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Community Policing in New Haven: Social Norms, Police Culture, and the Alleged Crisis of Criminal Procedure

By Caroline Van Zile


Nick Pastore will forever be known as one of New Haven’s most colorful historical figures. The Chief of Police in New Haven from 1990 to 1997, Pastore was well-known for his outrageous comments and unusual antics. New Haven’s chief proponent of community policing, Pastore referred to himself in interviews as “’an outstanding patrol officer,’ a ‘super crime-fighting cop,’ ‘a good cop with the Mafia,’ [and] ‘Sherlock Holmes.’” Pastore, unlike his immediate predecessor, highly valued working with the community and advocated for a focus on reducing crime rather than increasing arrests. Pastore once informed that New York Times that in 21st century New Haven, “You\u27re not going to spend $30,000 for one black inmate.” Instead, “You\u27re going to send him to Yale. You\u27re going to send him to the University of New Haven. Quality of life,” he vowed, “that\u27s the change.” In the spirit of community outreach, Pastore was rumored to have bought pizza for an accused felon and to have embraced a murder suspect in full view of the public, much to the chagrin of his officers. In community policing circles, Pastore is considered something of an eccentric visionary; he was among the first modern police chiefs to adopt community policing methodologies. When Pastore took over the New Haven Police Department, community policing was more theoretical than practical: a hodgepodge of ideas about partnering with the community to co-produce justice that usually incorporated tools such as walking beats, block watch, and community-police councils. While at the time Pastore’s philosophy seemed innovative, paradoxically Pastore was steering the New Haven Police Department back into policing’s past. His emphasis on working with the community to increase the general welfare and reduce disorder echoes both William Blackstone’s theory that police should build upon “the rules of propriety, good neighbourhood, and good manners” and Sir Robert Peel’s charge to the police that the “ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.” Indeed, his efforts harken back to a time when policing was a general-service occupation covering many “miscellaneous” activities. Early American and British police, for example, not only conducted arrests, but also occasionally ran soup kitchens and offered their precincts as homeless shelters. Their job was not only to solve crime, but to prevent it; administering to poverty was seen as a key task in crime prevention

Topics: Legal History, Legal Education, Criminal Law, Law Enforcement, Law and Society, Criminal Law, Law and Society, Law Enforcement and Corrections, Legal Education, Legal History
Publisher: Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository
Year: 2011
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