Compstat & Broken Windows: A Brief History

Credited with reducing subway crime in New York City by twenty-seven percent in the mid-90s, CompStat was originally used as a transit tool, and later to track crime statistics once it was introduced by Willam Bratton in 1994 (CompStat is defined as a combination of management, philosophy, and organizational management tools used by police departments).

One year later, then Mayor Rudolpoh Giuliani introduced his quality of life broken windows policy to the New York City Police Department. Giuliani and Bratton then used CompStat in conjunction with the broken windows policy to promote the notion that the best way to stop bigger crimes from occurring was to target smaller quality of life crimes. While some argue that the broken windows policy was intended to keep neighborhoods clean and crime rates low, others contend that its sole purpose was to create a viable way for police officers to target black and brown folks under the guise of pursuing minor crimes like jay-walking and loose cigarette sales, in order to meet quotas set by CompStat.

Before long CompStat was being used by a number of precincts across the country and the concept of community policing was a thing of the past. This type of policing led to frequent encounters between police officers and community members in urban areas. As a result, discontent with law enforcement in these neighborhoods amplified, thereby increasing instances of police brutality, and arguably causing the civilian death of Eric Garner for the sale of loose cigarettes in Staten Island in 2014.

In Middle Men we explore the ways that CompStat continues to position police officers as “middle men,” simply meeting quotas while unknowingly contributing to a long history of racism and classism that continues to destroy families and communities across the country.


Written by: David Nazario