NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton (52216)

Did Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio make worse an already fragile relationship between the NYPD and the Black community in his selection of Bill Bratton as police commissioner? “Yes, he did,” snapped New York City Councilman Charles Barron, who held a press conference shortly after the announcement last Thursday morning.

Even as de Blasio proclaimed that there would be a concentrated effort to improve crime fighting along with greater police-community relations, he admitted that the two sides were “sorely divided” and had a lack of “mutual respect.”

“Asking Bill Bratton to come back and stop racial profiling … is like asking an arsonist to help you put out fires,” said an irate Barron.

Barron bashed de Blasio’s appointment of Bratton as hypocritical and unacceptable.

“Bratton is the architect of racial profiling, stop-and-frisk,” charged Barron. “I’m sure Bill de Blasio will say to give Bratton a chance. However, we did already, and he failed us. This appointment is unconscionable.” Barron, Councilwoman-elect Inez Barron and others held press conferences on the steps of City Hall and in Barron’s East New York office to denounce the appointment. “You don’t ask the person who’s the architect of racial profiling, stop-and-frisk, to come back and now put a stop to it.”

Walking down 125th Street, 19-year-old fast-food worker Jason W. told the AmNews, “Wouldn’t Bratton’s first arrest be someone like de Blasio’s son, since he would ‘fit the description,’ as the cops always say?”

De Blasio, however, delighted in his choice. “Bill Bratton is a proven crime-fighter,” he said. “He knows what it takes to keep a city safe and make communities full partners in the mission. Together, we are going to preserve and deepen the historic gains we’ve made in public safety—gains Bill Bratton helped make possible. And we will do it by rejecting the false choice between keeping New Yorkers safe and protecting their civil rights. This is an administration that will do both.”

“Mayor-elect de Blasio’s priorities are my priorities,” said Bratton regarding his appointment. “This is the best police force in the nation, and we are going to ensure our men and women have the best technology, the most innovative tactics and the strong support of the communities they protect. This department will not rest on its laurels. We are going to continue making history as the safest big city in America.”

Bratton was police commissioner under the controversial Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, of the raucous “Giuliani Time.” He served as police commissioner in a time of tense community-police relations with his “broken windows” theory of cracking down on the smallest of crimes, which he said would lead to an environment where bigger crimes would cease to thrive. In the same vein, de Blasio also lauded Bratton’s tenure as L.A. police commissioner.

A parade of politicos also praised the selection of Bratton. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared, “Mayor-elect de Blasio has made a smart choice for New York in picking Bill Bratton, a law enforcement veteran with a proven record, to lead the city’s police force. As the former police commissioner of Boston, Los Angeles and New York, Bill Bratton took on and successfully reined in historically high crime in some of the nation’s largest cities. I commend Mayor-elect de Blasio on his pick and congratulate Bill Bratton on his appointment.”

Councilman Jumaane Williams, a lead sponsor of the Community Safety Act, said, “I keep in mind that there was no perfect candidate, and I am cautiously optimistic. 

“By many accounts, Commissioner-designate Bratton had a mixed tenure during his previous role as commissioner. While violent crime dropped, many communities of more color felt that Commissioner-designate Bratton was not responsive to their needs. While CompStat was ingenius in focusing on areas of high crime, this race-to-the-bottom, hyper-focus approach led to the quota system, which is a central problem in stop-and-frisk. 

Commissioner-designate Bratton must be responsive to all New Yorkers and restore the faith and trust that every resident must have in order for the NYPD to effectively protect and serve New Yorkers of all backgrounds, in every corner of this city. Far too many New Yorkers have witnessed their civil rights and liberties violated under a stop-and-frisk era, as the mayor-elect put it during his campaign, which has only bred distrust in many corners of our city.”

Continuing, Williams said, “Commissioner-designate Bratton can rebuild the trust of New Yorkers in the Police Department by rejecting any policing mechanism that relies on bias-based profiling—which is what the two-year fight to pass the Community Safety Act was all about—by establishing relationships with New York’s diverse communities. The commissioner must improve the way that officers’ performances are measured, which must include how well an officer builds relationships with those that they police, instead of relying solely on stops, summons and arrest quotas.”

While there are those who note the fact that Bratton was commissioner under Giuliani, Bratton noted that there was a different leadership then, “but it is a new day, with a new approach.”

“It is not déjà vu all over again,” Bratton said.

