William Bratton and the Nypd

Decent Essays
yale case 07-015 rev. february 12, 2008

William Bratton and the NYPD
Crime Control through Middle Management Reform
Andrea R. Nagy1 Joel Podolny2

William Bratton, commissioner of the New York Police Department from 1994 to 1996, presided over a dramatic decline in the city’s crime rate. Hired by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as part of a new crime fighting initiative, Bratton embraced the “broken windows” theory that had made him so successful as chief of the city’s transit police. According to this theory, when a community ignores small offenses such as a broken window on a parked car, larger offenses such as burglary, robbery, and assault inevitably follow. Conversely, serious crime can be prevented if a community polices the little
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First, between 1890 and 1930, the management of the police force was centralized. Virtually every decision had to go to the top for approval, with the goal of limiting the low-level officer’s exposure to temptation. To reinforce the hierarchy, specialized units were created to deal with such problems as drugs, youth, guns, and gangs. As Bratton described it, [The department] was divided into little fiefdoms, and some bureau chiefs didn’t even talk to each other…. Each bureau was like a silo: Information entered at the bottom and had to be delivered up the chain of command from one level to another until it reached the chief’s office.

But centralization did not solve the problem of corruption, and it added the problem of inefficiency, because the bureaucracy was not capable of responding to the individual needs of different neighborhoods. “The reflexive solution to every police problem was more centralization and stronger controls,” according to criminologist George Kelling. But as the years went on, centralization became an end in itself, and even chiefs who wanted to make changes could not, for fear that they would be labeled soft on corruption.

Then, between 1930 and 1970, a second reform movement applied a scientific management model to the NYPD. The goal was to reduce policing to standard rules and routines. In essence, patrol officers became factory workers who performed simple,
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