A City And Its Police



Our recommendation for this weekend is Bill Bratton’s book, Turaround, How America’s Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic The book was written by former NYPD Police Commissioner Bratton, with Peter Knobler in 1998.  It is a great look into the inner working of a police department and a city fighting to right itself.

The Turnaround: How America's Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic: Bratton,  William, Knobler, Peter: 9780679452515: Amazon.com: Books

By the time the book was written, Bratton was no longer Police Commissioner.  His legacy, however, was still moving forward as his transformation of the NYPD continued to drive crime down.   The book is written with the self-assurance of an individual with proven success in both police policy and leadership.

The book relates Bratton’s formative moments in his police career and the reasoning behind his theories.  He examines the difficulties and problems that the NYPD faced in the early 1990’s and  details the solutions that worked.  It especially explores the police corruption problems in the wake of the Mollen Commission and the “Dirty Thirty” scandal, and the lack of accountability that was damaging the department.  Bratton uses innovative solutions and shared responsibility to face these problems head-on. One thing Bill Bratton was not was a micro-manager.

The book also explores the inner workings of a complicated city.  The now-famous difficulties he had with the Giuliani Administration are discussed in detail.  City politics and racial quandaries are explained and (at least temporarily) resolved. Bratton explains how he navigated one obstacle after another (until his impasse with Giuliani led to the end of his first stint as PC).

This book is no bore-fest on police administration, and Bratton regales the reader with numerous war stories while making his points.  He begins with an infamous incident, a Mosque standoff in Harlem, on the eve of his official swearing.   Cops had been lured into the Mosque under false pretenses (just like they had in 1972 when Patrolman Phil Cardillo was murdered).  The cops had been assaulted and their radios and guns removed.  (Note: One of the detectives I worked with was one of these cops and was still angry about it more than a decade later).

Bratton recounts this story masterfully.  He uses it to teach the politics of race at work in the city, the leadership style he espoused, and the problem-solving methods he encouraged.  It is done in a way that fully captures the reader while making his point — a literary device he uses throughout the book. 

This is certainly a great read for cops and police buffs, and it’s a must-have for police supervisors. But the book transcends that audience and should be a must-read for a leader or innovator in any industry.  There are real lessons here.

Bratton has written several quality books on his experience and theories, but this is his best.  A quick, concise, and fascinating read. You will take away far more than you put into it. 

It’s available in most libraries and on Amazon for about $10. 

Christopher Flanagan


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