Superbly done by William Bratton & George Kelling in the Wall Street Journal.
Recent tragic incidents involving the New York City Police Department—including the death of Eric Garner, who was being arrested on Staten Island, and the death of Akai Gurley, shot accidentally by a young police officer in the dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project—have reinvigorated police critics. The criticism was especially pointed amid the broader national discussion about crime and race prompted by events in Ferguson, Mo.
The NYPD’s critics object, in particular, to the department’s long-standing practice of maintaining order in public spaces. This practice, referred to as Broken Windows or quality-of-life or order-maintenance policing, asserts that, in communities contending with high levels of disruption, maintaining order improves the quality of life for residents and reduces crime.
The writers here are strongly associated with the Broken Windows approach to policing. George Kelling, together with the late political scientist James Q. Wilson, wrote the seminal 1982 article in the Atlantic, “Broken Windows,” and has advised police departments, transit authorities and other urban entities. William Bratton —as chief of the New York City Transit Police, commissioner of the Boston Police Department, commissioner of the NYPD, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and now again police commissioner in New York—has been a leading practitioner of Broken Windows policing.
Critics have a variety of arguments against the policy. Some allege that Broken Windows policing is discriminatory. Others claim it has no effect on serious crime. Still others suggest it leads to overincarceration or imposes a white, middle-class morality on urban populations. None of these criticisms stands up.
- Discrimination? New York is vastly safer than it was 20 years ago, but in some minority neighborhoods the change has not been as decisive. Those residents still live with danger as a daily reality. Complaints about disorderly conditions also come disproportionately from neighborhoods that are predominantly African-American and Hispanic. Broken Windows policing is focused on areas where citizens most want, and need, it.
The majority of New Yorkers, including minorities, approve of police addressing disorderly illegal behavior, such as public drinking and drug use, fights, public urination and other acts considered to be minor offenses. We have attended countless meetings with citizen groups in high-crime areas, and almost without exception disorderly behavior and conditions are central concerns….
Men and women younger than 30, and those who have come to New York in the past 15 years, have no memories of the “bad old days.” We suspect that some of the activists, reporters and academics opposing Broken Windows fit this description.
In the early 1990s, New Yorkers’ idea of normal social conditions meant removing your car radio and posting a “No Radio” sign in the window to discourage a break-in. Normal was subway patrons clustering together to protect themselves against predators. Normal was getting your windshield spat on and wiped with a dirty rag by someone who then demanded a “tip.”
New York is a much different city today. Crime has been plummeting for two decades. Tourism is booming. Public spaces are safe. Property values have escalated. It’s a good place to live and work. These conditions didn’t just happen. They resulted from thousands of police interventions on the street, which restored order and civility across the five boroughs.
The challenge going forward is to keep our police officers engaged and working cooperatively and effectively with communities across the city. The residents in these neighborhoods want police services but also want the police to be their partners. It is a safer city than it has ever been, and now the NYPD’s task is make it feel like a fairer city too. Together we can make that a reality.
Retrieved December 19, 2014 from http://www.wsj.com/articles/william-bratton-and-george-kelling-the-assault-on-broken-windows-policing-1418946183