What reforming the NYPD can teach you about self-improvement

Part of the New Guinea Commerce Winners Don’t Cheat Series.

By Sean Jacobs

A story I’ve always been fascinated about is New York City’s crime turnaround. In the early 1990s the city had over 2000 murders a year. In 1997, it dropped to less than 800. Other crimes throughout this period, from public vagrancy to assaults, descended to record lows. New York, from its globally notorious reputation as a violent and dangerous place, emerged to become the ‘safest city in America.’

Central to this success were the reforms undertaken by Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his first New York Police Department (NYPD) commissioner William J Bratton. Bratton, dubbed ‘Robocop’ for his no-nonsense policing tactics, advocated cleaning up the city’s public places, putting more officers onto the streets, swiftly prosecuting offenders, enhancing community expectations and actually enforcing the law over extending even greater leniency to offenders.

‘No police department in the country has come close to achieving what the NYPD has,’ reflects the policy analyst Heather Mac Donald. ‘Today, 10,000 minority males are alive who would have been killed by now had New York’s homicide rate remained at its early-1990s levels.’ This is clearly an astonishing achievement.

But there are lessons here not just for crime fighting. To complete its turnaround, for example, the police had to apply discipline, be realistic about what they could and couldn’t do, undertake constant self-assessment and pay attention to the small things. Applying the same strategies in your personal or professional life will also take you far.

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