Creative coppers: Eliot Ness comes to Greater Manchester

The French Connection linked the crime scenes of New York and Paris in one of the all-time great films. Now the crime scenes and police practices in New York and Greater Manchester are linked to another movie, the story of Eliot Ness and his heroic Untouchables, in theirbattles against Al Capone’s mobsters.

Times journalist Dominic Kennedy has been investigating why Manchester’s image of Madchester or even Gunchester a few years ago has been reversed. He reports, in The Times of Wed 27th December 2006, that in 1999-2000 nearly half of the nearly a hundred ‘stranger killings’ in England and Wales took place in the Greater Manchester police area.

These figures have since fallen spectacularly. There were five and seven such killings in the region in the last two years.

The New York Times has been quick to see the parallel with the successes of the so-called broken-windows strategy of a former Police commissioner. It has compared Greater Manchester’s chief constable Michael Todd with The Finest’s own William Bratton.


Like New York, Greater Manchester has instated a zero-tolerance policy, on the streets, but also internally to its force. Bratton’s famed performance accountability meetings are being replicated, with divisional and branch commanders under the spotlight every four weeks.

Creative Coppers

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Jones “attributed much of the fall in stranger killings to Greater Manchester’s creative fight against gun gangs”. He lists a range of imaginative actions and special crime-busting teams. Potential gang killers are identified from intelligence gained on the street, and likely victims contacted and monitored. Para-medical services have also been coordinated, and valuable medical skills developed in much the same way as Belfast acquired surgical know- how through dealing with the violence over several decades of violence there. When criminals have been targeted, the police “do the old Eliot Ness thing .. we will get them for disqualified driving, just to disrupt them” Jones adds.

Leadership lessons

Bratton’s leadership was acknowledged at the time of seven-eleven. But he had been lionised before then, as an example of achieving change through the tipping-point phenomenon. Leadership works if a strategy is linked to specific and appropriate actions.

Leadership students at Manchester University include officers from within the Greater Manchester and near-by Lancashire police forces. A core text on the undergraduate leadership programme is Dilemmas of Leadership, which contains the William Bratton story as a case example.

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