A special correspondent with The Daily Beast explores the story of a city's transformation through the lens of "hero cops" who, the author argues, provided the spirit and smarts responsible for making New York safer.
[Officer Steven McDonald's] story is told early in the book in stunning detail ... There are many, many persons named through the book who took on important roles in the lives of these two men, but one of the more compelling sections is how Daly discusses the relationship between the various New York Mayors and the department as a whole. There seemed to be no love lost for Mayors Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill de Blasio. Daly also gives substantial attention to commissioners, especially Bill Bratton. Daly does a good job of putting egos on display using just the facts, not opinions ... Daly’s research and vibrant writing provide the reader with a clear understanding, especially through the two men he selected to honor, of what police work is supposed to be.
New York’s Finest introduces readers to an array of officers who made a difference on the streets of New York over the past 30 years. But the author primarily focuses on two cops—Steven McDonald, a young officer paralyzed in a shooting in 1986, and Jack Maple, the onetime transit cop who became deputy commissioner in the early 1990s and introduced comparative statistics, soon to become famous as CompStat, to target where and when crimes were committed. Mr. Daly knew both men well, and it shows ... Mr. Daly doesn’t shy away from the controversies that ensued after the introduction of CompStat and Maple’s departure in 1996 ... In Mr. Daly’s view...McDonald, helped save the city most of all through his generosity of spirit ... That lesson, offered by a grievously wounded police officer who had every reason to be bitter and angry, could indeed save the city. Any city.
Heaving various law enforcement sins onto Giuliani allows the main narrative to become occasionally hagiographic toward police, sometimes literally: When McDonald died in 2017, Daly reported on efforts to make him a candidate for sainthood. Thorough, personality-driven reportage on policing, albeit tilted toward the police’s perspective.