Browse Exhibits (6 total)

James Q. Wilson's Rise to Fame

HARWOOD - 1975 - Debunking the Mythology of Crime.pdf

“Debunking the Mythology of Crime”, the Wall Street Journal’s feature article on Wilson published in 1975, highlighted the intellectual and political appeal of Wilson’s thoughts on the great crime debate of the 1970s. This snapshot of public reaction toward Wilson’s arguments illuminated how and why Wilson rose to prominence as the intellectual powerhouse behind “tough on crime” policies enacted under the Nixon and Reagan Administrations. The author, Edwin Harwood, explained how Wilson’s perspective on the problems of crime differed from traditional liberal and conservative camps. Specifically, Harwood described how Wilson’s “contribution to the series of seasoned and scholarly challenges to the liberal perspective…offers refreshing insights into the crime problem that go beyond the stereotyped either-or policy choices of liberals and conservatives.”[1]

[1] Harwood, Edwin. “Debunking the Mythology of Crime (1975).” Wall Street Journal  (1923 -Current File). July 7, 1975.

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James Q. Wilson: "Crime and Criminologists" (1974)

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One of the most prolific writers on crime and criminal behavior in the twentieth century—James Q. Wilson—rose to national prominence in the 1970s by making controversial proclamations against the liberal tradition of “curing root causes of crime.” Wilson famously debunked commonly held assumptions about lower class, crime-prone youth by presenting pointed critiques of criminological theorists of the 1960s. Ultimately, Wilson’s intellectual and political popularity demonstrated the receptiveness and deference that national policymakers and American citizens had toward public intellectual thought in the 1970s. Furthermore, Wilson’s ideas shed light on a host of public policy related challenges (in regards to criminal justice reform) that profoundly transformed traditional academic attitudes toward crime, urban violence, and policing throughout the decade.

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The Back Door Criminologist: Wilson Meets Kelling

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In the aftermath of the urban rebellions of the late sixties, Ivy League experts on urban crime garnered strong political traction with policymakers and police practitioners. As hundreds of US cities burned in the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, President Johnson’s team of domestic security advisors poured over crime commission reports in search of viable police reform options. After signing the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, Johnson’s War on Crime laid the groundwork for a strategy that criminologists referred to as order maintenance policing. The Act funneled federal funds toward local, state, and national law enforcement institutions dedicated to strengthening police efficacy and advancing “the development of new methods for the prevention and reduction of crime and the detection and apprehension of criminals.”[1]

The federal government’s call for more robust “research and development” efforts provided criminal justice scholars with the intellectual firepower needed to jumpstart the order maintenance movement’s transformative impact on urban America. The urgency to quell widespread fear of crime motivated federal agencies established under the Safe Streets Act, namely the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), to amp up its funding capacities and invest resources into public and private programs dedicated to tackling the crime crisis.[2] Instrumental organizations like the International Association of Police Chiefs and the Ford Foundation doubled down on their fundraising initiatives and bolstered opportunities for academics to conduct field research on policing in crime-ridden spaces across the US. The Ford Foundation played an especially significant role in furthering criminological studies with the founding of the national Police Foundation in Washington, D.C. in 1970. This newly instituted research powerhouse focused exclusively on the nonpartisan advancement of law enforcement practices through the enhanced empirical study of policing as a science.[3] The Police Foundation alone raised 30 million dollars to advance policing research throughout the decade.[4] The heightened national attention on law enforcement and criminal behavior generated unprecedented access to public and private funding sources for criminological theorists. As a result, prominent academics felt empowered to introduce innovative police research that challenged existing theories of criminality, law enforcement, and maintaining social order.[5]

James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling were among these newly empowered scholars who gained significant political attention for their ideas and recommendations regarding crime control. The political hysteria surrounding the War on Crime propelled the work of these notable scholars into the national limelight. As public paranoia intensified, Wilson, Kelling, and collaborators advocated for more police patrol tactics aimed at eliminating social disorder in urban communities. Backed by the salient “law and order” rhetoric of national political figures like Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan, Wilson and Kelling popularized theories of order maintenance policing and criminal deterrence for over three decades. Wilson and Kelling’s contributions underscored the political philosophy of “law and order”—a salient idea encapsulated by Barry Goldwater’s infamous “tough on crime” campaign and adamant endorsement of aggressive policing and increased incarceration. As politicians latched onto the political promise of “law and order,” Wilson and Kelling’s ideas fueled the intellectual development of order maintenance policing practices designed to combat America’s urban crime problem.


[1] "Omnibus Crime Control And Safe Streets Act Of 1968 42 U.S.C. § 3789d." Omnibus Crime Control And Safe Streets Act Of 1968 42 U.S.C. § 3789d | CRT | Department of Justice. Accessed February 10, 2017. https://www.justice.gov/crt/omnibus-crime-control-and-safe-streets-act-1968-42-usc-3789d.

[2] Hinton, Elizabeth Kai. From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016, pg. 86

[3] "History of the Police Foundation." Police Foundation. Accessed October 26, 2016. https://www.policefoundation.org/about/history/.

