Patrick Murphy, big-city police chief who urged restraint during turbulent era, dies at 91 in Wilmington
NEW YORK (AP) — Patrick V. Murphy, a police reformer who urged officers to hold their fire as head of the New York, Detroit and Washington police during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, died Friday. He was 91.
Murphy died of a heart attack at a hospital in Wilmington, N.C., his son, Gerard Murphy, said.
“Pat Murphy was the visionary embodiment of police reform,” New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a written statement. “In the face of fierce opposition from entrenched police leadership nationally, he revolutionized policy to restrain the use of deadly force.”
Murphy was born in Brooklyn and became a police patrolman after serving as a Navy pilot in World War II. He rose through the ranks of the NYPD, then left to become the top police official in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1962. He later headed the forces in Washington and Detroit.
He became known as a fighter against corruption and police brutality.
“If you were a big-city mayor with a slightly berserk police department on your hands, there was one preferred remedy. You hired Patrick V. Murphy for your chief,” Washington Post reporter James Lardner wrote in 1978.
In 1968, Murphy ordered police not to shoot at looters during the riots that wracked Washington following the killing of Martin Luther King Jr.
New York Mayor John Lindsay brought in Murphy in 1970 to clean up the NYPD after police whistleblowers Frank Serpico and David Durk rocked the force with allegations of rampant graft.
Murphy started planting internal spies, known as “field associates” in the police department to watch for corruption.
“The field associates concept was your basic double-agent system,” Murphy said in his book, “Commissioner: A View from the Top of American Law Enforcement.”
New police academy graduates were taken to the office of Murphy’s anticorruption coordinator, William McCarthy. Some would sit in the outer office, while others were brought in and invited to become field associates.
Then the rookies would all be dispatched to their precincts, where their co-workers would assume that all of them were anti-corruption spies, even the ones that had never been signed up.
In 1972, Murphy instituted new rules restricting the use of deadly force to situations in which police needed to defend a life.
He also pioneered the “Cop of the Block” concept, later known as community policing, which encouraged police to get to know the residents of the neighborhoods they were patrolling.
He led the NYPD until the end of Lindsay’s term in 1973.
“It was a rough time … but he was very proud of his work there,” Gerard Murphy said.
Murphy later became a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and spent 12 years as president of the Police Foundation, an advocacy group. He also helped found the Police Executive Research Forum and was an adviser on police issues for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“Police chiefs across the nation recognize Patrick Murphy as an icon in the field of policing, and agree that he played a historic role in changing the landscape of policing for the better,” the Police Executive Research Forum said Wednesday.
Murphy’s survivors include his wife, Betty Murphy, and eight children. A funeral will be held Wednesday at St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, Gerard said.
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