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NYPD: A City and Its Police [Paperback]

James Lardner , Thomas Reppetto
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 2001
NYPD details episodes as fresh as the shootings of unarmed men that have triggered mass protests against Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It also tells of forgotten but no less compelling dramas such as the Becker-Rosenthal case, in which a police lieutenant went to the electric chair, and the death of Joe Petrosino, a New York City detective gunned down on the streets of Palermo, Sicily, after his cover was blown by the police commissioner.

James Lardner and Thomas Reppetto, who know the police world from the inside, throw today's headlines into vivid relief by taking us back more than 150 years through a succession of immigrant waves, long hot summers, and career-destroying crises and scandals. Fascinating as history, NYPD is also a telling look at the fears, the lore, the slang, the secrets, and the rituals of a chronically misunderstood profession.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A comprehensive and elegant history of the New York Police Department, this book, written by a journalist (Lardner) and a former cop (Reppetto), charts the department's development, from its origins as a collection of unorganized watchmen in the 1820s to its recent past. In crisp, anecdote-rich prose, Lardner (a New Yorker contributor) and Reppetto (now president of New York's Citizens Crime Commission) take readers on a chronological tourDthrough the years when the department reluctantly adopted firearms and uniforms and when police applicants depended on patronage, through wave after wave of anti-corruption ferment, and through years of controversy. Drawing on sources ranging from the memoir of George Washington Walling, a 19th-century officer who saw action during most of the era's flashpoints (including the 1849 Opera House Riot and the 1863 Draft Riots), to newspaper accounts and legislative committee reports, Lardner and Reppetto assess the potential for good and bad in the city and on its police force. Along the way, they recount colorful stories about early gangs like the Dead Rabbits and Five Pointers; they examine the conflict between the Metropolitan Police and the Municipals, an early rogue offshoot; and they address the department's pendulum-like swings between corruption and reform (which, they note, gets activated every 20 years by a major scandal). They also depict the Giuliani administration's 1990s' "Rediscovery of Crime" and recent controversies like the deaths of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond, both unarmed black men gunned to death by police officers. Arguing that the cop's lot has barely changed since the 1800s, the two authors assessDin a fair-minded wayDthe enduring relationship between a police force and their city. Their account is at once entertaining, historical and engaged with hard questions about the nature and politics of police workDa true accomplishment. 30 b&w illus. Author tour. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Given the seemingly endless number of books about the NYPD, police brutality, and corruption, one might think it difficult to find a refreshingly new and in-depth approach to the nation's oldest police force. But this history accomplishes such a feat. Lardner, who has written on the NYPD for The New York Times Magazine, and Repetto, president of New York's Citizens Crime Commission, examine the long history of New York's police from the 1820s, before the city organized them into a formal department, until the near present. In 1820, there were no housing projects, violent gangs, gun-toting drug dealers, or media scrutiny. As time passed, the department mirrored the waves of immigrants that moved to the city, beginning with the Irish in the 1840s, the Italians and Jews in the 1890s, African Americans from the Southern states after World War I, and, most recently, the Puerto Ricans. People who criticize some of the NYPD's controversial actions today might be equally shocked by past actions, which included the common practice of accepting graft, brutality against criminals (with media support), bribery, riots, and competing city police forces, manipulated by politicians. Both entertaining and insightful, this excellent book is highly recommended for all libraries.
Tim Delaney, Canisius Coll., Buffalo
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; 1st edition (August 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080506737X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805067378
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Read October 26, 2000
Format:Hardcover
Cops are cops the world over, but New York's complex and turbulent development has given a unique shape to the force that the city created one hundred and fifty-five years ago to control its own manifold aggressions. It is the feat of James Lardner and Thomas Reppetto to have surveyed the multitude of trends and personalities operating inside this much-examined yet oddly cloistered institution, and to have synthesized them into a constantly engaging narrative. Here we find innovators such as Thomas Byrnes, the Gashouse kid and Civil War veteran who, as a precinct captain, virtually invented modern American detective methods; reformers like Teddy Roosevelt, who tramped the streets at night in search of derelict patrolmen; forgotten heroes like Joe Petrosino, assassinated on a Mission Impossible in Sicily; rogues like Inspector Alexander "Clubber" Williams, who, when queried about a personal fortune that included a Connecticut estate and a steam-powered yacht, claimed to have made a lucky killing in Japanese real estate (this being 1894); and sundry exemplars of the rank and file, with their special talents (spotting from his gait alone a man wearing a gun), their folk wisdom (to stay alert, keep the windows of the squad car open in any weather), and their lore and lingo (dido means a reprimand; Goatsville is an outlying, graftless precinct). Into the mix has also gone a high incidence of uninspiring commissioners, a chronic strain of corruption that gets rediscovered and prosecuted roughly every two decades, and a long record of racism (in 1916 there were just fifteen blacks on the force; Chicago, then half the size of New York, had one hundred and thirty-one blacks in its department). A huge amount of fascinating history has been skillfully packed into a few more than three hundred fast-flowing pages.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars You REALLY Can't Judge a Book by It's Cover August 10, 2001
Format:Hardcover
By reading the title and information on the dust jacket, I believed this was a history of the New York Police Dept. And, to an extent, it was.
If you can believe that prehaps 3 dozen men founded, organized, operated and developed the policies of the Department over the last 155 years, and that they were crooked, inept, stupid,and brutal, then you will find this to be a good read.
