MANHATTAN — NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton will step down and take a job in the private sector, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
The move came as a surprise to many New Yorkers, and even officials within the NYPD. Although Bratton told de Blasio about his intention to retire back on July 8, the decision was kept under wraps until Tuesday morning.
"In September, Commissioner Bratton will retire from the NYPD," the mayor said at a noon press conference.
It was Bratton's second stint as police commissioner — he was first appointed to the post by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani back in the 1990s. He is moving on to become a senior managing director and executive chairman for Teneo, a global advisory company.
After a long career that took him from Boston, to New York, to Los Angeles and back to New York, "It is now time for me to move on," Bratton said. "This city, this department, will have a seamless transition."
He will be replaced by NYPD Chief of Department James O'Neill, who the mayor described as the "perfect person to succeed him."
O'Neill "is ready to take the department where it's never been before" with community relations, the mayor said.
O'Neill will focus on implementing and improving neighborhood policing, he said.
"I just want to make sure the cops know the community and, more importantly, the community knows us," O'Neill said.
O'Neill will keep First Deputy Commissioner Ben Tucker in his post. Carlos Gomez, the NYPD's chief of housing, will replace O'Neill as chief of department.
Bratton had said last year that he did not expect to stay on as police commissioner should de Blasio win a second term in 2017, but remained vague about a specific departure time when asked about it again last week.
De Blasio ran for mayor in 2013 on a campaign of reforming the relationship between police and the community, so the choice of Bratton as commissioner was shocking to the police reform groups who helped propel the mayor into office.
While Bratton's second stint as commissioner saw the NYPD work to overhaul policing tactics, embrace social media, and decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, he also clashed with police union officials and anti-policing activists alike.
"Commissioner Bratton is finally doing what is right for the members of the NYPD and the people of New York City," said Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins. "We wish him well and look forward to a new direction for the NYPD."
And this week, anti-policing protesters camped out in City Hall Park calling for Bratton to resign. When they heard he was leaving, many of them broke out into cheers and song.
“I feel like it's good news," said protester Colin Ashley, 36, of Harlem. "It’s clearly representative of the temperature of the city and pressure put on the mayor and political system to resolve or acknowledge the issues of police brutality.”
Protesters took particular issue with Bratton’s use of "Broken Windows" policing, which they said was racist and useless.
Bratton is considered an architect and strong proponent of “Broken Windows,” where law enforcement officers target small crimes to prevent larger ones. But the people targeted for those mostly small crimes tend to be blacks, Latinos and the poor and creates a system where individuals are unfairly targeted, advocates say and statistics show.
A six-year analysis by the Office of Inspector General for the NYPD found no correlation between the number of quality of life summonses issued and the drop in felony crime.
“It was a kick in the gut to the police reform community when Bratton was brought on,” said Alyssa Aguilera, executive director of VOCAL-NY Action Fund, a group that lobbies against mass incarceration. “We were hopeful that even with Bratton at the helm, de Blasio's vision would get moved on and we would see some progress.”
Bratton continued to oversee the drop in stop and frisks that started during the Bloomberg administration and also agreed to other changes such as reducing marijuana arrests and giving police the discretion to arrest people for other minor offenses such as public drinking and public urination.
Bratton and de Blasio argued that “Broken Windows” policing could be adjusted depending on the level of crime the city was facing.
“I’m sorry, broken windows is here to stay. Stop, question and frisk is here to stay,” Bratton said in a 2015 press conference. “But they'll will be done at an appropriate amount, so even the broken windows policing, we are very selective in terms of looking at areas where we can reduce the need for that.”
And crime, already at record lows, continued to decline under Bratton.
In 2015, major crimes fell slightly as homicides increased 5 percent, a jump police officials contributed to gang activity. Murders and shootings dropped to the lowest recorded levels ever in the first quarter of 2016 as police unleashed a series of raids on gangs and crews mostly located in the city’s public housing complexes.
Bratton cited the low crimes rates as one of several reasons for his departure.
"There’s never a good time but there is a right time," said Bratton. "I’m leaving because its the right time."