[4] Kelling, George L. Recollections of James Q. Wilson and Broken Windows. MS. 2012. Accessed December 5, 2016. http://contemporarythinkers.org/jq-wilson/files/2013/05/Kelling-on-Wilson.pdf.

[5] The Police Foundation established a key platform for “police science” to flourish in the 1970s and 80s. A full review of Police Foundation history in the 1970s can be found using the following citation. "The Early Years." Police Foundation. Accessed November 17, 2016. https://www.policefoundation.org/about/history/the-early-years/. 

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The "Broken Windows" Debut

Broken Windows: The police and neighborhood safety (March 1982)

“The broken windows idea does two things, one indisputably good and the other probably effective: It encourages the police to take public order seriously, something that the overwhelming majority of people ardently desire, and it raises the possibility that more order will mean less crime. The first goal requires no evidence. The second does, and so far most studies suggest that more public order (along with other factors) is associated with less predatory street crime. With all this in mind, we believe that it remains a strategy worth pursuing”[1]

 Wilson and Kelling sent shockwaves through the policing world with their publication of “Broken Windows: the police and neighborhood safety” in the March 1982 issue of The Atlantic. Prior to this publication, both men had encountered each other’s work as professional affiliates of the Police Foundation and Harvard University. However, Wilson and Kelling had yet established a formal collaborative relationship. In his recollections of Wilson and the making of broken windows theory, Kelling recounted how Wilson first made contact with him about the possibility of co-authoring a piece on order maintenance and crime control after reading Kelling’s Newark Foot Patrol research report. Kelling remembered feeling surprised and honored by his request to collaborate. After Wilson insisted on Kelling’s help with drafting the paper, the two men fashioned together a Zimbardo study inspired concept of broken windows from a metaphor that James Wilson initially suggested. Kelling commented, “the broken windows metaphor was Jim’s idea…when finished, the metaphor of broken windows went like this: just as a broken window left untended is a sign that no one cares and lead to fear of crime, serious predatory crime, and urban decay – in sum, minor offenses matter.”[2]


[1]
 George L. Kelling & James Q. Wilson. "A Quarter Century of Broken Windows." The American Interest A Quarter Century of Broken Windows Comments. Sept. & oct. 2006. Accessed March 23, 2017. http://www.the-american-interest.com/2006/09/01/a-quarter-century-of-broken-windows/.

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

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James Q. Wilson: "Crime in the Streets" and "The Urban Unease" in the 1960s

In his National Affairs article published in 1966, “Crime in the Streets,” Wilson directly addressed accusations regarding racism and policing. When discussing the arrests rates and hysteria over the “urban crime wave,” Wilson asserted, “Some well-intentioned people believe that crime figures are inflated by the propensity of the police to arrest Negros for every little infraction…If the police didn’t discriminate against the Negro in this way, the argument goes, the crime figures would be lower and, in addition, the Negro would lose his undeserved reputation for having higher a crime rate than whites.”[1] Wilson went on to claim, “Nobody who has spent much time with the police in Negro sections of our big cities could accept this argument…Residents of lower-class Negro neighborhoods tolerate more disorder, are less trusting of police, and are less willing to inform on their neighbors than are residents of higher-status neighborhoods.”[2]

Essentially, Wilson understood that policing activities disproportionately affected African Americans. However, he dismissed the possibility that police discrimination alone caused disparate amounts of contact between law enforcement and people of color in cities when compared to whites living in the suburbs. Instead, Wilson emphasized how rates of “Negro crime” and rampant trends of “disorderly conduct” in minority neighborhoods, in his mind, justified increased police surveillance in urban areas. Furthermore, he accused lawmakers and intellectuals of promoting this flawed logic in order to shackle the police, encourage urban violence, and “mollycoddle” street criminals.[3]

While Wilson often expressed disproval of arguments about racial biases within law enforcement often espoused by Black Power activists, Wilson acknowledged the virtue of the Black Power Movement in his article, “The Urban Unease,” published in 1969. He emphasized how “the long-term implications [of Black Power] seem to be a growing pride in self and in the community, and these are prerequisites for the creation and maintenance of communal order.”[1] Wilson stressed that racial friction stemmed from prolonged injustices inflicted against blacks by whites since slavery. However, Wilson contended that “the fundamental urban problems, though partly economic and political, are at root questions of values…and for some time to come the situation will remain desperately precarious.”[2] Meaning, Wilson believed that the imbalance of power between blacks and whites resulted in violent retaliation and rioting by “black radicals” attempting to assert their “self respect” within American society.[3] These festering tensions precipitated the urban unease that Wilson identified as a major contributing factor to growing fears of crime in metropolitan areas.

[1] James Q. Wilson, "The Urban Unease," The Public Interest, Number 5, Fall 1969.

[2] James Q. Wilson, "The Urban Unease: Community vs. City," The Public Interest, Number 12, Summer 1968.

[3] Ibid.

