NYPD quietly disbands 'hyper-aggressive' anti-crime unit

'I think it’s time to move forward and change how we police in this city'

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The NYPD is quietly disbanding a controversial unit that has been described as the "last chapter" of stop-and-frisk.

The "Anti-Crime Unit" will be disbanded, and its rank of nearly 600 plainclothes officers reassigned to work in other parts of the city.

NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea made the announcement Monday during a press conference, and that the dissolution of the group was effective immediately.

According to justice advocacy organisation the Legal Aid Society, the unit was "infamous for employing hyper-aggressive policing techniques to brutalize New Yorkers — mostly those from communities of colour — and to defy their basic constitutional rights."

Mr Shea characterised the move as a "seismic" shift in the NYPD's policing policy and said it was a move to close the "final chapter" of the stop-and-frisk program. The stop-question-frisk policing method adopted by the NYPD in the 1990's under then-commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudy Giuliani was widely criticised as an excuse for police to racially profile and use aggression towards people who had not been suspected of a crime.

"I think it's time to move forward and change how we police in this city," Mr Shea said. "We can do it with brains, we can do it with guile, we can move away from brute force."

In lieu of using the plainclothes officers of the anti-crime unit, Mr Shea said the city will shift towards using more technology in its policing methods.

Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch was critical of the move.

"Anti-Crime's mission was to protect New Yorkers by proactively preventing crime, especially gun violence," Mr Lynch said in a statement. "Shooting and murders are both climbing steadily upward, but our city leaders have decided that proactive policing isn't a priority anymore. They chose this strategy. They will have to reckon with the consequences."

Mr Shea acknowledged that eliminating the unit was not without risk. He alluded ominously to a "storm on the horizon," referencing a rising number of major crimes. According to data collected by the NYPD, homicides, shooting and burglaries all were on the rise.

Though dismantling the unit was not outwardly presented as a reaction to the George Floyd protests against police brutality and systemic racism, it is the latest in a number of reforms made to the department.

Last Friday, the city's government announced its intention to reduce the NYPD's budget by $1 billion.

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