What I found was the stories of about 3 dozen men who had the qualities I mentioned above and whose exploits were detailed at length. And, no matter how these people behaved, the authors had to find something wrong with it. In fact, in several places they seem to contradict themselves as to what should have been the appropriate handling of a situation. And, there really never is any thesis to the book or follow up as to what the authors believed happened. It seems more to be a detailing of fact; little beyond that.
This would be a good book if it were titled, "NYPD: A History of Graft, Corruption and Stupidity" and it was used as a text book for a class at John Jay College in that subject area, but it is a book that is far from a representative of the history of the men in blue in New York.
In addition to those faults, I found the book difficult to read. One moment they are following a chronilogical sequence, then they are following a different line. It made it tough to keep track of the people detailed.
If you want a good book about the New York Police Department history, find it elsewhere. If you are a historian and wish to add one small peice of the story to your collection then maybe this book would be a good buy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars WHY? October 15, 2002
Format:Hardcover
NYPD is a history of New York City and its police department. It does not relate the story of either very well. The specific weaknesses of NYPD are several: It's hard to follow. While presented in a decade by decade format, the chronology is still confusing. Accounts of various incidents end abruptly, or merely tail off to no conclusion. Characters appear, disappear and like magic appear once again. Too much attention is given to past riots and disorders. NYPD also concentrates far too many pages to corruption. This subject is way too old and common to rate the space the authors have devoted to it. Honest cops by comparison are downplayed. We are rarely placed in the street with the cops on the beat. The reader gets virtually no sense of tradition, honor, or bravery that many, if not all, policemen routinely display. Also conspicuous by it's absence is HUMOR! Cops must encounter howlingly funny situations all the time, yet the authors ignore this obvious subject. A final objection to the tale is the extreme tediousness of the portrayal of the department up until the great Depression years. The tone of NYPD improves after that but not enough to save itself. Non-NYC residents will receive no feel, no local flavor. It fails on that score too. The recommendation from this reviewer is to "search" elsewhere for superior political AND better police portrayals. Surely, amazon has them. It's depressing that a lifelong NYC native has to present such negative review. The answer to the question at the top is not why buy NYPD but why was it written in the first place?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needed Inspiration October 22, 2003
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book in a shop in the mall of the World Trade Center; four days later 23 NYPD officers died in and around the those towers. As I prepared to read this book, I grumbled, "There better be no cop-bashing in here." And at the first sign of negative criticism of the force, I put the book down and didn't start again until two years later. I'm glad I did: I might not have given it a fair reading or review back in 2001.
Having said that, Reppetto and Lardner have put together a decent history of the NYPD. And yet, I finished the book with an empty kind of feeling. Considering that Reppetto is a retired NYPD cop, I thought I'd get something deeper, more probing than this. For anyone familiar with New York history or the NYPD, there's nothing really new here. A lot of known ground is rehashed: the Police Riot of 1857, Teddy Roosevelt's reforms, the attempts to fight Organized Crime, and the lurid corruption scandals that seemed to recur with every new generation of cops. The cast of characters can be found in any book on the seamy side of New York City history: Alexander "Clubber" Williams, Detective Byrne, Lt. Becker, Serpico, etc. What I'm saying is that I had expected a book that would explain how the department evolved and detail its daily processes and procedures, and not a collection of anecdotes accumulated over 150 years of department history.
What is redeeming is the authors' willingness to admit to these episodes of graft and other crimes. Still, the point is clear that no matter how many corruption scandals have surfaced over the years, the ratio of honest cops compared to the dishonest ones is so disproportionate in favor of honest cops.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars NYPD: A city and its police
Somewhat dry, but a good read if you're really interested in the details of the NYPD. I am a interested in policing and have read numerous books related to the NYPD and this would... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Robert Sprague
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but missing something
I got this book for free from a friend, and as a former NYPD officer and current officer in Upstate New York, was looking forward it. Read more
Published on September 10, 2009 by Jacob Joseph
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent!!
I am very pleased with my new book which came to me quickly and in perfect condition at a price that could not be beat!!. I do recommend this seller with confidence..
Published on August 31, 2009 by Sammy Takeo Urai
3.0 out of 5 stars nypd: a city and its people
very imformative. I learned a great deal on the subject. Although it reads like a text book, I'm glad I made this purchase.Besides, it was a great deal.
Published on April 26, 2009 by michael e.
5.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT READ
NYPD is great storytelling and a great read of the history of the
how the NYPD evolved from 1830 to the present. Read more
Published on September 29, 2001 by Patrick Crowe
3.0 out of 5 stars What's New Is Old
A fascinating history of the NY police that shows that there's nothing really new under the sun. Heroes, scandals, police brutality, riots and murder have been with us since the... Read more
Published on November 27, 2000 by John Bowes
1.0 out of 5 stars Axe to Grind? Ommisionist History? You decide.
It would appear that the two authors have some kind of axe to grind against the NYPD. If one is to believe this book, all New York City cops are corrupt, or inept, or just lucky... Read more
Published on October 13, 2000 by S. N. Gaines
5.0 out of 5 stars Good history in a readable style
This book is an excellent review of the history of the NYPD for both amateur and professional historians. Read more
Published on October 5, 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Nypd : A City and Its Police An Historical Home Run!
A remarkably complete and concise history of New York City and it's remarkable police department. It is full of facts that are facinating for police officers, police buffs, &... Read more
Published on September 22, 2000 by Gerard Fleming
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