Can Effective Policing Also Be Respectful? Two Examples in the South Bronx

Robert C. Davis, Joel Miller, Pedro Mateu-Gelabert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Crime in New York City declined dramatically following the introduction of a set of new police strategies in 1994. The number of civilian complaints against the police, however, rose dramatically after the new strategies were implemented. These two trends, moving in opposite directions, led many to speculate that the inevitable price of the dramatic drop in crime is an aggressive police force that generates more anger and resentment. This case study refutes the inevitability of a link between aggressive policing and citizen complaints of misconduct. In at least two neighborhoods in the Bronx, large reductions in crime occurred while complaints against officers declined below 1993. We examine several possible explanations for the decline in civilian complaints, analyzing statistical data and interviewing more than two dozen police officers, from the precinct commanders to the officers on patrol. We conclude that the most likely explanation for the decline in citizen complaints in these two precincts was efforts made by precinct commanders to promote respectful policing and change a police culture that tolerated citizen complaints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-247
Number of pages19
JournalPolice Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


  • broken windows
  • civilian complaints
  • decline in crime
  • enforcement
  • misconduct
  • quality of life


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