Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
Robin Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.
International Human Rights Law and Policy
email to: Arthur@lacp.org
Mayor of Los Angeles James K. Hahn
..........Chief of Staff Timothy McOsker
..........Deputy Mayor Roberta Yang
Bratton/Timoney; Zero Tolerance, European Experience
have been assembling a general consensus of international perceptions
of the media-heralded "zero tolerance" policing theory, its patent
incompatibility with Community Policing methods and precepts, and
the flawed scholarship with which William Bratton and John Timoney
presented their results on European speaking tours.
We hope this contributes to your evidentiary base in the LAPD Chief
1. EUROPOL: The top international policing organization for
the European Union, EUROPOL, has been employing Community Policing
techniques -including community resources in human intelligence-in
the war on terrorism, and with very good results. We have commented
on this in other papers. On April 18, 2002, the Deputy Director
of Europol, Dr. Willy Bruggeman, "…pointed out the distinction between
community policing and zero-tolerance policing and expressed the
view that the latter can only function for a certain duration and
in certain neighborhoods. The ideal situation is to have good community
policing while opting for zero-based policing in case of need."
2. Bundesministerium für Inneres (German Ministry of Public
Safety), published a position paper in early 1998 after a visit
by William Bratton, in which they "regretted" the popularity which
Bratton and Timoney had enjoyed in their presentations. The BMI
conducted its own research, and concluded that zero-tolerance policing
"chases the complex realities of crime-prevention into the shadows,
and renders impossible any comprehensive concept including citizenry
or interagency action." (2)
3. Bundeskriminalamt (German Federal Police, cf. FBI): Awarded
grants in 1995 to several German states and municipalities, in close
cooperation with major universities, to develop a comprehensive
strategy for community policing, and to measure "best practices"
in other countries. In that context, the City of Heidelberg studied
William Bratton's track record and utterances. They concluded, in
mid-2000, that Zero Tolerance is "…merely a method of suppressive
policing that gained temporary worldwide attention. It was a mistake
to sell the idea as the most effective means of reducing crime in
metropolitan areas." In the same report, the BKA added its own findings,
i.e., that even in the US, the real crime rate reductions of the
1990s was achieved, not through zero tolerance policing methods,
but rather by steady build-up of neighborhood partnerships and community
4. LSVD (Powerful German civil rights national association),
conducted its own research in 1997-99, after the Bratton visits.
They cited numerous reliable reports by prominent German crime prevention
experts, all of whom suspected the zero tolerance pitch. They compared
New York and Philadelphia results with other US cities, and found
that all were reducing crime roughly at the same rate, but attributed
the single most important common factor to be Community Policing.
At the time, CP was quietly operating in much of New York, even
while the heavily strengthened patrol deployment (about 1 officer
for every 200 residents, roughly double the strength of LAPD) was
arresting homeless, mentally ill and addicts. The LSVD also found
that "zero tolerance is an extremely rigid leadership style that
can only be maintained for short periods of time. It leads to conflicts
and hot tempers in communities, and guarantees no long-term results.
To adapt its methods to German policing work would pose extreme
problems. The whole school of thought must therefore be rejected."
5. France: Zero Tolerance theory was heard, considered, and
rejected by nearly all French criminologists and top police officials.
After reviewing the Kelling and Coles book, Fixing Broken Windows,
and learning that it was financed by the Manhattan Institute's Centre
for civic Initiative, a right-wing extremist think tank, French
experts commented that "this [zero tolerance] theory, though it
has never been validated, served as a criminological alibi for the
reorganisation of police work spurred on by police chief William
Bratton." The report added that zero tolerance makes no connections
between crime and its causes, but rather penalizes poorly-described
"anti-social behaviour" in order to show quick, dramatic results.
French reports conclude that zero tolerance, as portrayed and sold
by Messrs. Bratton and Timoney, doesn't work. (5)
6. Ireland and Great Britain: William Bratton and John Timoney
took the zero tolerance cause to those countries in the late 1990s.
They briefly "converted" British Home Secretary Jack Straw and Irish
Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, prompting campaign press conferences
endorsing mutually both persons and theories. However, Irish and
British officials quietly took their own counsel, performing their
usual evaluation and assessment tasks. They subsequently found that,
because they adopted zero tolerance instead of community policing
in the late 1990s, Great Britain is still suffering from rising
violent and property crime rates. Violent crimes are up 16 % in
2001 over the previous year, and 2002 year to date reflects a worsening
of the crisis. In August, Prime Minister Tony Blair took emergency
measures in ten of Britain's largest cities to turn the methodology
to one of community policing. In June, he was accused in the House
of Commons of resorting to "superficial tricks" to reduce crime,
meaning the replication of Bratton and Timoney's zero tolerance
propaganda. It appears that the short reign of zero tolerance in
Britain has come to an end. (6)
7. Dixon Study: In an internationally acclaimed, thorough
and authoritative study entitled Beyond Zero Tolerance, Law
Professor David Dixon, University of New South Wales, Australia,
concludes that: "Bratton's book may be full of anodyne prose about
the importance of cooperation between the cops and the community,
but the idea of cooperation doesn't remotely describe what happened
in New York under Bratton… Indeed the police under Bratton were
determined not to work with the community" (citing
Massing study, 1998:4).
