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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Policing the Big Apple

The Story of the NYPD

With a Foreword by Charles Campisi
As debates about defunding US police forces continue, this book offers an enlightening historical overview of one of the largest metropolitan contingents: the New York City Police Department.
The NYPD is America’s largest and most celebrated law enforcement agency. This book examines the history of policing in New York City, from colonial days and the formation of the NYPD at the turn of the twentieth century, through 1930s battles with the Mafia to the Zero Tolerance of the 1990s. Jules Stewart explores political influence, corruption, reform, and community relations through stories of the NYPD’s commissioners and the visions they had for the force and the city, as well as at the level of cops on the beat.

This book is an indispensable chronicle for anyone interested in policing and the history of New York.

272 pages | 29 halftones | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4

History: American History

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"A new book, Policing the Big Apple: The Story of the NYPD by Stewart, tells all about the Manhattan boys in blue, in wonderfully gory detail."


"This book examines the history of policing in New York City, from colonial days and the formation of the New York Police Department at the turn of the twentieth century, through battles with the Mafia in the 1930s to Zero Tolerance of the 1990s. It explores political influence, corruption, reform, and community relations through a look at the NYPD’s commissioners and the visions they had for the force and the city, as well as at the level of cops on the beat."


“Stewart has written an intriguing history of the New York City Police Department replete with colorful characters, surprising facts, and entertaining anecdotes. His deft narrative leads the reader through the history of law enforcement, from the cobblestones of New Amsterdam to the metropolis of the twenty-first century.”

Jeffrey Kroessler, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

“This is the story of the NYPD: The very good, the very bad, and the very ugly. Policing the Big Apple takes the reader from the onset of the new world to the twenty-first century. Enjoy the journey, you’ll be glad you did.”

Charles Campisi, author of "Blue on Blue: An Insider’s Story of Good Cops Catching Bad Cops" and former Chief of the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau Section | from the foreword

“Excellent read and insightful exploration of the history of New York’s Finest.”

Jim Dooley, Captain, NYPD (Ret.)

"Policing the Big Apple is the definitive history of the NYPD. Eminently readable and surprisingly timely, Stewart shows that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction."

Peter Moskos, Professor of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration, John Jay College of Criminal Justice


A glorious New York autumn morning sparkled before me as I gazed out the picture window of my room at The Wagner Hotel in Battery Park. I stood enthralled by the view of the Statue of Liberty and marveled at the ceaseless toeing and froing of water traffic in the broad spread of the harbor. Tugs with barges in tow, sailing yachts, low-riding cargo vessels, passenger liners and ferries, all manner of ships plying their way cross-harbor from the row of terminal rail and marine docks on the New Jersey Shore.
It was the morning of 11 September, the ominous 9/11 that marks the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks that obliterated the Twin Towers and took the lives of more than 2,600 people. The commemorations being observed that day were encircled by a massive security cordon – after all, the 104-storey tower that in 2014 replaced the World Trade Center was only a twenty-minute Uptown stroll from my hotel and could not be discounted as a tempting jihadist target. The sky was buzzing with blue-and-white nypd helicopters that wheeled over the southern tip of Manhattan, as if competing for airspace with the seagulls. Speeding police boats churned up the waters of the bay where the East and Hudson rivers meet.
Surveying this land, air and sea deployment of New York’s Finest, it came to mind that here was not only a city in a state of perpetual reincarnation, but a four-hundred-year-old metropolis that has been underpinned by a number of enduring institutions. Urban transformation has swept across the Big Apple, so named in the 1920s after sportswriter John J. Fitz Gerald’s catchphrase in his horse-racing column ‘Around the Big Apple’ in the New York Morning Telegraph: ‘There’s only one Big Apple. That’s New York.’ The city has witnessed a relentless shift in landscape and a potpourri of cultures. Yet for more than a century an unbroken blue line, one might say its backbone, has run through the city’s history: the New York Police Department.
The nypd stands as a vital ingredient in New York’s genetic make-up, and it is a household name for millions of visitors from around the world. Only scarcely does a foreign tourist depart the Big Apple without a baseball cap, T-shirt, teddy bear, mug, keychain or other souvenir emblazoned with the nypd logo. Marvel Comics has even launched a Spider-Man and nypd line of casual clothing and souvenirs. Their pitch is that New York City has always been the spiritual home of the company’s comic-book creations, and the reason why they placed one of its marquee stars in tandem with the nypd.
This is the story of a corps of men and women, often illustrated in films and television dramas as tough, growly characters, at once unpitying with law breakers yet prepared to chase a child’s runaway spaniel across a busy road. It is a schmaltzy image, to put it in the New York vernacular, one verging on the razzmatazz, a saga embracing more than four hundred years of history. It is a New York saga to the core. Musing on the display of blue uniforms below my hotel room window, I envisaged a history of the nypd and felt my pulse quicken at the prospect of writing it. On my return to London, fired up with my project, friends would ask, ‘What are you working on these days?’ When I said I was writing a history of the nypd, the initialism provoked eager nods and words of encouragement for a story that needed to be told.

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