Book Review: The Crime Fighter

Jack Maple’s collaboration with Chris Mitchell, entitled ‘The Crime Fighter’, is perhaps the most successful attempt yet to combine a story of crime reduction and innovation with good, solid policing tales. It’s a book for cops (and interested others), by a bona fide pro-active cop. If you consider yourself a crime fighter, you won’t be disappointed.

The crime reduction and public safety achievements of New York City and the New York Police Department under Bill Bratton from the 1990s into the 2000s have been well-documented. In Bratton’s own book, Turnaround, he attributes much of the success to individuals like Jack Maple. It soon becomes clear just how brilliant the crime fighting team at 1PP (One Police Plaza) was during this era.

Maple’s story begins on New Year’s Eve 1985 – the bad old days – when Times Square “belonged to New York’s crooks”. It opens with the take down of three crooks by Maple and his fellow Mole People – plain clothes officers from the New York City Transit Police.  Maple reflects on the grim reality that those subsequent 12 months would see, nationwide, murders topping 19,000, more than 500,000 robberies and nearly 800,000 aggravated assaults – and 78 cops would pay the ultimate price and be killed in the line of duty.

Maple doesn’t shy away from calling out other cops and recognising some of the realities he found in policing. He reflects on the fact that most of the NYPD’s problems “walked around on two legs”. He describes the cops who sleep through the night shift, the cops who would only start work when the overtime kicked in and the conscientious objectors who would take pride in not arresting criminals. Maple broadly depicts policing as made up of 40% of the force who hide behind desks, another 40% who perform competently without passion and little impact, 10% who hate the job so much they destroy everything poisitive and the final 10% – the hallowed 10% – who treat the job like a vocation and do 90% of the work.

Maple also recognises that the working conditions – not to mention pay – do very little to “inspire wider devotion”. As he puts it:

“A first-grade detective in the NYPD, who has been recognized after years of service as belonging to an elite circle of criminal catchers, takes home less than a first year analyst on Wall Street”

The same certainly remains true of the best cops on this side of the Atlantic today. Maple also communicates – in terms fellow crime fighters will recognise – the fact that deciding to be a crime fighter is a tough road. There are complaints, there is paperwork, there is getting off late – and there are certainly no parades. Maple describes there being “something seriously out of whack” with his profession – of being under investigation for months if not years for simply doing your job.

Maple describes finding himself doing his best to “torture” the bosses – to be a crime fighter to the max and to “bring it on”. A philosophy some (myself included) will have sympathy with – though such a move today has perhaps tipped from being ballsy to being insane. The ‘war on cops’ on both sides of the Atlantic giving very real possibility of a career prematurely and unjustly terminated and perhaps even ending in a prison cell.

Maple found himself surveilled by Internal Affairs and things reached such levels that he transferred back to uniform, in order to protect his partners from being caught up in the battle of wills. After various punishment postings and transfers – all serving only to reinforce Maple’s desire to make arrests – the IA investigation eventually ended, and after being candid with one of the bosses, he found himself labelled an “unguided missile”. Maple didn’t deny being a missile – he only insisted that he did actually have a flight plan.

Maple soon found himself plucked from Lieutenant in the New York Transit Police to the NYPD’s Deputy Commission for Crime Control Strategies. Maple attributes the rise to “Bratton’s daring” – and of course a flexibility that simply doesn’t exist within UK policing. Furthermore, Maple had freedom to pick the team to support the crime fighting work. Another flexibility that simply doesn’t exist on this side of the pond. From that point forward the book propels you through a survey of what followed at the NYPD, the ups, the downs – and some of the same challenges that face police officers and executives in agencies anywhere.

It’s a refreshing read and it is well worth taking your time over if you want to get a sense for who Jack Maple was, what he achieved and how he did it.

‘The Crime Fighter: How You Can Make Your Community Crime-Free’ is available in paperback and hardback published by Broadway Books. Jack Maple began his career as a New York City Transit Patrolman and rose to become Deputy Commissioner of the NYPD. Among other achievements, Maple was the architect of New York City’s Compstat system and would later be described as “one of the truly great innovators in law enforcement” and “the most creative cop in history”. Maple sadly passed away in 2001, aged 48.

America is like the 600-pound man who's lost 200 pounds. If you've only known him five years, he looks great. If you haven't seen him since 1961, you're amazed at what a fat slob he's become.

Jack Maple, The Crime Fighter

I knew a lot about what was right and what was wrong ... but most of the NYPD problems I knew about firsthand walked around on two legs.

Jack Maple, The Crime Fighter

The promotion - a product of Bratton's daring - was the equivalent of an ensign in the Coast Guard waking up as a three-star admiral in the Navy

Jack Maple, The Crime Fighter

[We] began a thorough inspection of a police department that had a reputation as one of the greatest in the world. The more we poked at it, the wormier it looked. Operationally, she was a junker.

Jack Maple, The Crime Fighter

The Centre for Public Safety
The Centre for Public Safety
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