New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on Thursday tapped Bill Bratton to become the city’s next police commissioner, a selection that was hailed by many as pragmatic but drew scepticism from some members of de Blasio’s progressive base.
The choice of Bratton is a throwback to the administration of Rudy Giuliani, when Bratton was the commissioner for two mostly tumultuous years that featured personal clashes with Giuliani.
“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. “And 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.”
De Blasio highlighted the fact that felony crime dropped 39% under Bratton’s watch in the mid-90s. Bratton followed up his efforts in New York City by moving on to become the Los Angeles Police Commissioner in 2002.
The de Blasio transition team highlighted all the right people in a statement praising the selection of Bratton. There was former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.); New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; and Jeremy Travis, the president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former deputy of legal matters for the NYPD, among others.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also praised the move.
But in what was the most closely watched appointment, de Blasio found some detractors from the base that had elected him after he campaigned on sweeping progressive ideas, including a reform of the controversial stop-and-frisk policy of which Bratton is a proponent.
“This is an outrage. … This is an outrage!” New York City councilman Charles Barron told Business Insider in an interview.
“Asking Bill Bratton to come back and stop racial profiling stop-and-frisk is like asking an arsonist to come back and put out some fires. … It’s a slap in the face to everybody in the progressive community.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who clashed with Bratton during the 90s, released a cautious statement that noted the pair’s history — including the fact that their relationship took a turn for the better when Bratton was in Los Angeles and they worked together on reducing gang violence.
“When Bill Bratton served in New York City under Rudy Giuliani, we had a very distant and adversarial relationship, but when he served in Los Angeles, he and I and the Los Angeles Chapter of National Action Network worked closely on gang violence and police misconduct matters,” Sharpton said.
“Mr. Bratton knows of 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.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union released a similarly cautious statement, saying that it looked forward to working with both de Blasio and Bratton to “ensure that fundamental changes are made to the NYPD.”
Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, tweeted that she wasn’t “jumping for joy,” suggesting that the pick didn’t satisfy concerns over stop-and-frisk and NYPD surveillance of Muslims. But she said later that the “de Blasio folks” were already reaching out to those sceptical of the appointment, a good sign.
For his part, de Blasio cast Bratton as someone who understood the balance between civil rights and keeping the city safe. And Bratton said in a press conference that this wasn’t a return to the Giuliani administration.
“This is not deja vu all over again,” he said.
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