Commissioner Bill Bratton has announced he will be stepping down from the New York Police Department as of next month (September). In recent months the NYPD has faced intense scrutiny as the result of a city-wide scandal involving bribes and preferential treatment by both politicians, including Mayor Bill De Blasio and numerous high ranking NYPD officers.
Rather than being held accountable for their part in that scandal, many of those within the NYPD have instead been allowed to quietly retire while retaining their benefits and pensions. Even as late as a few months ago, Bratton had made statements to the effect that he would not be leaving as commissioner. This sudden and unexpected announcement raises questions about whether even Commissioner Bratton himself may have been implicated in the ongoing and systemic misconduct within the NYPD.
Bratton is being hailed as the most influential commissioner in history and someone who reshaped policing, largely due to the infamous “Broken Windows” model of policing. However, that policy’s emphasis on harassing people for petty, small-time crimes, along with the racist and arbitrary stop and frisk practice of profiling citizens has also led to much criticism towards the NYPD and Bratton himself.
One of the more well known victims of Broken Windows policing was Eric Garner, who was murdered by New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the “crime” of selling single cigarettes on Staten Island. Being choked to death for selling “loosies” obviously was on the extreme scale of the abuses created by policies such as Broken Windows and stop and frisk and rightfully got much of the attention, however both policies not only allowed but even encouraged daily rights abuses and antagonism between police and the communities they patrolled.
Whether it’s acknowledged or not, that enmity within the neighborhoods they claim to “protect and serve,” along with the burgeoning scandal(s) enveloping New York’s police department and government undoubtedly led to Commissioner Bratton’s resignation. Protests over police brutality and corruption have been a regular even over the past several years. Just two days ago, activists launched an occupation of City Hall to demand Bratton’s firing. The only real question is if more dirt, possibly even involving Bratton himself will be uncovered once he is gone and the dust settles.
Commissioner Bratton will be replaced by Chief James P. O’Neill, a long standing member of the NYPD. The fact that he has spent 32 years as a member of that corrupt police force and was already seen as the likely successor, makes it unlikely that anything of substance will change within the “World’s Seventh Largest Army.” However, Mayor De Blaiso did indicate that O’Niell will emphasize “community policing,” a sort of “kinder, gentler” form of police harassment accompanied by lots of empty PR posturing, over Broken Windows policies.
As for Bratton, he will be scampering away to a cushy position in the private sector. Although there was no official announcement from the city or Bratton, a spokesman for Teneo Holdings confirmed he would be joining their firm as a senior managing director. The job would entail heading a new division of the corporation known as “Teneo Risk” and would consist of advising corporate executives globally.