Because of my interest in the intersection of policing and race, especially in the wake of high-profile deaths like Eric Garner and Freddie Gray, I spent several months reporting on how the New York Police Department is working to change its culture, especially since Mr. Garner’s death in 2014 from a police chokehold on Staten Island. Due to my desire to get below the surface on these issues, I was able to convince the NYPD to give me wide access inside One Police Plaza, to a number of deputy commissioners as well as an interview with Commissioner William Bratton. I also went out on patrol twice with officers in East Flatbush in Brooklyn, attending a Smart Policing training at the new academy and sat in on a Compstat meeting.
Independently of the NYPD, I found and interviewed a number of police officers of color, current and past, about their experiences on the police force. To a person, they had complicated views of the NYPD, both loving the job while being honest about the drawback for an officer of color, as well as how they watched some white officers behave in poor communities. I had rich, frank conversations with those officers, which helped form the narrative arc of my stories, which benefitted from unusual access to officers who were wiling to speak on the record using their names.
I published the first of the reported narratives in early June 2015, Inside William Bratton’s NYPD: Broken Windows Policing Is Here to Stay and then the second two days later, Life As A Black Cop. I had a tremendous response to both stories, and some drama as one of Bratton’s quotes to me was lifted completely out of context without my knowledge or consent and went viral, giving a misleading impression (that he was saying that the pool of black candidates for the NYPD is smaller due to stop-and-frisk misdemeanors rather than because of felony convictions). Fortunately, the context was clear in my original story about black cops, which is still bringing me powerful feedback.
I am working on additional stories related to these issues. I will post links when others publish.