Why Morale is Sinking in New York City’s Police Department


The collective New York Police Department mood is surprisingly dark, reports New York magazine. The complaints aren't about the old standby, low pay; they're about the systems the department uses to bring down crime—systems fueling a bitterness that can interfere with the department's ability to keep the city safe. Disaffection from the public and anger at the department aren't universal, but they are widespread, stretching across boroughs and ranks. Cops say the acrimony is a by-product of the numbers-­obsessed systems that Commissioner Raymond Kelly has perfected. Kelly inherited CompStat, the marriage of computer-analyzed crime stats and grilling of field commanders. CompStat has filtered through every facet of the department, and making a good show at those meetings has become an obsession.

“The job is getting smaller all the time—more demands, less autonomy, less respect,” a recently retired Bronx detective says. “The aggressive management culture has been really effective, but it's also extremely aggravating.” Increasing the strain is the mandate to keep crime at historic lows while the department shrinks: There are 6,000 fewer cops than in 2001, owing to budget cuts. “Ninety percent of the stress on our job is internal,” a twenty-year veteran says. “Crime is down as much as you can get it, you're doing as much as you can with fewer people, and if you ask for more, what you're going to get is corruption, people fudging numbers, locking people up just to do it. And that's where the city is now. Everybody's attention is so focused on the numbers nobody cares about each other. You can't. The human element is gone. It's why so many cops are so miserable.”

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