New York's new Round Table

Philadelphia has John F.

Lawrence, Mass., has John J.


Baltimore has Eddie.

Much of the country, it seems, has members of what is known as the Maple/Linder team.


They party together at Elaine's on Manhattan's Upper East Side. They show up at conferences together to opine about how best to fight crime. They call each other by their first names.

They are the New York Road Show - police commanders who have broken away from the New York Police Department to pursue their careers elsewhere and, along the way, have spread a model of policing that is akin to a religion. The new gospel has been preached by New York alumni from the rough-and-tumble neighborhoods of South Philly to the French Quarter in New Orleans.

The self-proclaimed "ringmaster of the circus" is William J. Bratton, the 53-year-old former police commissioner of New York. Bratton was forced out of the job in 1996 after a spat with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani over who should take credit for dramatic drops in crime rates.

Now a consultant for Kroll Associates, an international security consulting firm, Bratton watches over former minions who are now chiefs in their own right: John J. Romero in Lawrence, Mass. John F. Timoney in Philadelphia. Edward T. Norris in Baltimore, plus several at smaller departments in upstate New York.

And there's Jack Maple, the cigar-chomping, fedora-wearing, former New York transit cop who developed a way to map crime and quickly rose through the ranks of the NYPD.

With partner John Linder, he has formed a $2,000-a-day consulting team that travels the country telling police departments what's wrong with their crime-fighting ways. They have spread their ideas to Birmingham, Ala., Newark, N.J., New Orleans, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

And the New York alumni are not exactly humble.

"They all know how good they are and how successful they have been," says Bratton, who is as proud of the NYPD graduates as a new father. "There is not a city we've gone into that has not had a dramatic turnaround, and with the exception of New York, had any major problems between police and community."


This latest group of New York police executives is by no means the first. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, an even larger contingent left for other cities.

Corneilus J. Behan, a 31-year New York veteran, took over in Baltimore County in 1977. Joe McNamara left New York for Kansas City, and later San Jose, Calif. Patrick Fitzsimmons went to Seattle. Others went to Minneapolis, Birmingham and Boise, Idaho.

At the time, says Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a progressive police think tank, cities were attracted by New York's efforts to root out corruption.

But New York seemed an uninspiring model during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Then Bratton arrived and began a transformation that would help cut murders from nearly 2,300 a year to just over 600 and make New York - considered a dangerous, foreboding city - into a model of good policing.

Bratton and Maple introduced a computerized crime-mapping system that allowed police to attack crimes by pinpointing where they occurred most often.

Then police went there and enforced the law to the letter. Top commanders held beat cops accountable with weekly meetings called Comstat, where a wrong answer about a single shooting investigation could cost a career.


The concept was dubbed "zero-tolerance," a term that has come to symbolize heavy-handed tactics. Its advocates preferred the term "quality of life" policing. Whatever it is labeled, it has caught on in cities besieged by violence and unhappy with the early 1990s fad, "community policing," that was supposed to be a return to the old-fashioned beat cop, but became synonymous with going soft.

"A lot of mayors looked at the dramatic decrease in crime in New York and what it did for the economy," says Wexler. "They became enamored with the New York model."

But copying New York's assertive style, which encourages officers to confront citizens they suspect of even the slightest wrongdoing, means enduring the problems as well.

When Norris came to Baltimore last year, he found himself repeatedly defending New York officers from a spate of controversies - two unarmed men gunned down by officers practicing "stop and frisk" procedures, and another man violated with a broomstick in a stationhouse - that made the names Diallo, Dorismond and Louima symbols of out-of-control policing.

"The New York model has gotten somewhat of a tainted reputation," says Philadelphia Police Commissioner John F. Timoney, a New York protege.

New York cops running other departments "almost have to defend" their heritage and assure worried communities that it won't happen to them, Timoney says. He argues that the successes in New York went to Mayor Guiliani's head and that he failed to curtail the assertive strategies once crime was sufficiently down.


"You don't want to anger an entire community while trying to save it," Timoney says. "When something goes wrong, you need somebody standing next to you."

Of course, not everyone likes the New Yorkers. San Diego has rejected the so-called "zero-tolerance" strategy, as did Austin, Texas, and Houston.

"I hear it at chiefs' conferences," Timoney says. "When the guys from New York walk out to go to the bathroom, they all bad-mouth the New York model."

Much of discontent comes from the West Coast, where departments promote martial-arts training, rotating officers through different jobs and looser management styles.

East Coast cities seem to favor the strong-armcrime meetings called Comstat, where commanders berate underlings about performance. The West Coast thinks they are too harsh.

Baltimore's former commissioner, Thomas C. Frazier, was born of that West Coast mold, having come east from San Jose. Ironically, he is a protege of New Yorker-turned West Coaster McNamara.


Both subscribe to a policing strategy that is part law enforcement, part social work. Frazier wanted street-level drug addicts left alone and called himself a "social worker with a gun."

The West Coast policing strategies did not go over well in Baltimore, where Frazier was under constant attack. Fueling the fire of his critics was the undeniable fact that murders continued unabated during his five-year term.

Mayor Martin O'Malley's long desire to jump on the New York bandwagon won over Norris, who lives by a simple policy lost during the years of community policing: Police can make an impact on crime.

Nearly one year after coming, Norris and the Maple/Linder consultant team could point to lower murder and crime rates. O'Malley, who made police reforms and lower crime his campaign mantra, is an unabashed supporter. "Those guys saved a lot of lives," he says.

Last month, to celebrate Maple's wedding, a group of tuxedo-clad cops gathered at Elaine's on the Upper East Side to toast the new guru of law enforcement.

Norris, Timoney and Bratton were there. McNamara and Frazier were not.


Elaine's was a power party. Although other cities such as San Diego have successfully knocked down high crime rates while rejecting the Maple approach, they don't have the influence to "parlay that into the national consciousness," Bratton says.

New York, the nation's biggest city, still remains the biggest draw in law enforcement, its problems aside. It might simply be that the New Yorkers who leave have learned from their mistakes.

And there are still plenty of opportunities for old New York cops to spread their influence.

"Something about the Big Apple intrigues people," says Behan, now retired from Baltimore County. "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen in New York."