Patrick Murphy’s leadership style focused greatly on accountability; he wanted to make sure people were held responsible for their actions and those under them. (p. 33). When Murphy took over the police force, he “considered himself a reform agent,” deciding he needed to clean house to get rid of the ghosts that were rampant in Leary’s tenure as commissioner. Believing that there was too much splintering and division within the department, he sought to bring everyone back together and eliminate this sort of waste.
Murphy also took special effort to curb corruption any way he could; he opted to take the slow route, attempting to make changes within the department that would be steady but not too fast, and keep the public perception of the police as managed as possible. Public support was incredibly important to Murphy, and so he used the press to advertise his reforms, letting the people of New York know that he was working on the problems they were so worried about.
At the same time, this required getting people on his side. Murphy slowly “replaced the old guard with those more sympathetic to his policies,” doing this in stages to not completely upturn the system (p. 34). However, this attempt to avoid “unseemly displays of power” merely made him seem that he was crafty, breeding resentment within the department and making people suspicious of any future move he might make.
Murphy’s biggest mistake was in attempting to take the restructuring too slowly. Because he was doing it in stages, people were unsure as to when the next stage was to begin – therefore, people got nervous and started to resent him preemptively, thinking that they would lose their jobs. However, much of this was to curtail corruption, which was rampant at the time – over the course of his tenure, Murphy transferred a great deal of supervisors and plainclothes officers, demoting some as well. Internal Affairs was doubled in size in order to look for greater corruption, and departments were further segmented in order to break up the unofficial grafts and protection systems that were in place.
In terms of actually fighting crime, Murphy attempted to streamline deployment and strategy, assigning planning officers to each precinct. Furthermore, public perception was handled by creating greater inroads to the community and fostering communication between civilians and law enforcement. A “Cop on the Block” program was set up to make sure that citizens knew and were familiar with the policemen who were assigned to their block. Murphy was very much concerned with public relations and making sure that the public perception of police was as high as possible.
William Bratton’s leadership style was “more as a CEO than as a PC;” he wished to provide greater managerial oversight and organization to the police force (p. 89). He wasn’t so much concerned with solving cases as he was making sure the internal workings of the police force were as streamlined as possible. The connections between employees were key, and therefore he wished to make the whole process somewhat less formal. He reengineered the force to keep morale up and did so quickly, deciding not to use Murphy’s strategy of going slowly and leaving time for resentment and inefficiency to grow.
As a police commissioner, William Bratton was integral in working with Rudy Giuliani to reorganize the NYPD and reshuffle personnel and positions. One of his most radical changes was the 1995 integration of the housing and transit police into the police department of New York. This increased the numbers of total police, permitting a greater pool of personnel from which to draw.
Another innovation Bratton was partially responsible for was the implementation of the SATCOM system of police reform. Instead of individual departments which are compartmentalized, Bratton had every detective and drug investigator in Brooklyn North take their case through Chief Dunne, who was made effectively a commissioner of that neighborhood. With SATCOM, Bratton and crew learned as much as they could from their previous experiences and sought to create better police management; it was “an amalgam of past accomplishments and weaknesses, promises and pitfalls, reform impulses and bureaucratic caution, managerial vision and political infighting” (p. 149).
The CompStat accountability system was also brought in under Bratton’s administration; it was a comprehensive, real time intelligence system that allows police officers to map crimes and organize patterns that could be predicted in violent activity. Innovative software is used to perform this crime mapping, and allow anyone to access any possible crime case and discover connections, provide accountability to officers and personnel. It allows for an organized, streamlined way to assess the status of a neighborhood at a glance, making officer’s jobs easier. Bratton’s implementation of this program was an attempt to create a much more integrated police force.
Between the two commissioners, Murphy was the public relations master, the one who worked the hardest to keep things shaken up and keep everyone happy. However, he was too slow in doing it, which bred resentment among the officers under his command. With Bratton, there was a greater emphasis on management and integration, in lieu of Murphy’s segregation policies to curb corruption.
