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Former NYPD Chief Bill Bratton Compares Stop-And-Frisks to Chemotherapy

By Julie Shapiro | March 22, 2012 1:37pm
Bill Bratton, former NYPD commissioner, spoke to the Lower Manhattan Marketing Association on Thurs., March 22, 2012.
Bill Bratton, former NYPD commissioner, spoke to the Lower Manhattan Marketing Association on Thurs., March 22, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

LOWER MANHATTAN — The NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy is essential to keeping the city safe — but only if it's used in moderation, former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Thursday.

Bratton, who oversaw the city's dramatic crime reductions in the mid-1990s, said using stop-and-frisks to confiscate illegal guns and fight crime is like using chemotherapy and radiation to fight cancer.

While too high a dose can be fatal, the right amount can save a person's — or a city's — life, Bratton said.

"The challenge is to do it appropriately," Bratton said. "Applied in the right way, in the right moderation, [chemotherapy and radiation] will cure most cancers. [Stop-and-frisk] is an intrusive power...but applied in the right way, it can have the effect of reducing crime."

Stop-and-frisks — which allow police to search anyone it believes was involved in a crime — have been criticized for unfairly targeting minorities and violating people's civil liberties, but Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has defended the practice as an effective crime-fighting tool.

Bratton voiced his views on stop-and-frisks during a speech to the Lower Manhattan Marketing Association Thursday morning. He spoke about some of the most difficult issues confronting the NYPD — ranging from terrorism to Occupy Wall Street — 16 years after he stepped down from the top spot.

Bratton, who went on to become police chief in Los Angeles and now works the for private security and risk-mitigation firm Kroll, urged New Yorkers to ask questions about NYPD policies. He also said police and city officials ought to be as transparent as possible.

"The debates that are currently occurring are healthy debates to have," Bratton told DNAinfo before his speech, referring to the controversy over stop-and-frisks and allegations that the NYPD has been spying on Muslims.

"The Police Department has to always be transparent in what they are doing," he continued. "A lot of what's happening now is the media and the public wanting more information, more justification from the Police Department. That's appropriate."

The looming threat of terrorism is forcing the NYPD to make difficult decisions about how to keep New Yorkers safe, Bratton said in his speech.

"What's the appropriate balance to ensure safety and at the same time ensure the liberty we so cherish isn't infringed upon?" he said. "We live in a democracy. Democracy is about transparency."

At least, "We are having discussions and debates about the issue rather than throwing hand grenades at each other," Bratton added.

Bratton said he is no fan of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which brought back the tent cities he had worked so hard to eradicate from New York and Los Angeles.

"Many cities made the mistake of embracing them with open arms," he said. "They [created] major problems for themselves…You can't allow people to occupy public space."

After his speech Thursday morning, Bratton quashed rumors that he might run for mayor in 2013. Bratton said he considered running a couple years ago, but likened the idea to leaning over the edge of a cliff and jumping.

"I am sane by declaring I have no interest in running for mayor of New York City," Bratton said.