The True History of the NYPD

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Taught by Patrick Lamson-Hall

Patrick Lamson-Hall is an urban planner at the NYU Stern Urbanization Project. His interests include urbanization in the developing world, alternative transportation, and public space. Before becoming an urban planner he worked as a journalist, a dishwasher, and an anarchist. He’s currently researching historical densities in Manhattan as well as implementing an urban expansion initiative in four cities in Ethiopia. 

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This class explores the black box that is law enforcement in New York City. From its origins in the Dutch night watch system, past the pugilistic and corrupt cops of the Tammany Hall era, through the sporadic attempts at reform, and into the current era of policing, learn about the mechanics of the police force and the politics that drive it.

The class also examines recent trends in crime and criminality: the sharp spike in crime from the 1960s to 1990s, followed by the sudden and unexpected reduction in crime in the 1990s and 2000s. This shift, only partially explained, means that we’re living in a city that is possibly safer than ever before, but has also left some communities shattered by the thirty-year long war on drugs, zero tolerance policies, and statistically driven policing tactics. 

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