Bill Thompson Thinks Bill Bratton Will Be Much Better This Time Around

Bill Thompson. (Photo: Getty)

Bill Thompson. (Photo: Getty)

Ex-mayoral candidate Bill Thompson was not such a fan of Bill Bratton the last time the city’s next police commissioner served as top cop.

But the former mayoral contender is now commending Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s choice, arguing that things will be different now that Mr. Bratton is no longer answering to ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 

“I think that the Bratton appointment is an excellent one,” Mr. Thompson told Politicker in an interview yesterday, which marked one of his first since his disappointing loss to Mr. de Blasio during the Democratic primary.

Mr. Thompson had hoped his nuanced positions on topics likes stop-and-frisk would appeal to the electorate four years after narrowly losing to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009. As the only black candidate in the field, he was expected to have a lock on many minority voters. Instead, he finished a distant second, with 26 percent of the vote.

Still, Mr. Thompson, who has since returned to his old job, showed no signs of bitterness as he talked up Mr. de Blasio’s police pick.

“He’s one of the best policing minds in the country. He’s going to do an excellent job. Bill Bratton in Los Angeles worked with the community and if he would’ve been given that chance in New York in the 1990′s, he would’ve done the same thing,” Mr. Thompson argued. “It was a very different time.”

While Mr. de Blasio’s appointment of Mr. Bratton drew wide-ranging praise, at least a few prominent minority officials have not fully embraced Mr. Bratton’s return. When he served in the Giuliani administration, Mr. Bratton was widely credited with sharp reductions in crime, but also clashed with minority groups. In one infamous incident, Mr. Bratton called a parent and allies of a teen slain by police detectives a “bunch of fools” as they raised the issue at a town hall meeting. 

Mr. Thompson, who has roots in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn and remained immersed in local politics throughout Mr. Bratton’s first tenure, predicted Mr. Bratton’s police force would work much better with minorities this time around, especially when it comes to stop-and-frisk, because he is freed of Mr. Giuliani. 

“I definitely think it was much more Giuliani than Bratton,” Mr. Thompson said of the tensions, pointing again to Mr. Bratton’s more heralded tenure as Los Angeles’s top cop. “Look at his history after New York City in Los Angeles. He worked well with the community and improved relations with the communities that he served.”

When Mr. Bratton first espoused the “broken windows” theory, which posits that cracking down on smaller quality-of-life crimes will prevent more serious criminal activity, Mr. Thompson was skeptical. Many at the time charge that the theory unfairly targeted minorities. 

“I have to admit, initially I had real reservations and major questions with the whole ‘broken windows theory’ and targeting small crimes,” he said of his view in the 1990s. “But history has shown that it had an impact driving crime down.”

During the Democratic mayoral primary, Mr. Thompson, like Mr. de Blasio, vowed to replaced current Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. And yesterday, he again hinted Mr. Kelly’s time was rightfully up. 

“I think there was tension that had been created over stop-and-frisk. One thing we have with Bratton is someone who will listen and speak to those communities. It’s not just speaking, but also listening. With Commissioner Ray Kelly,” he said, “I think he stopped listening.”