Brown, Lee P. 1937—

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Lee P. Brown 1937

New York City Police commissioner

At a Glance

Selected writings


In 1990 Lee P. Brown was swom in as police commissioner of New York City, taking command of the nations largest police force with more than 26,000 officers. Formerly Houstons chief of police, Brown became the first non-New Yorker in a quarter century to hold the post; he was chosen by Mayor David N. Dinkins for his effective community policing programs. While in Houston in the 1980s Brown transformed what was considered one of the nations worst police departments into, as Peter Blauner describes it in New York, a model of modern community-based policing studied throughout the world. A nationally renowned criminologist and former police officer, Brown promotes a return to old-fashioned police foot patrols as a way to combat crime. Ralph Blumenthal noted in the New York Times that Browns Community Patrol Operations Program (CPOC) advocates replacing emergency response with beat patrols working with neighborhood figures to head off crime problems before they develop.

Brown plans to usher in a new era in New York City policing with CPOC. As Blumenthal noted, the new program would bring a new kind of policing to New York City, where officers, over the last 50 years, have been moving inexorably off the sidewalks and into speedy radio cars and talking to dispatchers instead of to citizens. One of the objectives of CPOC is to decentralize the department and encourage individual patrol officers to come up with new solutions for fighting crime. Community policing is a new way of thinking about policing, Brown told Blumenthal. It says that police officers are creative intelligent individuals who can do more than just respond to incidents. They should be working with the people who live and work in that area and identify the problems to jointly determine the best strategy to solve the problem and use the combined resources of the police and the community to solve the problem. Brown intends to transform the New York Police Department from one where officers move towards specialized desk jobs. Rather than taking the first opportunity to enter the more highly paid specialized units and get out of uniform, noted Blumenthal, Brown wants the Police Department to be such that people come in to be patrol officers, spend their whole careers as patrol officers.

Browns plans for New York City are to eventually establish foot patrols in each of New Yorks 75 precincts.

At a Glance

Full name, Lee Patrick Brown; born October 4, 1937, in Wewoka, OK; son of Andrew and Zelma (Edwards) Brown; married Yvonne Carolyn Streets (a librarian), July 14, 1958; children: Patrick, Torri, Robyn, Jenna. Education: Fresno State University, B.A., 1960; San Jose State University, M.A., 1964; University of California, Berkeley, M.S., 1968, Ph.D., 1970. Politics: Democrat.

San Jose Police Department, San Jose, CA, officer, 1960-68; Portland State University, Portland, OR, professor, 1968-72; Howard University Institute for Urban Affairs and Research, Washington, D.C., associate director, 1972-75; Sheriffs Department, Mulnomah County, OR, sheriff, 1975-76; Department of Justice Services, Mulnomah County, director, 1976-78; Department of Public Safety, Atlanta, GA, commissioner, 1978-82; Houston Police Department, Houston, TX, chief of police, 1982-90; New York City Police Commissioner, 1990. Adjunct professor, University of Houston, University of Texas Health Science Center, and Texas Southern University. Consultant to U.S. Department of Justice and Police Foundation, both Washington, DC, and state and local governments.

Awards: Honorary doctorate in public affairs, Florida International University, 1982, and honorary L.L.D., John Jay College, 1985; Robert J. Lamb Humanitarian Award, 1987.

Member: International Association of Chiefs of Police (president), National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (vice president), National Minority Advisory Council on Criminal Justice (chairman), and many others.

Addresses: Office Office of Police Commissioner, Police Plaza, New York, NY 10038.

By 1994 he hopes to have over 10,000 officers on daily patrol, an increase of over 50 percent of the number in 1991. Browns plans received a boost in February of 1991 when the New York State legislature approved financing for a major anti-crime plan for New York City, which will allow Brown to hire 3,500 new officers over a six-year period. Although Brown had planned to hire the new officers over two years, CPOC is proceeding within the legislative specifications. Were not going to wait, Brown was quoted as saying in the New York Times. Were going to incrementally and in a planned fashion do that which is necessary to change our dominant style of policing. My vision is to have every block, every neighborhood of the city be the responsibility of a police officer or a group of police officers.

Many New York police officers are positive about the change to foot patrols, yet there is also an acknowledgement, as Blumenthal notes, that they are fighting a public consciousness of police work modeled on Lethal Weapon, Hill Street Blues and Miami Vicecar chases and shootouts. Brown has publicly lauded the efforts of the New York police force in adapting to the new style, yet has also stressed that the cooperation of city residents is essential. One frequent problem is in the area of drug dealing, where Brown sees a need for the public to speak up. People know who are the drug dealers but all too often we dont get the cooperation that we need to address that as a major concern, he told Blumenthal. We dont want people to do police work. We want them to be our eyes and ears.

Selected writings

(With Eugene Beard and Lawrence E. Gary) Attitudes and Perceptions of Black Police Officers of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, Howard University Institute for Urban Affairs and Research, 1976.

(With Thomas A. Johnson and Gorden E. Misner) The Police and Society: An Environment for Collaboration and Confrontation, Prentice-Hall, 1981.

Author of paper The Death of Police Community Relations, 1973, and editor of paper The Administration of Criminal Justice: A View From Black America, 1974, both published by the Howard University Institute for Urban Affairs and Research. Also Editor of Neighborhood Team Policing, 1976, and Violent Crime, 1981. Contributor to books. Also author of numerous articles.


Jet, January 8, 1990.

New York, January 22, 1990.

New York Times, December 19, 1989; January 23, 1990; February 2, 1990; May 10, 1990; August 3, 1990; August 8, 1990; September 17, 1990; September 25, 1990; February 9, 1991; February 15, 1991.

Michael E. Mueller

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Brown, Lee P. 1937—

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