NYPD: A City and Its Police

James Lardner, Author, Thomas Reppetto, Joint Author
James Lardner, Author, Thomas Reppetto, Joint Author John MacRae Books $27.5 (368p) ISBN 978-0-8050-5578-8
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-8050-6737-8
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A comprehensive and elegant history of the New York Police Department, this book, written by a journalist (Lardner) and a former cop (Reppetto), charts the department's development, from its origins as a collection of unorganized watchmen in the 1820s to its recent past. In crisp, anecdote-rich prose, Lardner (a New Yorker contributor) and Reppetto (now president of New York's Citizens Crime Commission) take readers on a chronological tourDthrough the years when the department reluctantly adopted firearms and uniforms and when police applicants depended on patronage, through wave after wave of anti-corruption ferment, and through years of controversy. Drawing on sources ranging from the memoir of George Washington Walling, a 19th-century officer who saw action during most of the era's flashpoints (including the 1849 Opera House Riot and the 1863 Draft Riots), to newspaper accounts and legislative committee reports, Lardner and Reppetto assess the potential for good and bad in the city and on its police force. Along the way, they recount colorful stories about early gangs like the Dead Rabbits and Five Pointers; they examine the conflict between the Metropolitan Police and the Municipals, an early rogue offshoot; and they address the department's pendulum-like swings between corruption and reform (which, they note, gets activated every 20 years by a major scandal). They also depict the Giuliani administration's 1990s' ""Rediscovery of Crime"" and recent controversies like the deaths of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond, both unarmed black men gunned to death by police officers. Arguing that the cop's lot has barely changed since the 1800s, the two authors assessDin a fair-minded wayDthe enduring relationship between a police force and their city. Their account is at once entertaining, historical and engaged with hard questions about the nature and politics of police workDa true accomplishment. 30 b&w illus. Author tour. (Aug.)
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