David M. Kennedy’s 1993 paper from the Executive Session on Policing reveals the ways in which Broken Windows policing represented a potential corporatization of many police forces through strategies including decentralization, deregulation, and financial reorganization.

The Executive Session on Policing ran from 1985 to 1991, bringing together a group including police chiefs, mayors, policy makers, and scholars to formally flesh out the contours of an emergent community policing model that borrowed heavily from the Broken Windows theory established by Kelling and Wilson. Focusing on “new approaches to crime, disorder, drugs, and fear,” the session was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and held at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The sessions were funded by the National Institute of Justice as well as private sources including the Charles Stewart Mott and Guggenheim Foundations. The product of this Executive Session was a series of seventeen papers titled Perspectives on Policing, to be widely distributed across the country and to become a foundation for police training nationally.

The Strategic Management of Police Resources by David M. Kennedy, a case writer in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard concerned with drug- and gang-related violence, represents the fourteenth of these seventeen papers. Largely researched to address public concern that government funding did not exist to support community policing, Kennedy’s paper reveals that part and parcel to Broken Windows policing was a corporatization of police forces through decentralization, deregulation, and financial reorganization. This decentralization would take the form of the devolution of police authority away from central command and toward precinct-level management or even foot patrol officers walking a beat. The erosion of this centralized authority, which provided a regulatory check against police corruption and operational error, would represent a gradual deregulation of police departments in the name of organizational flexibility and innovation, terms and approaches common in the private sector. Kennedy advocates financing this decentralized community police force through streamlined and restructured budgets, partnerships with businesses, and outsourcing. The paper demonstrates that beyond the corporatization of the police forces themselves, broken windows represented, through the police, a corporatization of public space vis-a-vis its imagination of and design around intended “users” and “customers,” rather than a more generously bounded public.

Entry Author
Buell Center (sz2950)