Bill Bratton: Minority Communities Want More Policing

Bill Bratton earlier today. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty)

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty).

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton argued on the air this morning that New York’s communities of color are crying out for more policing–even in the wake of a death of a black Staten Island man in police custody and the resulting outcry.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top cop told listeners of the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC that strict enforcement of minor offenses–known as the “broken windows” policy–is a result of complaints the police department hears from residents and elected leaders from black and Latino neighborhoods. Eric Garner, who died last month in what has been ruled a homicide after an officer placed him in an apparent chokehold, was allegedly selling tax-free cigarettes at the time of his fatal encounter with police.

“Those communities definitely want more police in their neighborhoods,” said Mr. Bratton. “The reality of policing is that selective enforcement is often what neighborhoods and the leaders of neighborhoods ask for.”

The commissioner recalled a meeting with minority leaders shortly after Mr. Garner’s death–though he did not name them–in which the elected officials all requested a crackdown on noisy parties and barbecues. Mr. Bratton argued that that the NYPD would come under fire if it pursued reactive, rather than preventative, policing.

“If we started responding only to 911 emergency calls or 311 quality of life calls, there would be a phenomenal hue and cry that we were neglecting minorities,” Mr. Bratton said. “We are being drawn into the neighborhood by the requests of the leaders of the neighborhood.”

The police leader pointed out that the law requires cooperation during an arrest. The video of Mr. Garner’s death records him vowing not to be taken in.

“What we’ve seen in the past few months is a number of individuals failing to understand that you must submit to arrest, you cannot resist,” said Mr. Bratton. “The place to argue your case is in the court, not in the street.”

The commissioner finally noted that many more people of color die from street violence than from police abuse.

“You have tens of thousands of young men and women in this country being killed by acts of violence. I think we need more attention on that,” Mr. Bratton said. “We have generations of young men and women, many in minority communities, unfortunately that are killing each other at a fast and furious pace. The loss of life at the hands of the police is unfortunate, but it pales in comparison to the loss of life due to incidents of violence in this country.”

Mr. Garner’s death triggered a bitter backlash against Mr. Bratton and his “broken windows” philosophy from black leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton and former city councilman Charles Barron, both of whom alleged that police policies unfairly target and harm minority men. In turn, police union leaders have also accused Mr. de Blasio if being too close to Mr. Sharpton and not supporting cops.