Bill Bratton Will Head the NYPD. Can He Keep Bill de Blasio's Stop-and-Frisk Promise?
New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that Bill Bratton, who formerly headed the Boston, Los Angeles, and New York City police departments, will once again serve as commissioner of the NYPD. Rumors about Bratton's appointment have been swirling since late November.
"[Bratton] knows what it takes to keep a city safe, and make communities full partners in the mission," de Blasio's statement reads. "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."
The end of that statement speaks to de Blasio's balancing act with the NYPD. His campaign promise to reform stop-and-frisk was spun by critics as a pledge to hamstring the NYPD and plunge the city into chaos and violence. In de Blasio's view, one critic argued, "progressivism trumps safety, at every turn." Putting Rudy Giuliani's former police commissioner back in charge will likely silence de Blasio's law-and-order critics. But what about the people who voted for him because they believed he'd rein in the NYPD? "Mayor-Elect de Blasio’s priorities are my priorities," Bratton's statement read. Will the pioneer of broken windows policing really be all that different from Ray Kelly?
It might be a while before we hear about the new administration's concrete policy plans. Until then, the best indicator of what the future holds is Bratton's recent past. When he left the helm of the Los Angeles Police Department in 2009, Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said his resignation was "a great loss for the city of Los Angeles."
"Bratton believes in community policing, and he restored the confidence of the community in the LAPD," Rapston wrote. "I watched three prior police chiefs run the LAPD, and the reality is that progress was not made until Chief Bratton became chief and imposed his will and values on the department." Yet Ripston also hedged her praise, saying Bratton "rejected" an ACLU report showing that "black and Latino residents of this city are stopped, frisked and arrested far more often than whites."
Bratton's response to said ACLU report? "As far as the ACLU, they need to give it up. This department is a model for American policing. And I resent their continuing attempt to try to infer that this department engages in racial profiling. We do not." Will he be a more sympathetic listener when he hears the same argument in New York?
Even though it's unclear what will happen with stop-and-frisk, there is one policy on which Bratton has made his opinion known, and that's on-body cameras for officers. "So much of what goes on in the field is ‘he-said-she-said,’ and the camera offers an objective perspective,” Bratton told The New York Times earlier this year. “Officers not familiar with the technology may see it as something harmful. But the irony is, officers actually tend to benefit. Very often, the officer’s version of events is the accurate version.”
Top image: Bill de Blasio welcomes Bill Bratton. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz