One of the greatest achievements in urban-American history was what is now known as The Great Crime Decline of the 1990s. Over that decade, New York City went from 2,262 murders annually to just 673. Nationally, the U.S. went from almost 25,000 murders a year to fewer than 16,000. The lessons learned by urban police departments over those years helped extend that crime decline well into the 21st century.
Unfortunately, however, the country has shown signs that the public safety gains made throughout the 1990s are eroding. Last year, homicides broke 20,000 for the first time since 1995, as New York and other big cities across the country experienced a sharp uptick in serious violent crime and public disorder. That increase has been punctuated by civil unrest and growing racial tensions, as movements like Black Lives Matter combat the very institution of policing as hostile to minority communities—the very same ones bearing the brunt of the current crime wave.
American cities face a choice: Learn from the past, or risk reliving it.
Few people are better positioned to recount the lessons of our past success in the war on crime than William J. Bratton, whose storied career in policing included unprecedentedly successful stints as New York City’s Police Commissioner and Los Angeles’ Police Chief. His new book, The Profession: A Memoir of Community, Race, and the Arc of Policing in America, recounts the challenges, controversies, and triumphs of his tenure as one of the nation’s most successful police executives.
We hope you’ll join Commissioner Bratton for a virtual fireside chat about his new book and how it fits into our current moment with MI senior fellow Rafael A. Mangual.