NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard LevittSign up to get column in email

Get a link in your mailbox to your weekly NYPD Confidential column as soon as it is published! Click on the button above right on this page — or here — to sign up for this feature.

The Mayor's NYPD Hype

January 22, 2018

If there’s a lesson from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s remarks at last week’s police promotions, it is that only a fool would accept at face value what a politician says about the NYPD.

Let’s begin with the mayor’s shout-out to former Commissioner Bill Bratton regarding the NYPD’s current signature policy, neighborhood policing.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to Commissioner Bratton who started thinking these thoughts long ago on the beat in Boston,” de Blasio said.

Well, if Bratton had those thoughts in Boston, he never acted upon them in New York City.

When he became commissioner in 1994 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, he upended neighborhood policing’s first cousin — a policy known as community policing.

No one ever defined what community policing was other than the department’s attempt to become more engaged with residents in minority, i.e., high-crime, communities. It was introduced under former Mayor David Dinkins and carried out fitfully by his police Commissioners Lee Brown and Ray Kelly. 

Bratton and Giuliani, seeking their own policing brand, derided community policing as “social work.” They disparaged Kelly, blaming him and the Dinkins administration for the city’s record-high homicide rate that had risen above 2,000 a year.

Instead, Bratton initiated “broken windows” and “zero tolerance,” policies under which cops arrested just about everyone in sight for the most minor of crimes. With homicides falling to 1,000 a year by 1996, Giuliani and Bratton credited the declines to their strategies.

 Kelly returned as commissioner in 2001 but forgot he’d ever heard of community policing. Instead, he initiated stop-and-frisk, which resulted in some 5 million stops, primarily of young black and Hispanic males, during his 12-year tenure. As the crime rate continued to fall, he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was Missing In Action when it came to the police, attributed the declines to stop-and-frisk.

So now it’s de Blasio’s ballgame. With homicides at under 300 last year, the lowest level since the 1950s, he said last week, in promoting Terrence Monahan to Chief of Department: “Neighborhood policing has allowed us as a strategy to achieve things that might have been inconceivable not so many years ago. To create a bond, a mutual respect in every kind of neighborhood, it’s an extraordinarily powerful thing.”

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialThe mayor made no mention of an issue arguably more significant than neighborhood policing: the appointment of three top Hispanic chiefs. Why no  mention? Possibly because to make room for them, Police Commissioner Jim O’Neill forced the retirement of two long-serving white chiefs, Joanne Jaffe and Joseph Fox. Two other longserving white chiefs, Thomas Purtell and Diana Pizzuti, were also told it was time to go. Pizzuti’s ouster is interesting as O’Neill had promoted her just a year ago.

So congratulations to Fausto Pichardo, who is now a two-star assistant chief. Just two and a half years ago, he was a deputy inspector in the public information office, the first Hispanic at that level. But after only 10 months, he was transferred to the Bronx after run-ins with his superior officer.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittCongratulations also to three-star chief Nilda Irizarry Hofmann, who replaces Jaffe as the head of Community Affairs. She is the first Hispanic female to reach the three-star rank.

Finally Ed Delatorre replaces Fox as head of the Transit Bureau. A longtime Bronx guy, Delatorre had for the past three years commuted to Staten Island as the borough’s commanding officer, where some criticized his conciliatory attitude toward the family of “chokehold” victim Eric Garner, which included having an officer fix a headlight on the car of Garner’s mom.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialBack in the Bronx, Delatorre was considered less Puerto Rican than Italian but he is apparently now a bonafide Puerto Rican. In these tricky ethnically challenged times, you gotta do what you gotta do to get promoted.

As for neighborhood policing, maybe someday de Blasio will explain how it differs from community policing. Whether you can believe him is another matter.

« Back to top
Copyright © 2018 Leonard Levitt