Courtesy @NYPDCommAffairs

Chief Jeffrey Maddrey at a memorial to Brandon Hendricks, a victim of gun violence, held Tuesday in the Bronx.

The NYPD’s new chief for community affairs says a range of factors, including the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, is likely to blame for a spike in shootings over the past month.

But Chief Jeffrey Maddrey told WBAI’s Max & Murphy Show on Wednesday that bail reform is a major factor in the surge of violence. 

“We have been making arrests, but also due to COVID, we have been releasing people and prisoners. We’re releasing people arrested for gun violence and other serious crimes. When we make the arrests and they’re getting out with little consequences, a lot of times they’re not going to say, ‘Hey I got out, I’m gonna be straight.’ They’re going to go back to what they were doing,” Maddrey, who has been with the department since 1991, said.

“We understand that during this pandemic, we had to save lives, even in the jails, we had to save lives, but the system still has to work,” he said. “We’re arresting violent criminals with a past of carrying guns and doing crimes. If we arrest them, they have to remain in jail.” 

Statistics uncovered by the New York Post contradict the assertion that the 2019 bail reforms or COVID-related releases have been a major factor in the increased violence seen over the first weeks of summer.

Potentially more significant than any theory about what’s driving the violence is the question of whether the NYPD is capable of responding to it, amid vocal opposition and reports of sagging cop morale.

Maddrey says the morale concerns are real. 

We have a lot of young police officers in this department. It’s a young department and if you listen to the rhetoric that has been spewed around in the community and in the city the last few weeks—there’s graffiti that says ‘kill cops,’ there’s the rhetoric of ‘defund the police’. There’s rhetoric that everyone in the police department is bad.”

“I’ve been working the protests and I’ve been called every racial slur in the book. It was a terrible time out there and I have 30 years of experience and have been through a lot. But what happens to a 25-year-old cop who doesn’t have 30 years of experience? You don’t think they’ll feel disenfranchised? You don’t think they’ll feel hurt? You don’t think they’ll feel unsupported?”

Maddrey did acknowledge that there has been a historically fractured relationship between Black and Latino communities and cops, but he says it has improved in New York. And he says that there is still a significant desire on the streets to see the NYPD play a large role in managing the city.

“People are asking us to address quality of life issues. People are asking us to stop the violence that’s happening out here but the police need the support of the people as well. We’re doing a tough job out there, we’re doing a dangerous job out there. We need the community to support us.”

Listen to our conversation below or hear the full show, which includes a conversation with teachers’ union president Michael Mulgrew:

NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey

Max & Murphy Full Show of July 8, 2020

With reporting by Anika Chowdhury and Ben Max