Bill Bratton Tapped as NYPD Commissioner

By Colby Hamilton and Murray Weiss  on December 5, 2013 9:54am  | Updated on December 5, 2013 2:25pm

 Bill Bratton holds a copy of "Your Police"--a children's book he said inspired his early desire to become a police officer--as Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced Bratton's return as New York City Police Commissioner on Thursday, December 5, 2013.
Bill Bratton holds a copy of "Your Police"--a children's book he said inspired his early desire to become a police officer--as Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced Bratton's return as New York City Police Commissioner on Thursday, December 5, 2013.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

CITY HALL — Former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who helped the city greatly reduce crime under then-mayor Rudy Giuliani, set forth a sweeping vision for the NYPD's "new era" under his leadership during a press conference announcing his appointment Thursday.

With Bill de Blasio by his side, Bratton, whose time at the helm of the NYPD included the introduction of CompStat, the use of real-time computerized crime data that targets criminal activity and holds supervisors accountable for addressing it, vowed to heal rifts between the city's minority community and the NYPD.

"We have a situation in this city at this time that is so unfortunate," Bratton said at the press conference held at the Red Hook Justice Center, where both he and de Blasio took aim at the outgoing administration's overuse of stop-and-frisk. "Stop-and-frisk is essential to every police department in America and it is also essential that it be done constitutionally."

"In this city, I want every New Yorker to talk about their police, my police, with respect and with confidence that they are going to be respected in turn," Bratton added. "If we get it right, if we make the city safe, if we do it in a way that the public trusts us, then the benefits of that are extraordinary ... If we can get it right here, this is, in many respects, a beacon that can light the rest of the world."

Bratton carried with him a children's book, "Your Police," that he said inspired him to become a police officer when he was a 9-year-old growing up in Boston.

"I checked this thing out [from the library] so often that I don't think anybody else in Boston ever saw it," he said of the book.

Bratton said he's kept the book with him throughout his career in law enforcement, because of the message he said had a "profound influence" on his belief about policing.

"On the last page of this book it reads, 'We must always remember that whenever you see a policeman, he's your friend,'" Bratton said, reading from the book. "'He is there to protect you. He has dedicated his life to the preservation of the laws and property, and the civil rights of the people in the community he serves. He would not hesitate to save your life at the cost of his own.'"

"That's what policing means to me," he said. "That is our commitment to the citizens of New York."

De Blasio hailed Bratton with putting in place innovative strategies — including CompStat. The approach helped send crime tumbling from historic highs and has been copied around the nation and the world. 

"CompStat changed the game forever for showing what technology could do. It was the game changer in terms of policing in this city," de Blasio said.

Following his run at the NYPD, Bratton headed to the Los Angeles Police Department, where he helped "heal the wounds" between that police department and a community still reeling from the Rodney King beating and other police abuses.

"In a place where you would've thought it would've taken decades to heal some of the wounds, Bill Bratton to a very large degree, achieved it in seven years time," de Blasio said.

Bratton's earlier record on community relations as NYPD commissioner in the 1990s under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani was mixed, as critics cited his embrace of the broken windows theory and the implemenation of an aggressive zero-tolerance policy as an opening for police brutality.

Bratton also dealt with his share of scandal inside the ranks, such as the "Dirty Thirty" corruption arrests in Harlem in 1994, which saw more than two dozen officers arrested for shaking down drug dealers for cash and narcotics among other scandals.

De Blasio reiterated his support of the broken windows theory on Thursday and dismissed past criticisms of Bratton, saying the police reforms he undertook have continued to work "unabated for 20 years."

"I imagine many of us in this room have become stronger, wiser, better over 20 years," de Blasio said. "There was different leadership back then — let's just say that — that may have had a different set of values."

Bratton, who currently lives in New York and runs the Bratton Group, a consulting firm, hailed his wife, Rikki Klieman, an attorney and television personality, for supporting him in accepting the job.

"We are giving up an awful lot to respond to this challenge," he said. "It could not have happened without her support."

Bratton's competition for the job was NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks III, a 26-year veteran whose rise to the highest uniformed position in the department gave many insiders the impression that he was being groomed for Kelly's seat, as well as First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro.

In a statement, Ray Kelly congratulated Bratton on his appointment, welcoming him back to 1 Police Plaza.

"I look forward to working with Bill to ensure a smooth transition," Kelly said. "Today, our city is safer than ever before with historic decreases in crime, including record low shootings and murders, and I am confident that record of safety will continue.”

Kelly's time as police commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg will end the exact same way his first tenure as commissioner ended under then-Mayor David Dinkins. Giulani replaced the Dinkins-appointed Kelly with Bratton in 1994.

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