June 21, 2021 22:26

New York City Council members propose legislation barring officers from making contact with homeless

Daily News Editorial Board

New York Daily News

A man with a sign saying that he is homeless sleeps on Worth St. near Broadway.

Council members Stephen Levin and Helen Rosenthal may live in New York, but they sure don’t seem to live in reality. That’s the only conclusion we can draw from their perplexing bill barring all NYPD officers from conducting any “outreach to unsheltered individuals.”

They proposed this legislation after Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Dermot Shea have already officially disbanded the NYPD’s 86-member Homeless Outreach Unit, a move made in July. That was in reaction to persistent claims that cops’ presence sometimes unnecessarily escalated tensions during outreach workers’ encounters with homeless people they were coaxing to enter shelter.

But barring every single one of the city’s police officers from offering shelter or health care or other services to people living on the streets — as though the NYPD uniform is itself fruit of a poisonous tree — is naive to the point of ridiculousness. In fact, it’s cruelty masquerading as kindness.

While the city has nearly doubled the number of 24/7 workers canvassing city streets and trying to connect with the homeless since 2013, those workers still number fewer than 600 people, compared to the 36,000-member NYPD.

Police are the city’s eyes and ears, and — sorry to break this to the pols — well-intentioned and well-trained.

Besides, those of us living in reality understand that many people living unsheltered have substance abuse or mental health issues. Sometimes homeless people break the law, use drugs in public, turn a street into a toilet or physically harass people. Even outreach workers sometimes have to call the cops when an encounter with an unsheltered person gets out of control and threatens their safety.

Preventing cops from doing homeless outreach would leave them with a crude, binary choice: ignore homeless people entirely, or arrest them. Is that really what the bleeding hearts want?


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