U.S.

How Much Does the NYPD Spend on Misdemeanor Arrests?

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A new report examines arrest costs in New York City. Suhaib Salem/Reuters

Misdemeanor arrests cost New York City ​$1,134,000 per day, police reform advocates estimate in a new report. Nearly 90 percent of those arrested are people of color, these advocates say.

The Police Reform Organizing Project ​(PROP) examined arrest data from January to September 2014. According to the group's analysis, the New York Police Department made an average of 648 misdemeanor arrests per day in that nine​-month period.

PROP estimates that each misdemeanor collar costs $1,750. PROP came up with that figure by using several other studies' cost estimates for misdemeanor arrests. These studies generally put the cost of an individual misdemeanor arrest from $1,000 to $2,000. PROP then adjusted for inflation and New York City's high cost of living. PROP estimates New York City will spend $410 million on misdemeanor arrests in 2014.

According to the report, titled "Over 1 Million Dollars a Day," the NYPD arrested 173,625 people on misdemeanor charges from January to September 2013. For the same period in 2014, the NYPD made 174,823 misdemeanor arrests.

In addition, the report states that "a stark racial bias marks the NYPD's petty arrest practices. In 2013, 87 percent of the individuals charged with misdemeanors were people of color; in 2014, the figure has been 86.2 percent."

According to a PROP's analysis of misdemeanor prosecutions from 2009 to 2013, "an annual average of about 10 percent of the persons charged did jail time." In other words, some 90 percent of misdemeanor suspects "walked out of the courtroom." Sometimes prosecutors decided not to pursue a case, while at other times, defendants might have been sentenced to time served or even received outright dismissal. Based on data from 2009 to 2013, PROP says there are approximately 230,000 misdemeanor arrest dispositions annually.

Similar racial disparities exist in the NYPD's summons policy. From 2002 to 2013, the NYPD issued more than ​6​ million summonses for quality-of-life violations "such as riding a bike on a sidewalk or consuming alcohol in public," according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU acquired demographic data for 1.5 million of these summonses and found that some 85 percent were issued to blacks or Latinos. This demographic breakdown has ramped up activists’ allegations of bias in policing.

​PROP's report comes amid vehement criticism of the NYPD's fraught relationship with communities of color, which has intensified after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who put Staten Island's Eric Garner in a choke hold during his arrest before he died. Police reform advocates, including PROP, blame the NYPD's "broken windows" approach to policing.

The controversial broken windows philosophy, according to George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, posits that cops’ focus on quality-of-life issues and minor crimes reduces “fear and resident withdrawal.”

“Promoting higher levels of informal social control,” so the thinking behind broken windows goes, “will help residents themselves take control of their neighborhood and prevent serious crime from infiltrating.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio promised sweeping police reform while on the campaign trail. But the administration of de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton "continues the biased practices" during the tenure of former mayor Michael Bloomberg and former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, PROP says in the report.

In a statement to Newsweek, de Blasio's office said, "Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton are working together to enact smart reforms that build trust and cooperation between the police and the communities they serve.

"From dramatically reducing stop-and-frisk to retraining the entire police force, including some 20,000 patrol officers by next summer, to issuing summonses instead of making arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, the de Blasio administration is taking real, meaningful steps to bring police and community closer together, all while keeping New York the safest big city in the world," the statement said.