Can Bratton Save New York? Part 7: Developing Success


This is the last in our seven-part series investigating the tension between the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Looking back, it’s staggering to think this analysis has focused on the events of just one year. This time last year, the world was searching for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, monitoring the Crimean peninsula, and diagnosing the first case of Ebola in what would become an epidemic.

We hadn’t yet met Eric Garner, Michael Brown, or officers Wenjen Liu and Rafael Ramos.

Our team began this series by asking a simple question: in the wake of the Eric Garner non-indictment, six months of tension and unrest, and no wide-sweeping response, is New York City living in a pressure cooker just waiting to blow?

In the last seven weeks, we’ve examined the history and context to understand the conflict, proposed a working theory as to its root cause, refined our theory after extensive research, and developed a comprehensive strategy to address our systemic challenge:

Misalignment in acceptable police tactics in upholding the law, especially in regards to use of force

We then moved to execution, first preparing the factions and key players for change. Last week, we outlined the specifics tactics for execution: giving the work back, orchestrating conflict and thinking politically. This week, we close our series by completing the Execution Stage of DSX with Step 7: Monitor the Success.

Although the implementation process is fully underway, we can’t assume that we’re making headway, adequately responding to our challenge. How do we know if we’re succeeding? Is there a way we can measure progress? And, how do we manage ourselves when things are going awry? This week’s goal is to evaluate results that can substantially demonstrate that our strategy is working.

The outcome from this step is a blueprint for measurement. We need to identify metrics that will help us understand that we’re moving in the right direction.


As true today as when it was first said: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Measurement is the key when confirming what we know and what we don’t. Without it, we are tempted to make decisions based on gut feelings or instincts, both of which have been repeatedly proven to be highly susceptible to bias.

Quantifying results enables us to confirm progress on two dimensions: direction and magnitude. For us to gauge impact, we need to know that things are improving and at what rate. Making an inch’s worth of improvement from a mile’s worth of investment is not the best way to use resources.

Continuously assessing our progress is particularly key for this process. We discussed last week that execution for this type of challenge is necessarily iterative and course-corrective. We need frequent feedback to make the right adjustments.

As we have three legs to our strategy, it is prudent to propose indicators for each leg independently. This way, we have the ability to adjust different levers based on each of the outcomes.

For our purposes here, we are going to recommend several intentionally straightforward assessments to provide illustrative examples and suggest a starting point. Admittedly, this is a simplistic view on data analysis. In the event that we had access to an actual dataset, we would be sure to use common statistical analysis tools to determine correlations and test variables for independence.


As reforms are rolled out within the NYPD, there are two tools that should be used to assess improvement: officer surveys and police reports. Surveys can be designed to evaluate how much progress the officers themselves feel are being made on each of the six recommended reforms. So we can be confident that the responses are indicative department wide, a representative sample will be needed. Further, this survey will need to be conducted periodically so that trends can be established.

While self-reported surveys are valuable, they don’t always tell the whole story. Thus, they should be paired with an analysis of police reports. By tracking out how officers responded in the line of duty in situations where escalation of force was needed, we will be able to gauge if there is a positive shift towards consistent, agreed-upon policing tactics.


For the Community Engagement leg, we will measure trust from the community. This can be a particularly nebulous endeavor. However, there are three metrics that can give us an idea of where community trust lies: citizen confidence, complaint statistics and recruiting trends.

In a previous blog, we discussed that the city of Bogota, Colombia faced a similar challenge in citizen confidence. Leveraging the methods Bogota established, periodic polling could capture citizen confidence of the NYPD, The study can be tweaked to specifically measure confidence on police tactics. This poll can then be combined with data on citizen complaints, specifically for abuse of power. One final metric that might add additional insight is recruiting trends. While the correlation between citizen confidence and an increase in recruiting class numbers will have to be confirmed, this data point should be useful in gauging community trust.


