Editorial: De Blasio Goes With Pros

Bill Bratton is a professional crime-stopper. Anthony Shorris is a professional manager and a government insider. Both are welcome additions to the incoming administration of Bill de Blasio, a man who campaigned as a government outsider, as a critic of the sort of policing Mr. Bratton has championed.

Mario Cuomo once observed that campaigns were about poetry, while governing was about prose. Mr. de Blasio appears to have absorbed the former governor’s wisdom.

Mr. Bratton, who will return for a second tour of duty as police commissioner in a few weeks, and Mr. Shorris, who will serve as Mr. de Blasio’s first deputy mayor, will ease some of the anxieties of those who feared—with more than a little justification—that a de Blasio City Hall would be populated with ideologues and amateurs. Both men are grown-ups with decades of experience in their respective fields. Their competence is beyond question.

Mr. Bratton, of course, served as police commissioner for two years under Rudy Giuliani (his predecessor was Ray Kelly—déjà vu all over again). He was a swaggering, high-profile presence at 1 Police Plaza, in Elaine’s and in the city’s television studios. An innovator and a demanding manager, Mr. Bratton established new rules of accountability in the city’s precinct houses and set in motion policies that helped lead to historic drops in crime.

He now faces challenges of a very different sort. Under Commissioner Kelly over the last 12 years, the city has become the safest large city in the world. Twenty years ago, Mr. Bratton inherited a city of 2,000-plus murders per year. This year, the number of murders may be fewer than 400, and that would be a record low. (The previous record low was last year, when there were just over 400 murders.)

Mr. Bratton will be expected to keep those numbers low and make them even lower if possible. The question is whether he will be able to do so while carrying out his new boss’ pledge to dismantle stop, question and frisk. Messrs. Bratton and de Blasio recently made a pilgrimage to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s headquarters, where the incoming commissioner extended an olive branch to NYPD critics. 

Mr. Bratton said that, under his watch, the NYPD “will practice what Mandela preached: respect for all, compassion for all.” Those are wonderful sentiments, and in comparing himself to the great freedom fighter, we are delighted to learn that Mr. Bratton’s legendary self-regard remains undiminished. There is zero doubt about Mr. Bratton’s talent—he has innovated and succeeded everywhere he has been given the opportunity to lead. But we will have to see how effective he can be with one hand tied behind his back. 

Mr. Shorris’ presence at Mr. de Blasio’s side means that government insiders and business leaders will not need a scorecard to identify the key players in the new mayor’s lineup. Mr. Shorris is a veteran whose career in government began during the Koch years, when he served as deputy budget director and finance commissioner. He also served as a deputy schools chancellor under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mr. Shorris said he shares Mayor-elect de Blasio’s progressive politics, as would be expected. But his service in the Koch and Bloomberg administrations suggests that the new first deputy is no ideologue. He’s pragmatic and smart, the sort of experienced problem-solver the new administration will need.

Mr. de Blasio’s imminent arrival in City Hall has been advertised as an abrupt change from the managerial politics of the Bloomberg-Giuliani years. Mr. de Blasio certainly campaigned as the anti-Bloomberg, especially during the Democratic primary campaign.

But with the choices of Messrs. Bratton and Shorris, the mayor-elect has shown that he knows the campaign is over. The hard work begins on Jan. 1.