NEW YORK -- Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on Thursday named former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton to head the New York Police Department, calling him a “progressive visionary” who will fight crime while also easing distrust and animosity that have resulted from the department’s extensive use of stop-and-frisk tactics.
“The idea here is to have real reform,” De Blasio said as Bratton stood alongside him at a news conference.
The selection of Bratton, who also served in Boston and in New York in the 1990s under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, had been expected. Throughout his campaign, De Blasio campaigned on promises to oust the current police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, blaming his leadership for a deteriorating relationship between police and the Latino and African American communities.
Under Kelly, who has served since 2002, crime has continued a steady decline in the nation’s largest city, but the department's policy of stop-question-frisk against mainly blacks and Latinos became a key issue in this year’s mayoral campaign.
Bratton said he agreed with De Blasio that major changes in the NYPD were needed, and he said he would use his experience as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, which he said was once “literally at war with its African American community,” to improve the situation in New York.
“We have a situation in the city at this time which is so unfortunate,” Bratton said of New York. “At a time when police and communities should be so much closer together ... that is not the case in so many communities in this city.”
Bratton served two years as police commissioner under Giuliani in the 1990s, at a time when crime began its sharp decline. That experience made Bratton an international figure. By the time he arrived in Los Angeles in 2002, he was a law enforcement superstar who had appeared on the cover of Time magazine for his success in New York. He served as LAPD chief until 2009.
During his time with Giuliani, Bratton oversaw implementation of the "broken windows" theory of policing. In this effort, nonviolent offenses such as littering were prosecuted with zeal, with the idea that cracking down on smaller offenses would help prevent crime from spiraling out of control.
In Los Angeles, Bratton was credited with revamping the troubled police department and instituting the computer-generated CompStat crime-fighting system, which had been used in New York under Giuliani. Crime in Los Angeles fell steadily under Bratton, and public support for the department rose.
Bratton does not oppose the use of stop-question-frisk, but he said it should be part of a broader community policing tactic that does not target specific groups of people and respects individual rights.
“It must be done fairly, respectfully,” he said of community policing. “It must be done compassionately.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, an activist in the African American community and a leading opponent of stop-question-frisk, said he had a “very distant and adversarial relationship” with Bratton when he served in New York under Giuliani. But he said their relations improved after Bratton went to Los Angeles and the two worked together on gang-violence and police-misconduct issues.
“Mr. Bratton knows 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,” Sharpton said in a statement.
The NYPD’s Sergeants Benevolent Assn. also said it supported Bratton’s return to the city. “Everything changed under Bratton, and for the better,” Sgt. Ed Mullins, the association's president, said of Bratton’s earlier time in New York. “Bratton managed from the bottom-up; he didn’t manage from the top-down.”