Browse Exhibits (2 total)

Remembering Eric Garner

eric garner.jpg

On July 17th, 2014, New York City police officers buried Eric Garner’s muffled cries into the concrete city streets of Staten Island. Their arms, legs, and hands gripped his body with unrestrained force. Garner pleaded, “I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe” as officers confined him face-down and cut off his air supply with a chokehold. Bystanders to Garner’s fateful encounter captured the NYPD officers on video. His death ignited a firestorm of protest as footage of his strangled body circulated worldwide. In response, news pundits sparked heated televised debates and commentary from criminological scholars dominated the airwaves.[1] Black Lives Matter activists took to the streets and demanded reparations for Garner and his family. [2] Blue Lives Matter spokespersons counteracted verbal attacks against New York police, calling the Department of Justice charges against the accused officer Daniel Pantaleo “politically motivated.”[3] Likewise, the New York Police Union, formerly known as the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, rallied to Pantaleo’s defense, stating, “There was a loss of life that both a family and a police officer will always have to live with…No police officer starts a shift intending to take another human being's life and we are all saddened by this tragedy.”[4] However, protests mounted after the grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo. After New York City officials rejected culpability for Garner’s death, discord between minority residents of Staten Island and New York City Police worsened.

Eric Garner Video (Unedited)

[1] "A Search for Justice in the Eric Garner Case." The New York Times. December 03, 2014. Accessed September 12, 2016.

[2] Black Lives Matter was in part founded in direct opposition to prominent policing strategies like Broken Windows. To learn more about Black Lives Matter opposition to 21st century policing tactics visit their website. "About | Black Lives Matter." Black Lives Matter. Accessed September 13, 2016.

[3] Habanero, Chief. "BREAKING: DOJ To Charge Officer For The Death Of Eric Garner." Blue Lives Matter. November 02, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2017.

[4] Andrew Siff, Jonathan Dienst and Jennifer Millman. "No Indictment of NYPD Cop in Garner Chokehold Death." NBC New York. December 3, 2014. Accessed March 13, 2017.

[5] Taibbi, Matt. "The Police in America Are Becoming Illegitimate." Rolling Stone. December 5, 2014. Accessed September 13, 2016.

[6] Throughout this paper, broken windows policing and broken windows theory will be used interchangeable. Broken windows theory refers to James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling’s criminological ideas, while broken windows policing describes the application of Wilson and Kelling’s ideas into practiced forms of law enforcement. 

[7] Kelling, George L., and Catherine M. Coles. Fixing broken windows: restoring order and reducing crime in our communities. New York: Martin Kessler Books, 1996.

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NYPD: Broken Windows Revolution


Like Wilson, George Kelling’s popularity skyrocketed as police officials continuously approached him with questions and discussions about the “Broken Windows” cover story. In the mid-1980s, the Chairman of the New York State Transportation Authority, Robert Kiley, approached Kelling and requested that he assist the New York law enforcement “dealt with ‘homelessness’ in New York City’s subway system.”[1] The New York Transit Authority official hired Kelling as a consultant in 1985. From 1985 to the 1990s, George Kelling’s involvement with the New York police authorizes marked the beginning of the broken windows policing revolution. As the transit authority’s consultant, Kelling guided local law enforcement to police signs of social disorder and eliminate the presence of disorderly persons within the subway system, including the homeless. With this strategy underway, the New York subway system became the premier testing grounds for broken windows policing—one of the first implemented police reform initiatives to inspire larger reforms within New York City and other major centers across the country.

The New York City Police Department best exemplified the impact of broken windows theory on the function and performance of modern urban policing. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton, informally known as Bill, referred to James Wilson as “my intellectual mentor.”[2] Wilson’s broken windows teachings inspired Bratton and sparked his long-standing commitment to using police authorities as a mechanism for eliminating disorderly conduct and regulating anti-social behavior. Likewise, Bratton and Kelling maintained close professional ties. After Bratton became head of the transit police in 1990 and the New York City Police Chief in 1994, he and Kelling collaborated on a concept Bratton referred to as “quality-of-life policing”—a term that revolutionized the NYPD under Bratton’s leadership throughout the nineties.[3]

[1] Kelling, George L. Recollections of James Q. Wilson and Broken Windows. TS.

[2] James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. "Broken Windows." The Atlantic. May 11, 2010. Accessed March 23, 2017.

[3] In addition to serving as the NYC Police Commissioner, Bratton also served as a top police administrator in the Boston PD and Los Angeles PD. Throughout his tenure in all three cities, Bratton consulted with both Wilson and Kelling on implementing broken windows policing tactics within each municipality.

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