- Associated Press - Saturday, April 25, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - The New York City Council speaker said Saturday that fewer arrests for low-level offenses would help police improve their relations with some communities.

At Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network headquarters, Melissa Mark-Viverito pushed for proposals to decriminalize such offenses as farebeating and public urination.

“We’re examining the way we can expand the use of summonses and desk appearance tickets as opposed to cuffing somebody for a low-level offense and possibly spending some time in jail,” she said.

Enforcing such laws is an element of what’s known as “broken windows” policing - trying to reduce serious crime by cracking down on minor violations.

Sharpton and others have argued that arrests for minor offenses - he called them “bubble-gum crimes” - have a discriminatory effect on minority groups. Mark-Viverito said, “The police have to improve the way they interact with our communities.”

Police Commissioner William Bratton has expressed reservations about the proposals. He said Friday that they “on first blush appear to be a significant attempt to limit the ability of police officers in this city to do their job.”

“Quality of life policing will continue and will continue very assertively in this city,” he said. “It’s what made this city safe in the first place. It’s what will keep the city safe.”

Mark-Viverito acknowledged receiving “pushback” from Bratton.

“Yes, we need our neighborhoods to be safe,” she said, but non-criminal offenses should not be treated “in a criminal way.”

The speaker also proposed a “citywide bail fund” that she said would help prevent unfairness in keeping someone behind bars just because he or she is poor and can’t raise bail, whereas someone wealthy, charged with the same offense, could make bail and get out.

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