Former LAPD chief William Bratton picked as NYPD's top cop again
NEW YORK — William Bratton, whose tenure as New York City police commissioner in the 1990s was marked by a steep decline in crime and clashes with then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has been chosen to lead the nation's largest police force again.
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced the appointment Thursday, saying Bratton is a “proven crime-fighter” who knows how to keep the city safe.
Bratton is being named to lead the NYPD as it tries to maintain a historic drop in crime and an extensive counterterrorism program, even as its tactics have come under increased scrutiny.
Bratton, who has also led the Boston and Los Angeles police departments, will succeed Raymond Kelly, the NYPD's longest-serving commissioner. He is arguably the most important administration appointment for de Blasio, a Democrat who takes office Jan. 1.
“Together, we are going to preserve and deepen the historic gains we've made in public safety — gains Bill Bratton helped make possible,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We will do it by rejecting the false choice between keeping New Yorkers safe and protecting their civil rights. This is an administration that will do both.”
Bratton said his first duty will be “to bring police and community together. ... It must be done fairly, compassionately and consistently.”
Bratton, known for his outsized personality and fondness for the limelight, was police commissioner under Giuliani, a Republican, from 1994 to 1996. He emphasized the broken-windows theory of police work: that criminals who commit small crimes, such as vandalism, also commit more serious crimes.
Bratton helped spearhead the use of CompStat, a data-driven system of tracking crimes that allows police to better allocate their resources to high-crime areas. The real-time system is still used today.
Crime immediately plummeted under Bratton, who benefited from an influx of new police officers.
The year before Bratton took office, there were 1,946 murders citywide; by contrast, in 1996 there were 983, the first time it had dipped under 1,000 since 1968.
But Bratton frequently fought with Giuliani over who deserved the lion's share of the credit. He resigned after two years.
Bratton, who had led the Boston Police Department and the formerly independent New York City Transit Police before running the NYPD, was tapped to head another big-city police force in 2002. He spent seven years atop the Los Angeles Police Department and is credited with cleaning up the scandal-plagued department's image. Crime dropped every year he was in office.
He has been working at private security firms since 2009.
De Blasio, who also interviewed NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks and First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro before selecting Bratton, has long said he wouldn't keep Kelly as commissioner. But the mayor-elect has stressed he will try to continue the city's record public safety gains while improving police-community relations, which he said he believes have been strained by the police tactic known as stop-and-frisk.
The tactic allows police to stop anyone believed to be acting suspiciously. Its supporters say it has driven down crime while its critics say it unfairly targets black and Latino men.
Bratton, a Boston native, has said he supports the proper use of the tactic. Police stops surged 49 percent during his time in Los Angeles, according a study by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
A federal judge ruled over the summer that the NYPD sometimes carried out its stops unconstitutionally by unfairly targeting minorities. Her ruling is on hold pending an appeal by the city.
The appeal won't be heard until after de Blasio takes office, and he has said he'd drop it.
Civil Rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton acknowledged he has been both an ally and adversary to Bratton during his previous tenure, but hopes the leaders can work together “to continue the decrease of violence and crime in our community.”
De Blasio made reforming, but not eliminating, stop-and-frisk one of the centerpieces of this mayoral campaign. Many of his supporters believe that de Blasio's family gave him a powerful perspective on the issue: de Blasio, who is white, is married to a black woman and he said he worried that his interracial son would be unfairly stopped by police.
Both Banks and Pineiro are minorities.
Last year, there were 414 murders in the city, a record low, and this year is on pace to be lower still.
Kelly, who served as commissioner for two years under former Mayor David Dinkins and then 12 years under outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been praised as one of the most effective commissioners in the NYPD's history.
Besides overseeing the historic reduction in crime, he dramatically bolstered the NYPD's counterterrorism and surveillance capabilities after the Sept. 11 attacks. The NYPD has foiled more than a dozen terror plots since but has come under criticism for its surveillance of Muslim communities, revealed in a series of Associated Press stories.
Bratton, who had publically campaigned for the top NYPD job, hasn't commented on the surveillance program.
Can William Bratton turn around the Big Apple again?
He garnered national attention for a dramatic drop in crime while he was New York's police commissioner in the 1990s, then helped turn around L.A.'s Police Department. Now he's back at the NYPD.
Under fire for its controversial stop-and-frisk policy — which a federal judge has declared racially discriminatory and a violation of the 4th and 14th amendments — New York City has turned to a familiar face to lead the nation's largest police force: William J. Bratton.
Bratton garnered national attention for a dramatic drop in crime while he was New York's police commissioner in the 1990s. But his subsequent tenure as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department cemented his reputation as a reformer. Though brash and blunt — arrogant, some called him — Bratton managed to both cut crime and significantly improve the LAPD's relations with African American and Latino communities after decades of mistrust.
That latter skill — reducing crime while respecting civil rights — is just what New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio says he needs. We'll be watching to see if Bratton can manage another turnaround.
When Bratton arrived in Los Angeles in 2002, the Police Department was in turmoil. After the Rampart scandal, it was under a federal consent decree designed to root out and prevent officer corruption, as well as to address citizens' complaints about police abuse. Although previous chiefs had talked about community policing, Bratton made it the bedrock of the department. In addition to emphasizing statistics, mapping and "predictive policing," he sought to improve race relations by reaching out to critics of the department, hiring a more diverse force and training recruits to respect the communities they served.
