Bill de Blasio, the Democratic mayor-elect who surged to the top of polls this summer while promising to reform the aggressive policing strategy known as stop-and-frisk, has selected a police commissioner who embraced that strategy in the past.
William Bratton, who presided over dramatic crime reductions as police commissioner of New York City between 1994 and 1996, and Los Angeles between 2002 and 2009, will once again take over the New York City Police Department.
De Blasio's transition team made the announcement in a press release Thursday morning. “Bill Bratton is a proven crime-fighter,” de Blasio said in the statement. “He knows what it takes to keep a city safe, and make communities full partners in the mission.”
Bratton became an international celebrity during his first term as New York’s top cop under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. During his 27 months at the helm of the department, he oversaw an extraordinary 33-percent drop in the violent crime rate. He also helped innovate the aggressive style of policing that grew under current Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and which relies on the use of stop-and-frisk, a strategy that has led to hundreds of thousands of arrests of mostly black and Latino New Yorkers, often on minor marijuana charges.
As The Huffington Post reported Monday, opponents of stop-and-frisk have raised questions about whether Bratton is the right man for the job.
“I have not heard him make a definitive statement that the way stop-and-frisk was carried out in New York City over the last 10 years was ineffective,” said Delores Jones-Brown, a former prosecutor and the director of the John Jay College Center on Race, Crime and Justice. “It’s wrong, ethically and morally. I don’t need to hear him waver.”
During Bratton's first term in New York, police sharply stepped up enforcement of drug possession and other low-level crimes, and drug arrests soared by 97 percent from 1993 until the end of his tenure. As the arrest-rate climbed, so did charges of police misconduct, especially in precincts in neighborhoods heavily populated by blacks and Latinos.
In August, a federal judge ruled that the city’s use of stop and frisk violated the civil rights of black and Latino New Yorkers. The city appealed the decision, but the ruling is likely to stand.
De Blasio campaigned on a promise to scale back the practice and to dismiss Kelly, who made the policy a keystone of his tenure. Bratton hasn’t condemned Kelly’s tenure outright, but has hinted that Kelly may have taken the hard-nosed approach too far. In 2012, he compared stop-and-frisk to chemotherapy, saying it is an “intrusive power,” but “applied in the right way, it can have the effect of reducing crime.”
De Blasio referred to those remarks at a press conference in Brooklyn Thursday morning. "Bill Bratton knows when it comes to stop and frisk it has to be used with respect, it has to be used properly," de Blasio said.
Some civil-liberties advocates, and black and Latino leaders support Bratton, largely because of his record as police chief in Los Angeles between 2002 and 2009. During his tenure, Bratton cultivated relationships with a number prominent of Los Angeles Police Department critics, and encouraged officers to collaborate with black and Latino community leaders in an effort to reduce gang violence.
By 2009, 51 percent of residents said that the police in their communities treated members of all racial and ethnic groups fairly “almost all the time” or “most of the time,” up from 44 percent in 2005.