Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath:
A New York Times article reported on the NYPD’s Juvenile Robbery Intervention Program (J-RIP) created by Chief Joanne Jaffe:
[L]egitimacy is based on three things. First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to fell like they have a voice—that if they speak up, they will be heard. Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same rules today. And third, the authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another….
[W]hen the law is applied in the absence of legitimacy, it does not produce obedience. It produces the opposite. It leads to backlash.
The New York City Police Department has embarked on a novel approach to deter juvenile robbers, essentially staging interventions and force-feeding outreach in an effort to stem a tide of robberies by dissuading those most likely to commit them.
Officers not only make repeated drop-ins at homes and schools, but they also drive up to the teenagers in the streets, shouting out friendly hellos, in front of their friends. The force’s Intelligence Division also deciphers each teenager’s street name and gang affiliation. Detectives compile a binder on each teenager that includes photos from Facebook and arrest photos of the teenager’s associates, not unlike the flow charts generated by law enforcement officials to track organized crime.
Now, why was Jaffe so obsessed with meeting her J-RIPpers’ families? Because she didn’t think the police in Brownsville were perceived as legitimate. Across the United States, an astonishing number of black men have spent some time in prison. (To give you just one statistic, 69 percent of black male high school dropouts born in the late seventies have done time behind bars.) Brownsville is a neighborhood full of black male high school dropouts, which means that virtually every one of those juvenile delinquents on Jaffe’s list would have had a brother or a father or a cousin who had served time in jail. If that many people in your life have served time behind bars, does the law seem fair anymore? Does it seem predictable? What Jaffe realized when she came to Brownsville was that the police were seen as the enemy. And if the police were seen as the enemy, how on earth would she be able to get fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds—already embarked on a course of mugging and stealing—to change their ways? She could threaten them and warn them of the dire consequences of committing more crimes. But these were teenagers, stubborn and defiant by nature, who had already drifted into a life of crime. Why should they listen to her? She represented the institution that had put their fathers and brothers and cousins in prison. She needed to win back the respect of the community, and to do that, she needed the support of the families of her J-RIPpers.
Another program that involved Chief Jaffe was the first-ever Chess in the Schools – NYPD Chess Tournament was held in early November. The event was an attempt to bridge the gap between the NYPD and New York City communities.
The event, held at 1 Police Plaza, invited 150 inner-city public school students from the five boroughs between the ages of 8 and 18 years old to compete with 50 uniformed NYPD officers in a chess tournament.
The Chief Jaffe’s Community Affairs Bureau collaborated with the nonprofit organization Chess in the Schools, which aims to improve performance and build self-esteem among inner-city public school students through teaching chess.