How ‘Broken Windows’ Policing Harms People of Color

I really like this video, Broken Windows, Broken People, by  Molly Crabapple that shares “how ‘broken windows’ policing harms people of color” because it could provide students a glimpse at how people are targeted by police (in the US, and in this case specifically in NY) using racial and poverty based profiling. The video has great illustrations that help convey its message. The video is just over 4 minutes long, however I would pause the video frequently to allow students time to process each event as it is presented.

The broken windows theory was introduced in 1982 and states that visible signs of crime like a broken window in a neighborhood left unrepaired led to degenerative behaviors that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes. The theory led police to take measures against minor crimes with the idea that this will prevent more serious crimes. However, the people targeted are people of color in poorer neighborhoods. This theory has since been debunked, but its influence has led to racial profiling, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

After viewing the video and discussing it, I would draw students attention to the following reactive viewer comment below the video to show a different perspective. I want my students to acknowledge that the issues are not clear-cut and encourage them to look beyond a dualistic standpoint. I want my students to question both perspectives and not blindly buy-into one side or another but to consider the grey areas and draw their own conclusions.

Viewer comment:

LilPika LilPika 2 years ago (edited) As a criminology student writing a paper on this as I type this… this is a horrible video. You make it sound like that it was a systematic harassment of the poor minority communities. You’re willing to throw around numbers but only when they suit your argument. You don’t mention that homicides literally halved. You don’t mention that robberies fell 37% and overall crime fell 40%. You don’t mention how NYC went from one of the most crime ridden hotspots in the world to one of the safest places in the world. Instead you push the whole “All cops are corrupt” stuff that looks like it’s been straight up copy\pasted from tumblr. This is some horrible bias. I’m loath to use any of this in my assignment on principle.
Jeanne Bufalino

One Response to “How ‘Broken Windows’ Policing Harms People of Color

  • Mari Morooka
    10 months ago

    Hi Jeanne, thanks for sharing such an interesting video clip! I agree with you in that it has great illustrations that can facilitate understanding. I think it’s a great idea to get the students attention to one of the comments below the video! It’s interesting how people can have different opinions and reactions toward the same video. I also noticed that some people say in the comment sections the broken windows theory is not really relevant here; rather it should be more about police brutality. It might be another point to discuss after watching the video.

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