New York City Police Department

From Academic Kids

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The NYPD Logo

The New York City Police Department (NYPD), the largest police department in the United States, has primary responsibility for law enforcement and investigation within the five boroughs of New York City. It is considered to be the first "modern" style police department in the United States; when it was created in the 19th century, it was modeled after London's Metropolitan Police.

According to the department, its mission is to "enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear, and provide for a safe environment." Primarily, this involves preventing and responding to crime.

The New York City Transit Police and Housing Police were fully integrated into the NYPD in 1995; some new police officers are randomly assigned to the Transit and Housing units.

The Compstat program, introduced under then-Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Rudolph Guiliani in the 1990s, uses statistics about crime rates and arrests to evaluate police precincts and commands. As with many large metropolitan police forces, accusations of corruption and mismanagement have dogged the NYPD.

The size of the force has fluctuated, depending on crime rates, politics, and available funding. In June 2004, there were about 40,000 sworn officers plus several thousand support staff.



The NYPD is headed by the New York City Police Commissioner with the senior sworn officer being titled the Chief of Department. It is divided into 10 bureaus. Each is headed by a Bureau Chief, with the Detective Bureau being headed by the Chief of Detectives.

Ranks of the NYPD

  • Police officer
  • Sergeant: 3 blue chevrons
  • Lieutenant: 1 gold bar
  • Captain: 2 gold bars
  • Deputy Inspector: gold oak leaf
  • Inspector: gold eagle
  • Deputy Chief: 1 gold star
  • Assistant Chief: 2 gold stars
  • Bureau Chief: 3 gold stars
  • Chief of Department: 4 gold stars
  • Police Commissioner: 5 gold stars on the badge


Police Precincts

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An NYPD ESU Officer guards the Financial District

The police department is divided into police precincts. Each precinct is responsible for safety and law enforcement within a designated geographic area. Police units based in these precincts patrol and respond to emergencies.

For management purposes, police precincts are grouped collectively based on their jurisdiction into Patrol Boroughs. There are eight Patrol Boroughs. They are: Manhattan North, Manhattan South, Brooklyn North, Brooklyn South, Queens North, Queens South, Bronx, and Staten Island.

Transit Police

The NYPD Transit police is a separate branch of the NYPD that patrols and responds to emergencies within the New York City Transportation Network. Their jurisdiction includes the NYC Subway, Buses, and Railroads.

The Transit Police is broken up into Transit Borough Commands covering the public transportation network. They are Transit Borough Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. From there, they are divided into Transit Districts which are based in major transportation hubs in the Subway.

Housing Bureau

The Housing Bureau is responsible for providing the security and delivery of police services to 420,000 residents, employees and guests of public housing (projects) throughout New York City. They are stationed in Police Service Areas (PSA), which are almost identical to police precincts, with nine PSAs in total located throughout the five boroughs. Officers often do vertical patrols, making sure illegal activity does not take place in the halls, stairways, or the roof.

Highway Patrol

See NYPD Highway Patrol


Early Years

The first law enforcement patrols began in New York (then New Amsterdam) in 1625. The first law enforcment officer was Johann Lampo.

After New York became an English settlement (rather than a Dutch one), constables patrolled the streets and maintained order.

In 1844, the governor of New York State gave the mayor permission to establish a police department. In July 1845, a police force of about 800 men began patrolling the streets. George Matsell was the first Chief of Police.

Some believe that the term "cop" to refer to a police officer originated in New York City because of the copper badges policemen wore.

Many New Yorkers associate the police department with the green lights that are found outside every station. It is believed that the green light originated with the Rattle Watch patrols who monitored the streets during the Dutch Era. These patrolmen carried lanterns with green glass slides in them, and placed them outside their station houses when they returned.

Modern Era


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Old NYPD Patrol Car sporting old paintjob

The economic downturn of the 1970s led to some extremely difficult times for the city. The Bronx, in particular, was plagued by arson, and an atmosphere of lawlessness permeated the city. In addition, there was a hiring freeze on all city departments, including the NYPD, from 1976 to 1980.

This was followed by the crack epidemic of the late 1980s and early 1990s that caused the city's homicide rate to soar to an all-time high. Petty thefts associated with drug addiction were also increasingly common.


In recent years, the NYPD has had great success in reducing the amount of crime in the city. Much of the credit for this goes to COMPSTAT, the computerized database of crime statistics that allows the department to understand where most crimes occur and dedicate resources to that area. Credit also goes to a change in approach begun by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the 1990s. Giuliani used the department to crack down on minor "quality of life" crimes such as turnstile jumping, squeegee men, panhandling, etc. He believed that a crackdown on these types of crime would (a) give the police an opportunity to search more suspects, thereby taking guns and drugs off the street and (b) contribute to the public perception that New York City was a relatively lawful environment and you would get caught and punished if you did something illegal. His hunch was correct, and crime rates in the city began dropping. Over time, these reductions in crime statistics were quite dramatic.

Scandals and Corruption

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New NYPD Patrol Car sporting new paintjob

Throughout its history, the NYPD has occasionally been tainted by corruption. In 1971, legendary police officer Frank Serpico broke the Blue Wall of Silence and, along with other officers, testified before the Knapp Commission about the corruption he witnessed in the department. The Commission's findings led to sweeping changes within the department.

In 1993, Mayor David Dinkins appointed the Mollen Commission, chaired by Milton Mollen, to investigate corruption in the department. The commission found that "Today's corruption is not the corruption of Knapp Commission days. Corruption then was largely a corruption of accommodation, of criminals and police officers giving and taking bribes, buying and selling protection. Corruption was, in its essence, consensual. Today's corruption is characterized by brutality, theft, abuse of authority and active police criminality."

Corruption in the department is investigated by the Internal Affairs Bureau.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, corruption seemed to be less of a public concern than several instances of unnecessary or illegal use of force. Many of these incidents involved black victims, which led to allegations of racism within the department.

On August 9, 1997, police officers in Brooklyn brutalized Abner Louima with a plunger in a precinct bathroom. Officer Justin Volpe, the apparent leader of the attack, pled guilty and received a sentence of 30 years.

On February 4, 1999, an undercover anti-street crime unit shot Amadou Bailo Diallo, an unarmed, innocent man, 19 times in the lobby of an apartment building. The four officers involved in the shooting were acquitted on February 25, 2000.

On March 16, 2000, undercover narcotics detectives shot Patrick Dorisman to death during a scuffle on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. The detectives had approached Dorisman, an unarmed security guard, and asked to purchase drugs. He told the undercover officer that he did not sell drugs, but the persistance of the officer asking again, enraged him and a fight ensued, and he was killed with one shot by the officer in self-defense.

On January 24, 2004, police in Bedford-Stuyvesant shot to death Timothy Stansbury, a 19-year-old black man whom they encountered on the roof of a housing project building. Stansbury was unarmed, and apparently startled Richard Neri, the officer who shot him.


The department is affiliated with the New York City Police Museum. The department also runs a Summer Youth Police academy to provide positive interaction with police officers and to educate young people about the challenges and responsibility of police work.

Fictional Portrayals

The NYPD is behind perhaps only cowboys and gangsters in terms of public fascination, as measured by movie and television treatments. Over the years, countless fictional or fictionalized portrayals of the department have emerged into popular culture.

See also

External link


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