One of the biggest strategies that were implemented by both Bratton and Guiliani was the broken windows theory as a primary means of studying crime. They looked at troubled areas with plenty of graffiti and the like, and attempted to keep these areas safer by cleaning them up, removing the undesirable elements and adding more monitoring to them. According to the broken windows theory, an area that is not well-kept can breed criminal behavior, as a lack of monitoring and social signaling can lead to people believing they can get away with these crimes. A cleaner area, on the other hand, can help lead people to certain behaviors consistent with being in a nicer area, straying away from illegal activity. Bratton and Giuliani used this method to both improve the condition of the city and lead people to feel as though they did not need to be violent. It was a gentler and less aggressive way of attempting to curb crime (p. 80).
This was part of a larger campaign to curb even the conditions that could bring about crime – it was one thing to solve crimes after the fact, it was quite another to keep them from happening in the first place. Bratton and Giuliani saw the importance of preventive crime measures, and put just as much effort into them as they did busting perpetrators. By improving the quality of life in New York City, they could then focus on the real crimes that were taking place through reasons other than low-level social disorders.
This strategy and others were implemented through accountability and keeping the bureaucracy decentralized – as mentioned previously, Bratton wished to reengineer the police force into something resembling more of a corporate organization. Once he did that, he started implementing direct strategies to decrease violence in the streets of New York. His first strategy was targeted towards the use of guns in New York gang violence. There had been a dramatic increase in homicides which used firearms lately, and cases were rarely solved due to uncoordinated efforts on the part of the police. Police officers had not been trained to handle these issues adequately, and therefore would often not have as many gun arrests as there needed to be. Bratton urged precincts to aggressively follow gun traffickers and control the flow of firearms into the city (p. 92). This would help keep guns out of the hands of gangbangers and other unsavory elements, keeping the crime rate low and the casualty rate even lower.
Secondly, he opted to target the ongoing epidemic of youth violence. There was a concerted effort to check youth offender databases and use that to prevent further crimes perpetrated by teenagers. Truants were closely monitored by dedicated detective teams in order to keep them out of trouble, and get them back in school, where they could not cause trouble. This was meant to keep children from falling into criminal habits, and make sure to control the burgeoning youth gang issue.
One thing Bratton did was make sure that all departments would be following up on these strategies, not just compartmentalizing the work. This way, everyone was focused on these tasks, and they could get done more efficiently. Weekly meetings were set up at police headquarters in order to go over strategy and determine trouble spots that required extra attention. Officers could also provide suggestions and complain about issues that needed to be addressed. Bratton also allowed street cops to play a more active role in crimefighting instead of running menial duty all the time. Intelligence on police activity was acquired through the use of focus groups – they allowed the brass to learn what the regular cop needed in order to do their job better (e.g. getting greater numbers of mobile digital terminals). By giving the cops the tools they required, they could be more efficient officers.
The aforementioned CompStat process was also implemented to help streamline crimefighting efforts. This system used software and statistics to gather information on trouble spots in a neighborhood, as well as keep a comprehensive database of everything that needed to be known about any criminal in the city. With the help of this system and mobile terminals, strategy could be better organized, and information could be disseminated to relevant officers on the spot.
In order to add to the pool of plainclothes officers on the street, public morals enforcement could then be performed by precinct personnel as well – most officers in the NYPD were given expanded responsibilities and duties in order to cover more ground at a time. While this was a direct contrast to Murphy’s notion of decentralizing to curb corruption, it allowed for more to be done by a greater number of officers (p. 152).
Operation Juggernaut was then put in place; this was a large boost of narcotics officers in the Brooklyn North area and others whose aim was to disrupt the drug trafficking trade in New York completely. 3,500 narcotics officers were put in place to launch campaigns in all boroughs through a three-year period, sweeping through them to wipe out any trace of drug trafficking. It did not last long, however, due to Giuliani’s waning support for it after a Daily News headline that credited Bratton solely (p. 154). Some time later, the SATCOM operation turned into “the greatest narcotics operation in the history of the country,” due to its overall goal of destroying Brooklyn North’s drug trafficking and selling industry (p. 150). However, it would be run under Bratton’s successor, Bratton only starting to implement that plan.
