One Police Plaza

Bratton and de Blasio: Analyze That

April 27, 2015

If anyone understands what’s going on between Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio over Bratton’s request for 1,000 more cops, please come forward.

The mayor, who publicly opposed adding more cops, is now silent on the request — further complicating a policing issue after a controversial first year that culminated with the assassination of two police officers.

His silence suggests a conflict between his so-called progressive agenda and his more practical governing self.

Complicating matters is City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a “progressive” ally of the mayor who supports adding more cops but opposes Bratton’s Broken Windows policing because, she says, it discriminates against minorities.

Recently, Mark-Viverito said she wants to decriminalize some low-level offenses as public urination and subway turnstile jumping, which both Bratton and the mayor oppose. As Bratton put it: “Under no circumstances will I as police commissioner support anything that weakens the ability of my officers to police and keep this city safe.”

Then there are assertions by police department insiders that Bratton will get his 1,000 cops, or a number close to it. This may indicate Bratton knows something that the public doesn’t — perhaps a secret, scripted deal with the mayor.

These assertions may also reflect Bratton’s confidence that his crime-fighting agenda is seen as necessary by City Hall and is supported by most New Yorkers, making him a power in his own right. That’s what happened 20 years ago under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, with catastrophic results for Bratton’s employment.

Let’s begin with the additional 1,000 cops. The department line is that the cops would be deployed in two new city-wide task forces now being assembled. The first is a projected 350-man counter-terrorism task force, known as CRV, or Critical Response Vehicles, under Deputy Commissioner John Miller. Prevously, that task force was staffed by two different officers taken each day from each precinct, Housing PSAs and Transit boroughs.

The second is being developed by Chief of Department James O’Neill as a high-level, city-wide flying squad, combining the current eight borough task forces and responding to such events as major demonstrations. This would allow hundreds more cops to patrol the precincts, some responding to radio calls, others engaging with local communities, in what is commonly called “community policing.” That part sounds like a satisfactory conclusion for de Blasio that is in sync with his political agenda.

Now let’s turn to Bratton. When he returned to the NYPD last year, people wondered how long he’d stay, given the mayor’s anti-police rhetoric and Bratton’s history of early departures. [His most recent seven-year tenure in Los Angles was the exception.]

The crisis in December following the assassinations of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos — which some civilians and many cops blamed in part on de Blasio — revealed Bratton at his best. He finessed both an ill-conceived police slowdown and a symbolic gesture of contempt toward the mayor when officers at the two cops’ funerals turned their backs at him.

Now Bratton seems to be here for the long haul. “He is not going anywhere,” says a person close to him.

Finally, let’s turn to Bratton’s relationship with the mayor. It’s unclear exactly what that relationship is. While Bratton has told people that he enjoys working for de Blasio more than for any other mayor, the person close to him says, “The mayor doesn’t get it that Bill saved him in Dec. and Jan.”

People who know Bratton best agree that he plays his cards closely, that it’s difficult to get him angry, and that he doesn’t hold grudges.

After 20 years, he’s made it up with Giuliani. He’s apparently forgiven Rudy, not just for firing him with no credible public explanation, but for appointing a successor who spent the next four years denigrating Bratton’s accomplishments and calling him “some airport cop from Boston.”

In those 20 years Bratton has become a more skillful and patient politician. He seems to know just how far he can go in publicly disagreeing with a mayor. Unlike Giuliani, he knows de Blasio is in no position to fire him.

And no matter how the 1,000 cops play out, no matter how many or how few additional cops Bratton gets, that battle has been won. 


Copyright © 2015 Leonard Levitt