In the 1990s, the New York City Police Department changed its approach to be less reactive and more proactive, focusing on crime prevention and shifting how officers interacted with communities and criminals. To deter lawbreaking and disorder, the department instructed officers to focus on quality-of-life issues and cite or arrest offenders. This approach contributed to transformative public safety and bolstered communities’ own resilience, further reducing crime even as arrests and incarceration rates diminished. Proactive policing strategies were adopted by departments across the country.
But along with gains came criticisms—stop-question-and-frisk policies, for example, were assailed as overzealous and unjust. Widespread anti-police protests and policies in 2020—as well as the Covid pandemic—led to a pullback in police proactivity. As violent crime and disorder skyrocketed, NYPD and other departments inched back toward proactivity, yet officers remain far more hesitant to engage than in the past.
Are officers holding back due to direct orders, frustration over non-prosecution, fear of liability imposed by policies such as “chokehold bans,” or just a sense of low public support? Beyond that, how proactive do we want cops to be—and is there any consensus on this among stakeholders like city councils, state legislatures, police leadership, community groups, advocates, and individual cops? And critically: does proactivity build or undermine trust within high-crime neighborhoods, and how do we navigate these intrinsic tensions?
Please join us for an expert panel discussion on what lies ahead.