The Knapp Commission was created in 1970 in order to investigate rampant corruption within the police force. This committee came about as a request from the public to curtail police corruption and graft, which had gained a lot of publicity at the time. A combination of public hearings, testimonials and investigation was used to determine the extent of the corruption charges, as well as what could potentially be done to address these pressing and troublesome issues.
The Knapp Commission indicated that there were “two primary categories of corrupt officers, ‘meat eaters’ and ‘grass eaters’” (p. 32). In the case of meat eaters, police officers would abuse their own authority to get money and perks that their position offered them if they applied enough muscle. Grass eaters, on the other hand, were less aggressive but more numerous. They even likely excused their own behavior due to the relative harmlessness of it when compared to the beatings that the meat eaters administered regularly to those who would not give in. This widespread corruption led to something called the “blue wall of silence,” wherein police officers would not rat on each other or else face severe consequences. Due to the sheer number of people who were grass eaters or meat eaters, corruption was considered “respectable” and people who spoke up were considered to be traitorous to the cause (p. 32).
The recommendations of the Knapp Commission included major overhauls in the organization of the department, which Murphy was more than happy to implement. Accountability was the primary goal of the commission’s recommendations; people had to be answerable to what they did, and whatever abuses of power they may implement as a result of their malfeasance. The commission also stated that an independent body was needed to bring corruption cases through the criminal justice system in a fair way. This body would be an isolated organization with no corruption ties, and would possess the authority to prosecute these corruption cases (p. 38). The NYPD Internal Affairs Division was borne out of the need to investigate internal police corruption, creating a department that remained outside the circle of influence, and would independently investigate police departments in order to curtail unsavory behavior on the part of police officers.
The Mollen Commission was started in 1992 in order to look at New York City police department corruption, attempting to determine exactly what needed to be done. Working from the discoveries of the Knapp Commission, it attempted to see how twenty years of change and reform affected the conduct of police officers in the NYPD. The recommendations and changes brought about by the Knapp Commission did not provide the adequate amount of change needed to curtail corruption in the NYPD; therefore, further investigation was needed.
In the end, it was stated that most police corruption of the time, unlike the previous commission’s findings of graft and protection, was “characterized by brutality, theft, abuse of authority and active police criminality” (p. 52). Instead of the occasional graft and payoff or abuse of privileges, police officers were going beyond the pale and applying violence on a widespread scale to get information, avoid paperwork, and exercise personal power. Corruption at this time was thought to be a significantly more serious phenomenon, as it extended beyond graft to simple police beatings and institutional racism. It was clear that something dramatic had to be done, or else public support for the police department would wane entirely.
Civil rights abuses were found to be rampant among police officers, and there were almost always racial components to abuses perpetrated against citizens; their power was used for their own purposes, or to take out frustration in communication barriers experienced between the police and many minority suspects. While the crime rate in New York had dropped, this was also tempered by rampant aggressiveness and brutality against perpetrators who were committing even minor offenses. It was about a demonstration of power by an increasingly impotent and unnecessary police force, and the code of silence continued throughout this era of corruption as well. Abuses were covered up and informants were intimidated into remaining quiet, as the commission revealed. The requests for greater presence in citizen’s lives also likely brought about an uncomfortable level of exposure to the people police officers were protecting, exacerbating racial tensions that could have remained latent, and added to their frustration at doing public relations work instead of going out and catching criminals.
The commission placed an emphasis on greater training and stricter criteria for recruitment and selection of officers, in order to stop bringing in individuals who engaged in this sort of questionable behavior. There were also recommendations for including bilingual support for all departments, thus minimizing the language barrier, and taking out the 48 hour delay granted to officers who were being investigated. However, the committee ended up recommending that an independent commission was required to have an entirely unbiased appraisal of the issue, making them unnecessary.
In conclusion, these two major committees built upon the investigations of corruption in the past to determine that corruption had only gotten worse. Whereas in the past the corruption and abuses were mostly for personal gain, and financially motivated, the Mollen Commission uncovered a systematic problem with police frustration and departmental discrimination against minorities and suspects of color. Their recommendation was to start an independent commission, which was accomplished in 1995 with the creation of the CCPC.
Silverman, Eli B.. NYPD battles crime: innovative strategies in policing. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999. Print.