Bratton didn't shy away from aggressive policing. He declared gang members "domestic terrorists" and flooded neighborhoods with officers, using graffiti, trespassing, truancy and curfew laws to clear out gangsters — a tactic tried before with temporary success. But he also demanded accountability and restraint by officers. He sent them to work with community leaders and gang interventionists to mediate disputes and create opportunities for gangbangers to exit the criminal life.
When officers beat and fired nonlethal rounds at peaceful immigration rights demonstrators in MacArthur Park in 2007, Bratton didn't immediately rally to the side of his troops as his predecessors might have done. Instead, he was angry, acknowledging officers' mistakes and demanding change.
Bratton's ego and penchant for self-promotion are legendary. And his blunt language can border on offensive, such as when he called a community activist a "nitwit." But in Los Angeles, at least, those traits didn't hinder him or the department.
As temperatures drop, police turn attention to the homeless
by Jon Humbert
SEATTLE -- Seattle police are hitting the streets to keep alleys and abandoned areas safe, but the effort is more about helping the homeless than about stopping crime.
Seattle shelters fill up quickly when the temperatures drop, so a special kind of police patrol is now working to help homeless men and women who've been left out in the cold.
Out on patrol with a paddy wagon of sorts in tow, people would be forgiven for assuming the officers were getting ready to make a bust or mass arrest.
Instead, they're out looking for people in need of a little warmth, and the paddy wagon is actually the "warm weather welcome wagon."
Officer Chad McLaughlin and Sgt. Paul Gracy are part of the department's Community Policing Division, and they go out every night to help the homeless get away from the freezing pavement.
"What we're truly trying to do here is reach out to those folks who may have not gotten the word that it's going to get really cold," Gracy said.
The perception of cops harassing the homeless is a tough one to shake, and that's evident on the streets. Even in Thursday night's bone-chilling cold, only one person took up the offer for shelter after an hour of searching.
"We hit most of the spots a few times, and as it gets colder, a lot of people will change their minds," McLaughlin said.
Gracy and McLaughlin said some people have criminal troubles or have been booted from shelters before and literally have nowhere else to go. But the Warm Weather Welcome Wagon takes all comers.
"We're going to be out all night, so if you guys change your mind, we'll come back by. Just look for the van," McLauglin said.
While the patrols mostly focus on downtown and along the viaduct, officers can call for a van pickup anywhere in the city.
The shelter room at the Seattle Center will be open through at least Sunday.
The Changing Face of New Haven Crime
by Amanda Raus
For the past 20 years, crime in New Haven has been a consistent problem, but Mayor John DeStefano says the kind of crime they're facing has changed.
“Twenty years ago, a lot of it came from hierarchical, organized drug gangs dealing with crack," said DeStefano. "Now, it's almost more casual it seems. It tends to be over boy-girl stuff, respect stuff. We've seen issues out of these clubs now."
DeStefano said people tend to resort to violence more quickly than they would have 20 years ago, and now their weapon of choice is usually a handgun.
“Unfortunately, it affects largely the African American community; it's largely male," DeStefano said. "You see that it typically involves the re-entry population. People come back."
The way New Haven has dealt with crime has also changed. In the '90s, New Haven relied heavily on its partnerships with the federal government to rid the city of gangs, but after 9/11, those federal resources diminished.
Then in 2007, the state had to step in after two New Haven police officers were arrested for stealing what they thought was drug money.
“When Chief Ortiz left, we had a corruption problem in the department, in the narcotics unit, which required us to dismantle the narcotics unit, basically rely on the state, which came at a cost," said DeStefano. "I think as a result of that, there was increased violence in the city.”
DeStefano said the city needed to reset the police department and looked to an outside agency to find its next chief. A few were brought in, and temporarily ran the department, before DeStefano approached current Chief Dean Esserman in 2011. At the time there was question over his selection because Esserman had resigned from his post as chief in Providence, R.I., after controversy there.
“In a lot of ways, Chief Esserman was going back to something that was done well here 20 years ago in policing, and I think he's been a positive, actually stabilizing force, and has been usually positive for the city,” said DeStefano.
Esserman had his work cut out for him with 34 homicides that year.
“In 2011, when he recruited me at the end of that year, we were coming off of a very hard year in New Haven, which ironically had the identical number of murders as 20 years ago in 1991 when I was recruited here from New York City to be an assistant chief,” said Esserman.
He immediately implemented community policing where officers walk the beat to build relationships in the community and earn the community's trust.
“We've only begun. We have a long way to go," said Esserman. "We'll make our mistakes along the way, but we've enjoyed the remarkable support from our Mayor and our Board of Aldermen.”
So far, community policing seems to be working. Violent crime statistics are down, but homicides are still a problem. Esserman said most of the violence is not random, but New Haven has had its share of tragedies during which innocent people died.
“Statistics and numbers are one thing, but to me, they're stories and names," Esserman said. "I know them."
The challenge for police is to continue their progress. Longtime community activist Rev. Scott Marks said he's seen a positive change in a short amount of time.
“What we have to do is build the respect and the trust for officers to the community, and community to the officers so people feel safe when they step forward to come out with the truth,” said Marks.