Until now, we’ve focused primarily on quantitative measures. Numbers are usually favored because they are easier to process and understand. Also, they lend themselves to established analytical processes and tools. But numbers can be misleading and they don’t tell the whole story. Plus, they aren’t always available. Qualitative data is needed to balance out quantitative metrics and to provide color to an increasingly black-and-white lens.

It’s challenging to pinpoint a statistic that will measure progress with the media, the de Blasio Administration and the unions. However, we intuitively know what it will look like:

  1. Norms that indicate higher trust between the NYPD and these institutions

  2. The propensity for issues to be solved internally, rather than public attacks

  3. Overall, less vitriol in the media and public forums

It may be difficult to quantify such shifts, but periodic qualitative assessments will be able to confirm or refute whether significant improvement is being made in this leg of the strategy.


Dowling Street focuses on providing sustainable solutions for our clients. Part of our mission on every engagement is to ensure that our clients can weave our strategies into their own DNA for the future without our oversight. If our involvement has created a dependency then we’ve failed.

With each of our clients, we like to revisit those tools that will remain after our departure that have enriched the organization. In this case, skill and proficiency with the DSX process would be our most valuable artifact. Specifically, here are the tools corresponding to each step in DSX that we believe would continue to assist Commissioner Bratton and his organization even after our involvement ends.

DSX Tools.png


In closing, we would be remiss if we didn’t share some lessons from the field that we keep top of mind when working with clients.

First, never underestimate the do-nothing strategy. In adaptive work there will be an ever-increasing pressure to do something different than what is currently being tried. The pace will be too fast for some and too slow for others. In these moments, when the pressure seems to be the highest, we like to remember that a legitimate tactic is to hold steady. While it may feel like a procrastination technique, the simple act of continuing on the current path for 10% longer can often produce wonderful surprises. Countless times, unexpected gains have manifested themselves by simply continuing on for just a little while longer. It’s sometimes hard to realize in the moment, but we’re constantly making investments in tactics. If those tactics don’t produce results right away, we become impatient and move on. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of added patience to see a product of our effort.

Second, it is often helpful to realize that we are not the roles that we play. A large part of our mobilization strategy includes producing conflict to provoke change. This is, by nature, an unpleasant experience. It is unpleasant for those creating it, and it is unpleasant for those for whom it is being produced. As we mentioned previously, resistance is inevitable and it will often feel personal. In these moments, it is important to remember that it is not. The resistance is being directed towards someone who is playing a role, someone who is following a script. If someone else were following the same script, the resistance would be pointed towards that person instead. Understanding that it is not personal (as hard as this is) will provide a resilience to continue.

Third, in the sprit of resilience, it is important for those who are engaging in this work to create the support mechanisms that provide rejuvenation and stamina. Individuals need to take care that they have areas in their life that create balance, often with family and friends. Otherwise, the toll will simply be too great. It is no accident that throughout this series we leveraged teams. This is, without exception, a team sport.

As a final note, let us keep in mind why we should do this. Never in the history of New York City has there been alignment on police tactics. We stand at a crossroads where, for the first time, there is growing determination and drive that is unwilling to accept the current norms and standards. While it has taken tragic events to get us here, the real tragedy would be if this moment were squandered. There is momentum towards progress that is building like never before and this momentum can be harnessed to propel us forward.

And think if we succeed. If we succeed, we will see strides in policing standards, the likes of which have never seen before, in New York or otherwise. And, looking beyond law enforcement, we would likely improve race relations, economic empowerment and education. These are cornerstones of a thriving society and are deserving of our focus and attention as a vanguard on the world's stage.

That is what is on the line and this is our moment.

This week, we continue to Step 7 in DSX: Monitor the Success. Although implementation is fully underway, how do we know if we’re succeeding?

This week, we continue to Step 7 in DSX: Monitor the Success. Although implementation is fully underway, how do we know if we’re succeeding?

Our strategy is composed of three legs: NYPD Internal Reforms, Community Engagement & Institutional Mobilization.

Our strategy is composed of three legs: NYPD Internal Reforms, Community Engagement & Institutional Mobilization.