Thursday, December 5, 2013

De Blasio names Bill Bratton next NYPD commissioner

He’s back!

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on Thursday named former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton to replace Ray Kelly as the city’s new top cop.

“This is a great day for New York City,” de Blasio said, vowing over and over that Bratton would restore what he called a lack of trust between the NYPD and the city’s minority communities because of the department’s stop and frisk policy.

“The way to fight crime, to ensure safety, is [working] with the community,” de Blasio said. “Public safety and respect for the public are not contradictory ideas; they are complementary ideas that go hand in hand.”

The mayor-elect heaped praise on Bratton, 66, who also served stints as police chief in Boston and Los Angeles.

“He has combined the best of tradition and the best of innovation in an extraordinary career. Wherever he’s gone, there’s been a reduction in crime,” de Blasio said. “I am choosing the best police leader in the United States of America.”

Bratton echoed de Blasio’s pledge to fix what he said were frayed relationships with segments of the community who feel alienated from the NYPD.

But he also gave a ringing if qualified endorsement of stop and frisk, which a federal judge in August declared unconstitutional because it disproportionately targeted minorities.

“Stop and frisk is essential to every police department in America. But it’s also essential that it be done constitutionally and respectfully. And that is my commitment to this mayor and to the city that it will be done that way,” he said.

The new commissioner said his top three priorities would be to maintain the city’s record low crime rates achieved under Kelly during the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, to work closely with the feds to thwart terror plots and to improve police-community relations.

He also said he would focus on motor vehicle fatalities, which he said are roughly as high as homicide rates.

De Blasio emphasized that the NYPD would continue to focus on crime fighting and anti-terrorism efforts – and singled out Bratton’s relationship with LA’s Muslim community for praise.

“He managed in Los Angeles to deepen the respect and relationship between police and the community, including the Muslim community,” de Blasio said in a thinly-veiled shot at the NYPD’s controversial surveillance of members of New York’s City’s Muslim population.

Bratton was effusive in his praise for de Blasio’s ideas on policing during the nearly one-hour press conference.

“I cannot even begin to thank mayor-elect de Blasio for the opportunity he and administration provided me to return to this profession. I am pleased to return to an administration that has spoken so much about what I’ve attempted to do in 46 years, to bring the police and community together,” he said.

“As police commissioner of the city of New York, I will work very hard, move very quickly to once again bring legitimacy and trust to the citizens of this city who feel they don’t have it,” Bratton said.

He also predicted rank and file cops would welcome the change in leadership.

“I’ve talked to a lot of New York cops on the subways and on the streets and they want change. They want to reap the benefits of what they’ve achieved in terms of crime reduction … and so I think we’ll be able to work very, very well together,” he said.

Toward the end of the event, Bratton held a copy of “Your Police,” a children’s book he said he first read at the age of 9 after taking it out from the Boston Public Library.

“I checked this thing out so often I don’t think anyone else in Boston ever saw it,” he quipped.

He then read a passage from the end of the book that said, “We must always remember that when you see a policeman he is your friend. He is there to protect you.“

Asked about his sometimes-contentious relationship with Giuliani, Bratton joked that he “got a cover from ‘Time’ magazine out of ” getting fired by Giuliani.

“I learn. With all due respect to Mayor Giuliani, we had our differences and some of those differences were created by me,” he said. “I report to the mayor. I’m not the mayor.”

De Blasio at one point repeated the thrust of his announcement in Spanish as Bratton’s wife Rikki Klieman sat with Chirlane McCray, the mayor-elect’s wife and key adviser.

Reaction was swift from federal, city and state political and law enforcement officials.

“Mayor Elect de Blasio has made a smart choice for New York in picking Bill Bratton. As the former Police Commissioner of Boston, Los Angeles and New York, Bill Bratton took on and successfully reined in historically high crime in some of the nation’s largest cities. I commend Mayor Elect de Blasio on his pick and congratulate Bill Bratton on his appointment,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance called it “a great choice” in a statement.

“Bill Bratton already has the respect of the men and women in the NYPD, as well as prosecutors. This appointment puts an innovative veteran at the helm of the nation’s finest police department and will ensure both safety in our streets and fairness in the justice system,” Vance said.

And Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa heaped praise on Bratton.

“During my term as mayor of Los Angeles, we faced some of the most challenging criminal justice issues anywhere in America. Bill Bratton believes in constitutional community policing. He helped transform the LAPD’s relationship with the community it serves while bringing crime down to historic lows,” he said. “He’ll be an effective and innovative police commissioner, and I know his mantra will be ‘treat all New Yorkers with respect.’”

PBA president Patrick J. Lynch also chimed in.

“We congratulate Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on a solid choice of Bill Bratton for Police Commissioner. Commissioner Bratton has an international reputation as a problem solver and innovator. His problem solving style has been to be inclusive of all parties affected by a problem and that’s the best way to find solutions. We look forward to working with Commissioner Bratton to improve the morale of our officers and to support the shield we wear,” Lynch said in a statement.

Communities United for Police Reform, leading critics of stop and frisk, urged Bratton to reject Kelly’s approach to fighting crime.

“It’s critical that Mr. Bratton rejects policies that rely on discrimination, demonstrates a commitment to true accountability, and works to ensure the department values officers’ abilities to build respectful community partnerships based on respect for the dignity and rights of all New Yorkers rather than on discrimination-based stop, summons and arrest quotas,” the group said in a statement.

The appointment – announced during a morning news conference at the Red Hook Justice Center – comes nearly a month after de Blasio won a landslide election on a promise to overhaul the way stop-and-frisk tactics were used.

Bratton was NYPD commissioner under Giuliani from 1994 to 1996 and is credited with implementing the ComStat computer policing system that allows the department to flood high crime zones with police officers.

Giuliani endorsed him for the job last month.

Bratton openly campaigned for the job while advising de Blasio during the campaign, and was seen having dinner with de Blasio and his wife last month in Park Slope.

He beat out the current chief of the department, Philip Banks III, and First Deputy Rafael Pineiro to reclaim the top cop spot.

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