Dixon continues, "John Timoney (a key member of Bratton's inner
circle and now chief of police in Philadelphia) 'contemptuously
dismissed the idea that the police should enlist neighbourhood residents
in fighting crime…"It's the cops' job to fight crime. Community
Policing said the cops can't do it alone. They were wrong. Our answer
was, "Yes, they can" (citing Massing 1998:7). (7)
8. In the same report, Dixon demonstrates that sinking crime
rates in New York and Philadelphia resulted not from zero tolerance,
but from other reasons (8); that zero tolerance
polarizes races, prompting even its chief advocate, James Q. Wilson,
to admit that the moral costs are stupendous (9);
that zero tolerance destroys community relations (10);
that people should not believe zero tolerance folks when they claim
that it is in conformity with community policing: it's not (11);
and that zero tolerance "misuses the term 'community' and re-defines
it to exclude huge segments of the population: It is a class-ridden,
racist vision. (12)
9. US: John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY): In an
article published in December 2001, the College announced a National
Institute of Justice study which found that trust amongst neighbors
plays a far greater role in the suppression of crime than does zero
tolerance in addressing external signs of disorder. (13)
10. Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken Windows
Policing, is a recent book that debunks the self-serving mythology
of zero tolerance policing, and its chief advocates, Messrs. Bratton
and Timoney, in a thoroughly researched and convincing manner. The
book is highly recommended. (14)
Time today does not permit submitting a longer list of challenges
to the philosophy shared by William Bratton and John Timoney. An
enormous and growing body of evidence, however, is available, and
we will forward you an abstract of the New York City evidence and
studies on zero tolerance policing and the exceedingly high toll
it took on city coffers and communities, social planning and human
rights. We will make every effort to make it available to you in
three to four days.
Our own contacts among police forces and governments (ministries
of justice) throughout Europe also inform us that Bratton and Timoney
and their theory of policing is universally considered obsolescent,
ineffective, and at best a temporary palliative that causes long-lasting
damage to police relations in minority communities. No European
police forces still follow the once-fashionable zero tolerance bandwagon.
We would hope that the evidence would be weighed heavily in your
processes, in the interests of community policing, of minority communities,
and on behalf of the rank and file officers and their direct welfare
interests in the selection of the next LAPD Chief.
Hoping to have been of service, we remain,
With best regards,
A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.
(Europol) Web Notes, May 2002, 1000 Place du Congrés, Brussels.
"Öffentliche Sicherheit" (Public Safety), magazine of the German
Federal Ministry of Public Safety, Nr.1, 1998, Prävention: Community
Pilotprojekt "Kommunale Kriminalprävention" of the Federal Police
Agency (BKA), the City of Heidelberg, University of Heidelberg,
and the State of Baden-Württemberg, "Kriminalitätsatlas", 2001.
Gemeinde-nahe-Polizeitätigkeit, LSVD Position Paper, October
2000, citing BKA reports and Bässmann u. Vogt Research Report,
Wiesbaden 1999, p.23.
Loïc Wacquant, "US Exports Zero Tolerance", Le Monde Diplomatique,
April 2000, pages 1, 10-11.
See BBC News, August 7, 2002; August 16, 2002; September 2,
2002; Index Online News Analysis, Bruce Shapiro, quoting from
"One Violent Crime", Harper Collins, 2001.
David Dixon, Beyond Zero Tolerance, Australian Institute of
Criminology, Canberra, 23 March 1999, at p. 13 et seq.
Ibid., pp. 5,6.
Ibid., p. 8.
Ibid., p. 9.
Ibid., p. 12.
Ibid., p., 14.
"Funding Cut for a Police 'Secret Weapon'", in Law Enforcement
News, CUNY, Vol. XXVII, No. 567-568, December 31, 2001.
Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken Windows Policing,
by Bernard Harcourt, Harvard University Press, 2001.
--- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human
rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and Europe.
They are consultants and authors on international policing, social
policy and human rights, and regular contributors to the forum here
at LA Community Policing.
additional information or a complete list of references, contact: