Former New York Police Department commissioner Bill Bratton will return to his leadership role under New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio.
Speaking at the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn on Thursday, first in English than in Spanish, de Blasio announced Bratton’s appointment and praised him for his past work in New York City. “The fact is that, over an extraordinary career, Bratton has proved he can fight crime effectively and bring police and community together.”
Bratton, who served as NYPD commissioner from 1994-1996 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is credited with lowering the city’s crime rates, but was also seen as damaging the relationship between the police department and civilians.
“Bratton is a mixed bag,” Norm Siegel, former excecutive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times in 1996 after Bratton’s resignation. “For more New Yorkers, he was the police commissioner who was in charge when crime statistics dramatically declined. Yet for some New Yorkers, Bill Bratton was the police commissioner who was in charge when complaints about police misconduct dramatically increased.”
Bratton will replace current commissioner Ray Kelly, who led the department as a swell of public discontent grew over New York’s stop-and-frisk program for overwhelmingly targeting black and Latino men. The New York Attorney General’s office released a report last month that found that 97% of those stopped under the stop-and-frisk policy were not convicted on any crime.
The issue became a centerpiece in the mayoral race earlier this year. De Blasio campaigned against the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk, and has said previously he plans to reform the program.
While Bratton served as Los Angeles Police Department Chief from 2002 to 2009, the use of stop-and-frisk dramatically rose.“In dealing with the use of stop-and-frisk it is very important to address it in much the same way as the racial profiling issues of the 90s had to be addressed by police. Stop-and- frisk is the racial profiling issue, if you will, of the 21st century,” Bratton said in an interview earlier this year before heading to Oakland, Calif., to advise the Oakland police department.
He added, “You have to ensure you are always using that tool constitutionally, meaning you have to comply with the very stringent guidelines. That can be done through training and supervision. You have to ensure that it’s being done compassionately and always remember you are dealing with human beings. And you want to ensure that it’s done consistently, that you don’t apply it separately in a poor neighborhood and a rich neighborhood, you don’t interact with blacks differently than you do with whites or Latinos.”
De Blasio on Thursday reiterated a statement Bratton made last year about the need to use stop-and-frisk “with respect” and in “the right dose” so it helps save lives, rather than create problems. “The idea here is to have real reform,” de Blasio said.
Bratton added he was committed to ensuring the police department were not seen as the causes of disruption and anger, but instead acted fairly and respectfully moving forward. “The first obligation of democracy is public safety,” Bratton said. “There’s no more important promise that we make.”