The Transformation of Policing
This chapter explores how the inability of the New York Police Department (NYPD) to adequately address the disorder problems of the 1980s and 1990s gave rise to efforts by business and community groups to pressure them to adopt quality-of-life-oriented policing methods. During this period, the NYPD pursued a law enforcement model of policing, which emphasizes a quick response to 911 calls, gives priority to fighting major crimes, and relies heavily on centrally controlled and specialized units. In addition, it considers disorder and, to some degree, crime to be symptoms of larger social problems outside its control. This approach turned out to have many of the same contradictions as the city’s homelessness policies, in that it paid little attention to community concerns, relied on centralized expertise, was underfunded, and tolerated disorder despite its deleterious effects on the city’s neighborhoods and public spaces.
This new quality-of-life approach to policing did not just represent an increase in the number of police or a greater aggressiveness in existing methods; instead, it consisted of new police practices and new ideas about the best way for cities to deal with homeless and disorderly people. Because these people’s activities are either legal or only marginally criminal, this new approach had to return police to their nineteenthcentury roots of order maintenance rather than its twentieth-century orientation toward the legal system. While developing these new policing practices and philosophies, they thus laid a large part of the foundation for the new quality-of-life paradigm.
Many policing scholars have noted that changes in the style of policing are uncommon and difficult to achieve.1 The conventional wisdom is that the rise of quality-of-life policing in New York City was a direct result of the election of Rudolph Giuliani and that his election was motivated in large part by the rise in serious crime. This chapter argues, however, that neither of these is an accurate assessment of what