Gov. Andrew Cuomo lamented the impending departure of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, giving rare praise to a member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.
Addressing the press after an unrelated event in Midtown, the governor shared his thoughts on Bratton’s announced intention to exit his post next month. The outgoing top cop has been a figure of much opprobrium among left-wing activists, who have also often targeted the governor—and he remains polarizing among the African-American community, who have long lent Democrats like Cuomo and de Blasio their votes.
“I was surprised and sad, frankly. He—I have known him a long time—he is a great, great public servant, a great police commissioner. And he brought credibility to the position, as well as competence. And policing in New York City is probably the single most important function for the city administration,” the governor said. “He did a great job, and people believed he did a great job.”
“People were confident in his competence, when it came to policing. Which frankly is the most important thing the city does for a lot of people,” he continued.
The comments about “competence” come after a Cuomo spokesperson suggested last week that the mayor had at times acted “incompetently.” The mayor and commissioner often contradicted each other publicly, and Cuomo has in the past seized on Bratton’s remarks when jabbing de Blasio, his chief political rival in the state.
Cuomo denied having any knowledge of the “palace intrigue” that precipitated the commissioner’s resignation. But he spoke highly of both Bratton, who first led the NYPD during the Giuliani administration, and of his longtime rival Raymond Kelly—who preceded him in the position twice, first under Mayor David Dinkins, and later under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“We’ve been blessed in this city, when you think we had Commissioner Bratton and we had Commissioner Ray Kelly. Ray Kelly and Commissioner Bratton are probably the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of police commissioners, right?” the governor said. “There’s no doubt that Ray Kelly and Bill Bratton are the finest. And as such, they are irreplaceable. Because they walked in the door with tremendous credibility.”
The governor had little say about Bratton’s successor-to-be, current Chief of Department James O’Neill.
“I have no personal familiarity with the chief, so—I wish him well,” Cuomo said.