The NYPD is disbanding its undercover anti-crime unit — nearly six years after one of its plainclothes cops killed Eric Garner with a chokehold, sparking the rallying cry of “I can’t breathe” for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced the change Monday afternoon at police headquarters, describing ending the unit as “seismic” shift culturally in the NYPD.
The roughly 600 cops — spread out at precinct and public housing patrols across the city — will be reassigned into other posts, including the detective bureau and neighborhood policing efforts.
“I would consider this in the realm of closing on one of the last chapters on stop, question and frisk,” Shea said — while praising the squad members for getting guns off the streets.
The department, however, will still deploy plain-clothes cops in Gotham. The NYPD would not say how many cops would continue to patrol in plainclothes.
“This is a policy shift coming from me, personally, and the men and women in the police department we’re doing what I asked… they have done an exceptional job, but again I think it’s time to move forward and change how we police in this city,” Shea said.
“When you look at the number of anti-crime officers that operate within New York City, and you look at a disproportionate, quite frankly, percentage of complaints and shootings — and they are doing exactly what was asked of them,” Shea said.
The unit has had a history of high-profile shootings and deaths and, year-over-year, the cops in the patrol account for more than half of police-involved shootings, according to NYPD’s annual discharge reports.
Former officer Daniel Pantaleo was assigned to the anti-crime unit on Staten Island in July 2014 when he tried to arrest Garner for selling loose cigarettes and put him in a chokehold.
Pantaleo was found guilty of internal charges over Garner’s death and fired last year. A grand jury chose not to indict the former officer.
Slain Bronx anti-crime cop Brian Mulkeen was killed in a hail of friendly fire from fellow anti-crime officers while trying to make a gun bust in 2019. The suspect was also killed.
Shea concluded the brief press conference by raising the spectre of increased violence, adding the disbanding the unit will be noticed.
“It will be felt immediately throughout the five district attorney’s offices, it will be felt immediately in the communities that we protect,” he said.
“However, the key difference, we must do it in a manner that builds trust between the officers and the community.”
Gun violence in New York hit is at a two-year high, according to NYPD data released Monday.
Shootings have spiked almost 25 percent this year compared to last — with incident jumping to 394 from 317 as of Sunday.
While at the same time, gun arrests year-to-date were up 8 percent — even as other arrests were down one-third, the data shows.
Murders are also up 25 percent for the year, according to the numbers.
One source praised the move — saying the plainclothes unit had become too lenient in assigning younger cops to the patrol.
“Get those cops back on the street,” the source said. “It used to be you needed 10 years to get on plainclothes. Then they started bringing all these young guys in. I’m glad they’re doing that.”
The city’s largest police union, however, slammed Shea’s decision while issuing a similar but more explicit warning than the commissioner.
“Shooting and murders are both climbing steadily upward, but our city leaders have clearly decided that proactive policing isn’t a priority anymore,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said.
“They chose this strategy. They will have to reckon with the consequences.”