According to de Blasio, Bratton will “fight crime while continuing to bring police and community together.” Bratton told doubters and the convinced alike that it was a “new day for the profession that I love.”

Perking up the ears of critical observers though, Bratton added, “Stop-and-frisk is essential to every police department in America.”

Perhaps optimistically, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the organization litigating the landmark stop-and-frisk case, Floyd v. City of New York, said, “Given Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s commitment to dropping the appeal in Floyd, we expect incoming Commissioner Bill Bratton will embrace the full remedial order as a road map to meaningful stop-and-frisk reform and changing the Police Department’s relationships with the communities it serves. Bratton previously addressed unconstitutional racial discrimination in the Los Angeles Police Department, working with a court-appointed monitor to implement change.”

The CCR added, “At the same time, we hope Bratton’s appointment is not a signal from de Blasio that the NYPD will be ramping up so-called ‘broken windows’ policing, surveillance and numbers-driven policing. As Mr. Bratton himself has stated, constitutional policing is not inconsistent with effective policing. Mr. Bratton has implemented reform before under a court-ordered process, and we are hopeful he will work with community representatives and civil liberties groups to do the same with the NYPD.”

Activist minister the Rev. Herbert Daughtry said of Bratton’s appointment, “My immediate reaction is profound disappointment. As far as I know, Mr. Bratton has never endeared himself to the Black community. Wherever he has gone, there have been constant criticism, albeit I understand the Rev. Al Sharpton has issued a statement saying that Mr. Bratton has worked with him in Los Angeles on a couple of issues. But even the Rev. Sharpton admits that he was critical of Mr. Bratton when he was in New York.

“My evaluation, and I speak the sentiments of the majority of Black leaders who I know, is that Mr. Bratton is an old-school, rough, law-and-order cop’s cop with little appreciation, understanding, sensitivity and even knowledge of the poor, disadvantaged and excluded Black communities.

“It is difficult to comprehend how a police commissioner appointed by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a staunch, controversial conservative, could be acceptable to a compassionate, sensitive, unifying and progressive mayor. In addition, how can a mayor appoint a police commissioner who supports stop-and-frisk, to which Mr. de Blasio campaigned against? It has been reported that stop-and-frisk surged 49 percent during Mr. Bratton’s time in Los Angeles.

“However, people do change. Perhaps Mr. de Blasio saw or feels that Mr. Bratton has changed. I hope so. I hate to think that Mr. de Blasio’s progressive rhetoric was just that—rhetoric and nothing more—and we shall witness more Bratton-type appointments.”

On Thursday, the day of the announcement, the Sharpton stated, “When Bill Bratton served in New York City under Rudy Giuliani, we had a very distant and adversarial relationship, but when he served in Los Angeles, he and I and the Los Angeles chapter of National Action Network worked closely on gang violence and police misconduct matters. Mr. Bratton knows of my concerns and the concerns of others about racial profiling in stop-and-frisk policing but, at the same time, is aware of our desire to continue the decrease of violence and crime in our community.

“I told Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Bill Bratton that I hope they will work with a broad cross-sector of New Yorkers to continue the pursuit of both, and we discussed meeting over the next few days to discuss these matters with him and with other civil rights and community leaders.”

Anti-stop-and-frisk activist Jose LaSalle warned, “It is important for the people to rise up when there is an injustice. People [have suffered] enough, and for de Blasio to appoint Bill Bratton as police commissioner tells us that we need to prepare ourselves, our families and our friends for another four years of unconstitutional abuse, criminalization of innocent people, assaults and murders by the militarized Police Department. Why?

“‘I am choosing the best police leader in the United States of America … Plus, [he’s] someone I trust on the philosophical level. We are kindred. We share the same beliefs,’ said de Blasio.”

LaSalle charged, “Bill de Blasio’s true intentions are manifesting themselves now that he no longer needs the people’s vote. He deceived the people by using his Black family to give the false impression that he was concerned for the issues of people of color. He even said that he shares the same beliefs as Bill Bratton.”

LaSalle concluded, “Now it is up to … the real freedom fighters to step up and make Bill de Blasio’s transition to mayor not a smooth one. Join the Stop Stop and Frisk Freedom Fighters and other non-sellout grassroots movements to send a message to de Blasio: ‘We the people will not go quietly into the lies and deceptions of the de Blasio administration.”

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