Narcotics cops told to focus on younger suspects

A controversial memo reportedly claims NYPD narcotics cops are being told to stop arresting suspects over the age of 40. It is supposed to be a strategy to target younger drug dealers who are more likely to carry and use guns.

"It's an imprecise way to do it. Again, it will probably have some unintended consequences but it is a wise idea to try to focus on the most serious problem," said Eugene O'Donnell, a former police officer and former assistant district attorney. "Right now, the problem they're really worried about is an increase in shootings."

O'Donnell now lectures in John Jay's Department of Law and Police Science. He read Wednesday's leaked NYPD memo ordering narcotics officers to target offenders younger than 40 and saw an attempt at smart policing.

"The dragnet approach is not very effective, so going after people willy-nilly is not effective, so what you're trying to do is figure out where the problems are, who the problem offenders are, what number of police people you have to bring to bear on that, try not to get the low-hanging fruit," he said.

Research shows -- and the memo references this -- those younger than 40 commit the majority of violent crimes.

NYPD narcotics officers apparently must now provide written explanations when they arrest someone older than 40, leading some to conclude that the department plans to allow middle-aged drug offenders to do as they please.

Detectives Endowment Association President Michael Palladino responded in a statement.

"This just sounds like an example where upper-management developed a strategy to address a specific issue and the message got distorted as it traveled through the chain of command," Palladino said. "A fine-tuning of that message as soon as possible is necessary. Department strategies are much more effective when they remain confidential rather than being discussed in the press."

Commissioner Bill Bratton said: "The officers are not ignoring other types of arrests, but -- as we always do -- we seek to focus to go where we will have maximum impact with our resources."

As O'Donnell suggested, Bratton connected the strategy with a 7 percent increase in shootings over the same period last year.