NYPD Commissioner William Bratton To Step Down Next Month

Aug 2, 2016
Originally published on August 2, 2016 6:46 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

William Bratton is one of the most recognizable names in law enforcement since J. Edgar Hoover, and today Bratton announced he's stepping down from his job leading the nation's largest police department. NPR's Joel Rose reports that Bratton led New York City PD through a tumultuous time for policing in America.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: If you want to measure William Bratton's impact on the NYPD, just look at the numbers - the huge number of fellow officers and friends who jammed City Hall for today's announcement.

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COMMISSIONER WILLIAM BRATTON: I wish I had many more years to stay and deal with the issues that are facing this city, facing my profession, facing this country. But I don't.

ROSE: Bratton is 68 years old. His career started in Boston where he rose to the rank of commissioner. This is his second stint heading New York's police department. During his first term in the mid-1990s, he was credited with helping drive down the city's high crime rates, but he clashed with then Mayor Rudy Giuliani and left, ultimately landing at the Los Angeles Police Department. He came back to New York two years ago at the invitation of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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BILL DE BLASIO: I wish I had words for what this man has achieved. I think you could spend years and years researching and analyzing. You won't get it all.

ROSE: In his second stint as commissioner, Bratton presided over a big drop in the number of New Yorkers who were stopped and frisked without a warrant while crime rates continued to decline to their lowest levels in half a century. But even Bratton admits he's leaving behind some unfinished business.

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BRATTON: The issue of race and community relations are on a journey, but it's on a journey unique to New York City. That's a crisis in America at this moment. The national election is revolving around it. But I would argue that we are farther along in New York City than most places to meet it.

ROSE: But not everyone is sad to see Bratton go.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.

ROSE: A small but vocal protest outside city hall today - Josmar Trujillo was one of the protesters. He blames Bratton and his support for so-called broken windows policing, for the fraught relationship between police and the community.

JOSMAR TRUJILLO: He knows that he's hated in communities of color all across this city, and he was hated back in the '90s, too. This is a long time coming.

ROSE: Bratton will be replaced by his second in command, James O'Neill, who pledged to continue the department's shift toward community policing.

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ROSE: Away from a style of policing the city that sometimes lost focus of the most important aspect of safeguarding the public - lowering crime but not at the expense of losing the vital support of the people that we were sworn to protect and serve.

ROSE: Bratton had previously said he would step down by 2017. He now says he'll leave next month. That's fueling speculation that the speed of his departure has something to do with friction at City Hall or an ongoing corruption probe into the NYPD. But Bratton denied all that. He says he's leaving for a private sector job at the consulting firm Teneo. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.