Title I, “Public Safety and Policing,” of The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994—otherwise known as the “Crime Bill”—represents the legislative climax of decades of research on, advocacy for, and resistance against a new model of policing in the United States. Leaning heavily on Kelling and Wilson’s Broken Windows theory of policing and the National Police Foundation’s research on foot patrol, the bill explicitly adopts the model of community policing theorized at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Session on Policing from 1985–1991.
Among many other directives, the 1994 Crime Bill determined that one hundred thousand new police officers would be deployed to the streets of the United States. Over were the days of the crime-fighting cop patrolling the streets from the distance of an air conditioned vehicle—these new police would be enmeshed in communities and walking a beat. The hope was that their presence on the streets would do as much to prevent crime as to solve it.
The legacies of the largest crime-related bill in the history of the United States on policing, surveillance, and incarceration are enduring and pervasive. Beyond policing, the bill instituted an expansive set of security and carceral measures, ranging from an assault weapons ban to $9.7 billion in funding for prisons and an expansion of the death penalty.