A Tale of Two Bills
After serving under mayor Rudy Giuliani from 1994 to 1996, William Bratton, 66, is no stranger to being the head of the New York City police department. Now Bratton has become Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pick as the city’s 44th police commissioner.
New Yorkers who resided in the city during the Giuliani years often associate Bratton with the policing strategies known as “CompStat” and “broken windows.” CompStat used a computer system to pinpoint crimes and making precinct commanders responsible for allocating resources to problem areas. The “broken windows” theory involved a crackdown on miniscule violations such as vandalism, trespassing, and turnstile hopping based on the notion that criminals with outstanding warrants for more serious crimes frequently engage in lower level violations.
Bratton’s “broken windows” law was the precursor to the “stop and frisk” policy which caused massive unrest from residents under Ray Kelly’s tenure as police commissioner. The New York Civil Liberties Union analysis of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice found that innocent black and Latino New Yorkers were stopped 400,000 times in 2012, while innocent whites were stopped 44,500 times.
Bratton immediately began discussing stop-and-frisk during his swearing in ceremony at the NYPD’s headquarters, One Police Plaza, and confirmed what most New Yorker’s assumed – that stop-and-frisk wasn’t leaving New York under his command.
“Stop and frisk is the fundamental tactic used by police and every community in the United States everyday,” Bratton said. “It is what they do. It’s what they want them to do. The challenge in New York is to how it is done,” he said.
“It needs to be done constitutionally. You can’t break the law to enforce it. It needs to be done respectfully, and it needs to be done consistently. It needs to be consistently done in white neighborhoods as well as minority neighborhoods,” Bratton said.
During the ceremony, Bratton argued the de Blasio’s campaign wasn’t against stop-and-frisk, but taking a “mend, don’t end” approach by reforming the policy. This reformation includes the guidelines U.S. district court judge Shira Scheindlin handed down in the decision from the Floyd v. City of New York case in August of 2013 which was appealed by the Bloomberg administration. Bratton also proposed an interest in attaching cameras to police officers in order to reduce the use of force and complaints filed against the police during their practices.
“There is always a way of doing it correctly,” said first-year York College student Alonzo Mills. “It depends on the cops, there are good cops, there are bad cops. The bad cops need to be held responsible for their actions.”
Mills said he believes Bratton needs to concentrate on how the cops are doing their job, rather than what they are doing.
Joo-Hyun Kang, spokesperson for the Communities United for Police Reform, a campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, said that if Bratton follows through on many of the reforms he and the mayor have have promised to implement, tensions between the police and the black and Hispanic communities could scale back.
“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 community partnerships based on respect for the dignity and rights of all New Yorkers rather than on discrimination-based stop, summons and arrest quotas,” said Kang.
While stop-and-frisk can be problematic, the real issue resides in the quota system, explained Robert Gangi of the Police Reform Organizing Project at a “Bill de Blasio, Bill Bratton, and Stop-And-Frisk & Racial Profiling in New York City” seminar.
For decades the NYPD has operated on a quota system, whereby officers were pressured to perform an ambiguous number of stops and summonses to citizens or face penalties including erratic hours, unpopular assignments and no overtime duty Gangi said. “We should be going after the abolishment of the quota system. That will then mend and fix the stop and frisk.”
Bill Bratton announced that the stop-and-frisk problem is being solved because the numbers of stops have decreased within the years, he explained.
“Dropping the numbers doesn’t resolve the problem, the way they operate is the problem. The way they operate is through the quota system,” said Gangi.