John Timoney Had the Gall to Change Minds, One Police Department at a Time - The New York Times
by Jim Dwyer
Shorts and sneakers, a T-shirt and a boss: The chief of the New York Police Department turned up at the Police Academy to school some young officers.
“Cuff me,” he instructed them.
Much later, the chief, John F. Timoney, described the episode. “I’m a four-star chief in a gym outfit,” Mr. Timoney said. “I’m not going to let you arrest me.”
He had wriggled, squirmed, locked his arms, squared his shoulders. The officers had struggled to pin his wrists. His point was how hard it could be for officers to subdue and handcuff an uncooperative person, and how easy it could be for them to lose their temper.
“If someone doesn’t want to get arrested, it is going to look ugly, especially to a civilian,” Mr. Timoney said. “Sometimes you have to talk your way out of these things. We have to remind cops, we didn’t hire you to be the toughest guy on the block.”
Brain and body, Mr. Timoney was cop and teacher for more than four decades. He died this week at 68. Years before cellphone and body-cam video showed violent encounters between the police and civilians, Mr. Timoney had run straight at that issue and others as a leader of departments in New York, Philadelphia and Miami. Mr. Timoney had the gall and the gravity to change minds that had been made up.
He would tell trainees about a former partner who beat a robbery suspect to death while Mr. Timoney was on vacation, and how none of the other officers stepped in to stop the pounding. “That’s part of your job,” Mr. Timoney said, and it was what the officers owed the public and one another. He incorporated a duty to intervene into the police regulations in Miami.
Then there was the most common use of lethal force by police officers.
In 1972, New York officers fired 2,510 bullets and killed 66 people. By 2014, there were 288 shots fired and eight people killed.
What happened? Mr. Timoney said that in 1972, the department put restrictions on when officers should shoot their weapons. Within a year, officers were firing about half as many shots....