. As I held up a stop sign for cyclists/peds when the uptown light was red the police waved cars through the crosstown green light. Was it really necessary to have two cops and two volunteers doing essentially the same job in the same space?

  • tal

    I think that reducing police will increase crime. Generally it’s a textbook-like trend.

  • There is hope for you guys yet- good to see something about the overspending upon the police state.

  • davis tree

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