De Blasio Wants To Replace Ray Kelly With Bill Bratton, ‘The Father of Suppression Policing’
Former Los Angeles police chief William “Bill” Bratton is a staunch supporter of stop and frisk—a practice that intensifies racial profiling and police brutality towards black and brown people while failing to prevent crime. Bratton loves stop and frisk so much that he says cities without it are “doomed to failure.”
So imagine my surprise when I learned that New York City Mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio—who’s marketed himself as an opponent of stop and frisk—had floated Bratton as his potential pick to replace Ray Kelly as the city’s police commissioner.
I was even more puzzled when I came across this August 22 post on de Blasio’s campaign website praising Bratton as the “architect of community policing”, in contrast to Ray Kelly (backed by Christine Quinn), the “architect of overuse-and-abuse of stop-and-frisk.”
According to de Blasio’s campaign:
Bill Bratton pioneered community policing and led extraordinary reductions in crime in Los Angeles – a situation similar to New York City – without the unconstitutional use of stop-and-frisk. His cooperation with an inspector general and emphasis on constitutional community policing are useful models for the NYPD.
Meanwhile, here’s how Jamilah King at Colorlines summarizes Bratton’s career:
Bratton’s brand of policing is premised on fixing things that have the potential to break, and then making them look pretty. He began his career in his hometown of Boston before gong to New York and Los Angeles, and is a strong proponent of the “zero tolerance” approach to fighting crime. That approach, known among researchers as the “broken windows theory”, argues that in order to beat big crime, you’ve got to start small, and early, before relatively petty infractions balloon into violent crimes, or mass rebellions. In New York, the approach was credited with drastically reducing the city’s murder rate. But not before critics accused officers of widespread police harassment of young black and Latino men for petty infractions like loitering, truancy, public noise and jumping train turnstyles. In 1994, Bratton’s first year as police commissioner in New York, juvenile arrests jumped to over 98,000 from just over 20,000 the previous year.
To be clear, there is no empirical proof that “broken windows” policing was responsible for New York City’s historic decline in crime in the 1990s. In fact, crime reductions took placed at that time in cities across the country, most of which were not employing “broken windows”. Still, Bratton’s preferred method of policing continues to be implemented, most recently in Detroit.
Bratton’s response to critics has been unsettling. In a 2006 op-ed for the National Review Online, Bratton wrote, “ ivory-tower academics…cloak themselves in the mantle of an empirical ‘scientist’ and produce ‘findings’ indicating that broken windows has been disproved…Police don’t have time for these virtual-reality theories; they do their work in the real world.” Bratton went on to say that “citizens — especially minorities — appreciate it.”
That same year, Kim McGill, of the Youth Justice Coalition in LA, told The Guardian, “[Bratton's] had one of the most detrimental effects on policing in Los Angeles and New York of any chief of police. His ‘broken windows’ policy leads to racist and brutal policing and separates the police from the local community.”
Bratton’s legacy still haunts communities of color today, as was demonstrated when the Oakland City Council voted to hire Bratton as a consultant earlier this year. Oakland city residents, particularly those of color, protested the vote, fearing that Bratton would bring stop and frisk to their city. “Bratton is the father of suppression policing,” Oakland resident Jay Donahue told the Oakland Tribune at the time. “He destroys black and brown communities.”
De Blasio is right to criticize Kelly for his “overuse and abuse of stop-and-frisk.” But what on earth makes him think Bratton will be any different?