Bill Bratton, who served as commissioner of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) from 1994-1996—under then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican—will be returning to the leadership role over the largest municipal police force in the United States—this time under the leadership of NYC Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio.
Bratton has been considered a front-runner for the position, the appointment of which has been highly anticipated due to de Blasio’s stance against the NYPD’s practice of stop-and-frisk.
Current Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly have defended stop-and-frisk as important to public safety.
In remarks made during a Thursday morning press conference at the Red Hook Community Justice Center (RHCJC) in Brooklyn announcing his decision, de Blasio welcomed Bratton to the stage, referring to him as “the leading voice” on community policing and a well-respected figure who will improve police-community relations while keeping the city’s record low crime rates down.
de Blasio stated that he supports Bratton’s focus on the “broken windows theory” of dealing with low-level criminal offenses in order to prevent them from escalating and to prevent crime from increasing.
“[I will] enforce the law respectfully, compassionately and consistently,” said Bratton to the crowd of reporters and Brooklyn youth, many of whom have had their minor brushes with the law transformed into an opportunity for education, leadership training, and more through the RHCJC.
Since departing as NYPD commissioner in 1996, Bratton has served as chief of police of the Los Angeles Police Department and advisor to the British government—following an offer to become commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, which was stymied due to the fact that Bratton is not a British national. He also served as commissioner of the Boston Police Department prior to his first NYPD stint.
New Yorkers reac
Reaction to Bratton’s appointment ranged from praise to cautious optimism among Brooklyn elected officials.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz called Bratton “a proven crime-fighter with a lengthy record of results [including that of being] an architect of the successful COMPSTAT system and a champion of ‘broken windows’ policing and community policing.”
“Bill has already proven that he has everything it takes to keep New Yorkers safe,” Markowitz added.
Councilmembers Vincent Gentile, Dov Hikind and Stephen Levin applauded de Blasio’s decision.
Gentile, the Council’s most senior member and representative of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, called it “a wise choice,” as “Bill Bratton is a tried and true law enforcement professional with a record of dramatically decreasing crime.”
Hikind, who represents Borough Park and parts of Gravesend, noted that Bratton “played a key role in the 1990s in New York, bringing law and order back to our city. His reputation for working with communities was impeccable and our community is delighted to have him back at a time when crime is becoming a concern again.”
Levin, of Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, DUMBO and Greenpoint, said Bratton “has the leadership and experience necessary to lead the NYPD and to ensure that Mayor-Elect de Blasio’s vision and policies are implemented effectively and collaboratively.”
For his part, Councilmember Jumaane Williams stated that he is “cautiously optimistic” about Bratton’s appointment.
“By many accounts, Commissioner-Designate Bratton had a mixed tenure during his previous role as commissioner [in the 1990s]. While violent crime dropped, many communities of more color felt that [he] was not responsive to their needs,” said Williams, who has been vocal about racial profiling concerns regarding stop-and-frisk, including in his communities of Flatbush, East Flatbush and Flatlands.
“While CompStat was ingenuitive in focusing on areas of high crime,” Williams explained, “this race-to-the-bottom, hyper-focus approach lead to the quota system, which is a central problem in Stop and Frisk.”
Still, Williams said that he supported Mayor-Elect de Blasio’s commitment to improving police-community relations and hopes that he will ensure “accountability in the direction that the NYPD takes.
“I strongly encourage the NYPD, under the leadership of [Bratton], to focus on what has been working: a focused deterrence model, focused on on-the-ground, community groups and community policing, who work with an engaged community,” he said.