Context — September 23, 2016, 1:49 pm

Beyond the Broken Window

William Bratton and the new police state

Published in the May 2015 issue of  Harper’s Magazine, Beyond the Broken Window” explores former New York City police commissioner William Bratton’s influence on the “Broken Windows” theory of community policing, which includes the controversial stop-and-frisk policy. Subscribe to Harper’s Magazine for access to our entire 166-year archive.

[Lede]

From a Politico article, published September 21, 2016, on Donald Trump’s response to a question about solving “violence in the black community.”

“I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically,” Trump told the questioner.

After leaving the LAPD in 2009, Bratton took on a string of lucrative private-sector jobs before returning last year to his former post as police commissioner in New York.

The city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, was elected on a platform of repairing community relations, and his criticism of stop-and-frisk and other heavy-handed policing methods had been central to his campaign. As the architect of many of these policies, Bratton seemed a strange pick to be de Blasio’s top cop. But during the mayoral race, de Blasio’s political opponents and the tabloid media had suggested that he would return the city to pre-Giuliani crime levels. (After his inauguration, the New York Post warned of the return of the dreaded “squeegee men.”) By tapping Bratton, de Blasio showed that he understood how much his progressive agenda depended on fighting this perception.

Bratton’s embrace of intelligence-led policing, meanwhile, received almost no attention. But in New York City, Bratton has continued on the path he forged in Los Angeles. He has declared that the NYPD will adopt predictive policing, telling the City Council last year that “it is real and it is here.” He says 2015 will be the “year of technology” for the department — all officers will be issued smartphones and tablets that connect them to intelligence and law-enforcement databases. Among his key initiatives, Bratton announced the formation of the Strategic Response Group, a heavily armed police unit of some 350 officers who would be dedicated to the dual missions of counterterrorism and public-protest response. (After widespread condemnation, the department backpedaled and decided there would, in fact, be a separate unit dedicated to protests.)

The law-enforcement issue that has most occupied the attention of New Yorkers since Bratton’s return, however, has been the death, last summer, of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was approached on Staten Island by NYPD officers who suspected him of illegally selling loose cigarettes. After Garner argued that he shouldn’t be arrested for the infraction, one of the officers placed him in a choke hold that killed him. The incident was caught on video, including Garner’s repeated plea of “I can’t breathe.” That kind of suppression policing prompted George Kelling, one of the originators of the Broken Windows theory, to denounce the zero-tolerance approach as “zealotry and no discretion — the opposite of what I tried to preach.” After the Staten Island district attorney decided not to prosecute the officer, thousands of residents took to the streets in protest, placing Bratton, along with de Blasio, squarely between an angry public and the police rank and file, who stood in solidarity with their colleague.

The furor over Garner’s death has led to calls for a return to community policing in its original sense: working with neighborhoods to understand and meet their needs. But in our conversation, Bratton remained unapologetic about the brand of policing that set the stage for Garner’s encounter with the NYPD. “Broken Windows,” Bratton told me, “is probably the most vivid example of community policing there is.” He also defended his support of stop-and-frisk, arguing that the policy makes for sound policing so long as it is carried out responsibly. “The mayor and I are in lockstep on this,” Bratton insisted. “He campaigned on scaling back what he viewed as an overreliance on stop, question, and frisk, and we’ve done that.” Once again he drew an analogy between crime and disease. “Both can be deadly,” he said. “The question is how to prevent them while doing minimal harm. Of course, doctors say, ‘First, do no harm.’ There is always a risk of doing some harm to prevent greater harm.” 

Share
Single Page

More from Petra Bartosiewicz:

From the February 2018 issue

Before the Deluge

How Washington sealed Puerto Rico’s fate

From the May 2015 issue

Beyond the Broken Window

William Bratton and the new police state

From the August 2011 issue

To Catch a Terrorist

The FBI hunts for the enemy within

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2018

The Other Whisper Network

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Infinity of the Small

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Empty Suits

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Great Divide

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Nobody Knows

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Other Whisper Network·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

No one would talk to me for this piece. Or rather, more than twenty women talked to me, sometimes for hours at a time, but only after I promised to leave out their names, and give them what I began to call deep anonymity. This was strange, because what they were saying did not always seem that extreme. Yet here in my living room, at coffee shops, in my inbox and on my voicemail, were otherwise outspoken female novelists, editors, writers, real estate agents, professors, and journalists of various ages so afraid of appearing politically insensitive that they wouldn’t put their names to their thoughts, and I couldn’t blame them. 

Of course, the prepublication frenzy of Twitter fantasy and fury about this essay, which exploded in early January, is Exhibit A for why nobody wants to speak openly. Before the piece was even finished, let alone published, people were calling me “pro-rape,” “human scum,” a “harridan,” a “monster out of Stephen King’s ‘IT,’?” a “ghoul,” a “bitch,” and a “garbage person”—all because of a rumor that I was planning to name the creator of the so-called Shitty Media Men list. The Twitter feminist Jessica Valenti called this prospect “profoundly shitty” and “incredibly dangerous” without having read a single word of my piece. Other tweets were more direct: “man if katie roiphe actually publishes that article she can consider her career over.” “Katie Roiphe can suck my dick.” With this level of thought policing, who in their right mind would try to say anything even mildly provocative or original? 

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Pushing the Limit·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Post
CamperForce·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

Estimated size of heaven, in cubic miles, according to the Reverend Billy Graham:

1,500

Photographing your food makes eating it less enjoyable.

The shooter discarded his AR-15 semiautomatic weapon, the model used in six of America’s ten deadliest mass shootings and referred to by the NRA as “America’s rifle,” and then fled to a nearby Walmart, where customers can buy rifles but cannot purchase music with lyrics that contain the word “fuck.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today