The are rumors about who New York’s mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will tap to head the New York Police Department.
Among the names being considered is William Bratton, a veteran of big-city law enforcement. Bratton has served as the head of the NYPD, the Los Angeles Police Department, and as the District Commissioner of the Boston Police Department. The possibility of Bratton’s return to the helm of the NYPD is getting mixed reviews.
The current head of the NYPD, Commissioner Raymond Kelly, is extremely unpopular in communities of color because of his stubborn stance on stop-and-frisk. Kelly has offended many in the black community by saying that unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policies are a “fact of urban life.”
As the next mayor, De Blasio promised to change the leadership at the NYPD and appoint an independent review board to ensure that the stop-and-frisk program at the NYPD is applied fairly, despite the fact that many New Yorkers simply want the program gone entirely. With this middle ground, who De Blasio taps to head the police department will have immeasurable impact on whether that important campaign promise becomes a reality.
Bratton’s record in New York and his tenure during the Giuliani years are not necessarily selling points.
De Blasio confirmed last week that Bratton is definitely being considered for the job and his spokesperson Lis Smith tweeted that de Blasio will announce his choice when he’s ready. Bratton as a choice would irk many stop-and-frisk opponents because while he was at the top of the LAPD, use of stop-and-frisk increased in that city. Stop-and-frisk has been a bit more “successful” in LA if you factor in the resulting arrests and convictions for gun-related charges, but the fact that he’s a stop-and-frisk supporter does seem to directly contradict de Blasio’s position during the campaign.
While De Blasio never promised to end stop-and-frisk, he did promise to reform the program and the police department and selecting a commissioner who is a stop-and-frisk supporter seems on it’s face to be a step in the opposite direction.
There is one word that sums up Bratton’s tenure under Giuliani nearly two decades ago: data. As commissioner, Bratton was primarily focused on the numbers and crime statistics with an almost obsessive compulsion to do everything necessary to bring the numbers down. This focus on the data, while the best way to be able to point at evidence that crime in the city is going down, does end up having a negative impact on low-income people and people of color, who are usually the first swept up when the police department is aggressively cracking down on petty crimes. As crime statistics go down, reports of police misconduct tend to go up.
In addition to his record, which may make many in the black community wary, is his work in the private sector, which may spell doom for his chances to head the NYPD again. According the Village Voice, Bratton has countless conflicts of interest, from his time in the private sector as the member of a number of corporate boards and as a consultant.
The Voice reports that “After leaving public office the first time in 1996, Bratton took on lucrative consulting jobs. When he again retired from public service in 2009, Bratton joined the boards of several companies that sell technology, surveillance gear, and other goods to police forces, including the NYPD. These companies include Manhattan-based Kroll Inc.,Motorola Solutions, and ShotSpotter Inc.”
Mayor Bloomberg, who also had a number of potential conflicts, had to recuse himself from certain boards and sell off any stock that could be seen as a conflict to his job as mayor of New York before taking office.
These potential conflicts and Bratton’s record as a stop-and-frisk supporter will likely make him a very controversial pick. New Yorkers who voted for de Blasio in the hopes that he would bring radical change to the city and the NYPD will surely be disappointed if the next police chief is a relic of the past.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.