Video Transcript

00:10 William Bratton: We talk about New York City, the New York City Police Department experience, something that I'm most widely known for. Now, I wanna talk to you about New York City itself. I first went to New York in 1990 as the Chief of the Transit police, 4,000 cops working in the subways bus system of that city. At that time, they were separate from the NYPD. New York City in the early 1990s was a horrific place. One of the most dangerous cities in America, if not the world, 700,000 reported, reported crime victims. In the policing, we often times belief as much as half of all crime is never reported; 2,200 murders, 6,000 people shot in the streets of New York, 100,000 cars stolen. Tens of thousands of rapes, over a 100,000 burglaries. One out of every 10 New Yorkers had been the victim, or reported victim of a serious crime in 1990.

01:12 Bratton: 1990, by coincidence also happened to be the worst crime year in the history of our country. Boston, 135 murders, Los Angeles, over 1,100. After the significant growth in crime in the '60s, '70s and '80s, 1990 was a watershed year. Many had began to lose hope that anything could be done about crime. Mario Cuomo, then Governor of New York State when asked about the continuing spiral, upward spiral of crime in his state, when asked what could be done about it, Mario, who is usually very optimistic has always exuded confidence, but maybe one of the few times in his professional career let his guard down and made a comment to the effect, "Well, maybe this is as good as it gets," 2,200 murders, 700,000 victims of crime.

02:07 Bratton: What was also happening in New York apart from that serious crime was a tremendous deterioration in the quality of life in that city. In the subway system, where I was Chief of Police, 250,000 people everyday going into the system not paying their fare, the $1.15 fare. And that problem was growing because you'd pay your fare, see the person next to you was not, next day you decide you were not gonna pay your fare either, $80 million loss to the system every year. Five thousand homeless people living in the subway, and cardboard boxes on the platform in the subway cars in the tunnels. Every year, over a hundred people die in the subways of New York, not by murder, about 20 victims of murder at that time, but by electrocution, by freezing to death, by falling in front of trains.

03:00 Bratton: They are homeless population made up largely of drug addicts, of mostly disturbed individuals, alcoholics, subways certainly was not a place for sleeping but the city was, like so many other quality of life offenses, allowing a toleration of that. System was incredible disrepair, track fires everyday, disruptions in service. Graffiti covering everything with the exception, interestingly enough in 1990, of the 6,000 subway cars. They had made an effort in the late 1980s recognizing that that so-called signo [03:36] ____ crime, the graffiti-covered car inside and out, was giving a sense that there was no safety in the subway system at all. So they began an effort to clean those cars. They painted one whole train, 10 cars white, ran it though the system, by the time it got from one end of the system to the other, it was covered with graffiti. They took it out of service, painted it again, and over time began to defeat the graffiti vandals.

04:02 Bratton: So that by 1990, the subway cars were clean, but the rest of the system was still a mess. In the streets of New York, it was as bad. Fifth Avenue looked like a third-world casbah, abandoned cars everywhere in the city, deterioration, decline in the quality of life, aggressive begging. So in addition to the serious crime, they were the signs of crime that eight million New Yorkers everyday saw, in their neighborhoods, in their subways, and on their way to work whether they rode in a car, took the subway or walked. And those who took the cars coming in from New Jersey and Connecticut and elsewhere to work in Manhattan, everyday, they had to run through the gauntlet or the squeegee pest.

04:44 Bratton: The squeegee pest was seemed to be everywhere in New York at that time. You couldn't get to the Island over the bridges or though the tunnels without meeting these scruffy characters who would try to wash your window, demand payment for it, yell at you, vandalize your car, intimidate you. Everyday, a half million New Yorkers and people visiting New York would go through that experience. The squeegee pest had become so prevalent by 1990, the early 1990s, it had become the symbol of the urban decay, the symbol of welcome to New York, a city that was falling apart.

05:21 Bratton: I used to joke that the Statue of Liberty, the well-known welcome to America for millions of immigrants and tourists and visitors in the harbor of New York, in the early 1990s, it would have been appropriate to take the torch out of her hand and give her an squeegee 'cause that was the basically effective welcoming sign. And what were the cops doing, 38,000 New York City police officers. They were focusing on the serious crime alone. They were not focusing on the quality of life crime. And the leadership of the city, the leadership of the state, the leadership of the country in the '70s, '80s, and early 90s was not focused appropriately.

06:06 Bratton: And they were losing, crime was going up, public confidence was diminishing, police morale was declining. In the business world, if you are not focused appropriately, your profits are not going to increase. Your employee morale is not going to be where it should be. If you have the wrong vision, if you have the wrong goals, if you have the wrong strategies, if you have the wrong tactics, you are not going to succeed. And the American government and American policing in the 1990s was failing. What changed was leadership, vision, collaboration. Leadership, political, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani elected as Mayor. What was his vision? First and foremost, to make the city safe, to attract businesses, to attract jobs, to attract tourists, to create revenue to deal with the many problems of the city, but first and foremost, that's the same as you have to do as I have to do at Kroll, you have to prioritize, you have to identify where can you get maximum return on your investment. And in New York, that maximum return was going to be on public safety.

07:21 Bratton: But what Giuliani recognized was the investment that had been made in the early 1990s by his predecessors, recognizing that crime, something had to be done about it. They hired 6,000 more cops, but they were not using those cops appropriately. It is much the same as you investing in a new product line or in a new advertising scheme or a new personnel. If you did not invest it appropriately, you would not get the results you were looking for. New York did not invest appropriately, the cops that they were hiring. They were using them in a way in which they were not addressing the so called "quality-of-life signs of crime." They were also not addressing effectively serious crime.

08:06 Bratton: So, they were failing on both fronts. Serious crime was continuing to go up, quality of life was continuing to just deteriorate despite a larger department. Why? Leadership. Leadership did not have optimism that something could be done, it did not have vision, it did not have inclusion in terms of taking a lot of very smart people, a lot of very frustrated people within the organization, and providing vehicles for them to share their ideas, to share their passion, to share their belief that something could be done, but as importantly something must be done. The pride they had in their profession was tarnished, was diminishing because of the failure to succeed.

Published on: Aug 11, 2012