[1] James Q. Wilson, "Crime in the Streets," The Public Interest, Number 5, Fall 1966.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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Wilson and Kelling: Team Policing Experiment (1973)

In 1977, Police Foundation researchers worked in tandem with the Urban Institute to publish one of the largest and most comprehensive experimental examinations of local policing ever conducted. The report, titled The Cincinnati Team Policing Experiment, outlined new and innovative policing techniques that experts called “team policing.” Team policing developed in response to two mounting complaints: (1) growing concerns over police effectiveness in reducing crime rates and (2) worsening tensions between police officers and community members concerned about police fairness and equity. The concept of team policing attempted to decentralize the law enforcement regime in order to make everyday officers more accessible and accountable to local community members. Experts defined team policing as a law enforcement model that “embraced traditional police goals—preventing and controlling crime, keeping the peace, and helping people. It endorsed individual officers’ initiative and discretion…Moreover, while acknowledging community needs, it left final decision in the hands of the police.”[1]

Policing researchers argued that team policing techniques encourage officers to function as neighborhood “generalists” or public servants capable of addressing a variety of community concerns with the utmost care and sensitivity.[2] Furthermore, proponents of team policing stressed how adjustments to police services, patrolling assignments, and police-community relations aligned with vision of the 1967 President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice and the 1973 National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. Given the salience of crime control tactics and police-community relation efforts, Police Foundation surveyors reported that “by 1974, at least 60 police departments in the United States, in communities ranging in size from Burnsville, Minnesota (population 20,000), to New York City, had tried team policing in at least part of their jurisdiction.”[3]

The Cincinnati Police Division (CPD) under the leadership of Chief Carl Goodin took up the mantle of team policing experimentation with the establishment of the Community Sector Team Policing (COMSEC) in March 1971. COMSEC organized the CPD into six distinct sectors. Each of the officers assigned to a particular sector underwent extensive training and consultation sessions with the Program Management Bureau, the central unit responsible for monitoring the research and development process of the team policing division. From predominately black residential areas to the central business district, the Cincinnati Police spent servicing their assigned neighborhoods and providing a “unified delivery of all police services” to local citizens in need. After the thirty-month long experiment came to an end, researchers concluded that team policing tactics marginally lowered burglary rates, increased citizen reporting, and reduced residents’ fear of walking their neighborhoods at night.[4]  

In the height of the team policing phenomenon in 1973, James Q. Wilson published a foreword in the Police Foundation report titled Team Policing: Seven Case Studies. This report featured team policing research findings in law enforcement departments across the United States, including New York City, Los Angles, Richmond, and Detroit. Wilson described the shift in urban policing strategy as a consequence of reigning administrative dilemmas shaping police departments nationwide. Wilson explained that police administrators felt compelled to focus on assuaging “community fear and distrust of the police” and simultaneously manage citizen demands for “a massive police presence that will reduce crime.”[5] Essentially, police practitioners desired to merge the service-oriented and enforcement-oriented facets of police work in order to effectively address local crime concerns and improve community relations. As the Vice Chairman of the Police Foundation, Wilson underscored the historical evolution of police patrol styles in response to changing societal needs:

            “At one time our cities were policed by watchmen who not only walked a beat, but who managed it and the people on it with a minimum of supervision and relatively few arrests…In reaction to this, advocates of centralized control, close supervision, and maximum enforcement arose, whose textbooks and personal example created a new era of policing that was called ‘professionalism.’ Now some of the doctrines of that school are being questioned by those who believe that professionalism separated the police from the community and over-emphasized writing tickets and making arrests.”[6] 

As the police profession adapted and professionalized, emerging social dilemmas forced law enforcement officials to consider improved solutions for providing police services and enforcement power to a diverse range of communities. Given the national political climate surrounding crime, race relations, and the urban crisis, the seventies marked the beginning of robust research efforts in the policing field designed to investigate a complex set of law enforcement needs and goals. Consequently, experimentation provided insight into the ways in which style, strategy, and supervision shaped the efficacy and legitimacy of police work in crime-ridden areas. As these research publications surfaced, the national discourse on “fear of crime” and police innovation brought social scientists in conversation with policy experts searching for the next groundbreaking solution to the police reform debate.   


[1] Schwartz, A. I., Et. Al. "Cincinnati Team Policing Experiment." The Cincinnati Team Policing Experiment: A summary Report. Accessed March 20, 2017. https://www.scribd.com/doc/200138379/Schwartz-A-I-Et-Al-The-Cincinnati-Team-Policing-Experiment-A-summary-Report

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Schwartz, A. I., Et. Al. "Cincinnati Team Policing Experiment." The Cincinnati Team Policing Experiment: A summary Report. Accessed March 20, 2017. https://www.scribd.com/doc/200138379/Schwartz-A-I-Et-Al-The-Cincinnati-Team-Policing-Experiment-A-summary-Report

[5] "Team Policing: Seven Case Studies." Police Foundation. August 1973. Accessed March 20, 2017. https://www.policefoundation.org/publication/team-policing-seven-case-studies/.

[6] Ibid.

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