UrbaNERD: On Broadband and Race, Cops and Suicide

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Frederick Joseph

Technophiles often get all excited about how the latest innovation—or if not that, maybe the next one—is going to create a more efficient and just world. It rarely is that easy, as a report this week from Alliance for Excellent Education indicates.

It found that access to high-speed broadband in schools is lower for low-income kids than for wealthy children, for black students than white pupils, and in rural areas versus suburbs or cities. In other words, technology maps existing inequalities. That’s no shocker, but something to always keep in mind as more and more of civic life goes online—what’s two quick clicks away for you might be a trip to the library and a wait in the computer line for someone else.

In New York State, the report found that 9 percent of affluent students and 14 percent of white kids in the state had slow broadband access at school—defined as 10 megabits per second or less. But 46 percent of low-income students, 48 percent of black kids and 52 percent of Latinos had slow speeds.

One wonders if the de Blasio administration’s WiFi plan will reduce broadband disparities in the city.

When cops are their own killers: There was coverage this week of the NYPD’s report on its use of firearms in 2013, which indicated that police discharged their weapons 81 times in 2013, apparently a historic low. But in the numbers was a small indication of the persistence of the tragic problem of officer suicide. In 2013, the NYPD saw six successful police officer suicides and two attempts. While virtually every other category of shooting (shots at suspects, attempts to put down animals and accidental discharges) has been trending downward steadily over the past decade, the number of suicide attempts by police officers has not. The eight such shootings in 2013 were the second most in any year from 2003 on.

NYPD more likely to discipline its own: The de Blasio administration this week hailed a drop in complaints to the Civilian Complaint Review Board in the latter half of 2014 compared to the same period last year. That falloff is obviously attributable to the reduction in stop-and-frisk. But an important part of the civilian complaint picture during the Bloomberg years was the reluctance of the police commissioner to follow the CCRB’s recommendations for discipline when an allegation was substantiated. The tendency was for the commissioner to impose either a lower level of punishment than was recommended or to forego any discipline. According to the monthly reports from this month and last December, there’s been a modest increase in the frequency of discipline: The police department so far in 2014 imposed discipline in 66 percent of cases compared to the 57 percent at this point last year. But a slightly lower share of cases ended up in charges against the officer—the most serious level of discipline—this year compared to last. Of course, that could reflect the facts of individual cases.

Familiar concerns in a new neighborhood: Next City has picked up on a story CityLimits.org started following this fall: the concerns about job displacement in Cromwell-Jerome, an area of the Bronx targeted for development under the mayor’s housing plan. Those concerns echo the complaints about what Willets Point redevelopment plans have done to businesses in the Iron Triangle. Read our take here, NextCity’s here, and see what Bronx Beep Ruben Diaz, Jr. says about development “naysayers” here.

The charter chunk: A long-standing contention in the debate over charter schools is that they draw resources away from regular schools. A handy chart by the Independent Budget Office breaking down Department of Education spending over the past 15 years suggests that this allegation is true (notice how the red block swells over time), though it’s also clear that charters remain a small part of the school system—and that pension expenses and pass-through payments to non-public schools are equally or more important parts of the story.

UrbaNERD is a weekly guide to research and reporting on urban life.

  • Anon resident

    I think one of the biggest problems is having no wifi or modern technology at NY State Department of Labor offices. Staff are no trained well to address workforce development in areas of need. Lack of technology and lack of knowledgeable staff is showcased in these offices on a daily basis. Good luck if you have a degree and would like to get help in the DOL or any of the workforce offices. Staff have no clue to job creation or relations with fortune 500 companies or any businesses and staff are not following hiring trends and just don’t have a clue. It would be great if Citylimits would research this topic since former Assembly Rivera should probably fire himself and his staff for not returning phone calls on the topic or addressing how awful the state offices are. In addition, no funding has been allocated by Cuomo.