Summary: This exquisitely illustrated presentation from artist Molly Crabapple examines the origins of the broken windows theory, the kind of policing it led to, and the theory's connection to the deaths of people like Eric Garner and Akai Gurley. As Crabapple explains, social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling introduced the theory in 1982 in an article they wrote for the Atlantic Monthly. "Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree," they explained, "if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken...one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing." • The theory has proven to be enormously influential in cities and municipalities all over the United States, and in New York City the theory appears to be the justification, if not the inspiration, behind the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk program. In line with the philosophy that police officers should devote time and attention to preventing broken windows in an effort to stave off a larger breakdown of social order, the NYPD regularly stops and searches people they encounter on the streets in order to confiscate guns before they can be used in more serious crimes. However, as Crabapple notes, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that broken windows policing doesn't mean police will fix up poor neighborhoods, and arguably, stop-and-frisk policing has not been implemented as a way to restore safety to crime-ridden communities. On the contrary, a far more convincing case can be made that the stop-and-frisk program has simply directed a disproportionate share of police scrutiny toward poor and marginalized people. • As a result, critics argue that the program has weakened citizens' cooperation with police, and it may have even increased the number of violent altercations between police and the citizens of those marginalized communities. On February 19th, 2014, NYPD officers beat 84-year-old Kang Wang for jaywalking. On July 17th of the same year, police choked and killed Eric Garner after initially confronting him based on the suspicion he was selling loose cigarettes. On the day he was killed, Garner voiced his objection to the police harassment, stating, "This stops today." Unfortunately, the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program and other forms of broken windows policing are by now entrenched features of the criminal justice system, and it is not yet clear when such programs might end.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist