Bratton episode underlines need for diverse New York police force

NEW YORK – The recent story that broke in The Guardian was an embarrassment to New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, summed up in this quote: “We have a significant population gap among African American males because so many of them have spent time in jail and, as such, we can’t hire them,” Bratton said.

Bratton has since asked for a retraction, saying that his comments were taken out of context.

It’s interesting to note that the architect of the Broken Windows policy that in effect led to Stop and Frisk arrests of thousands of young African American and Latino  youth is now blaming the victims of these policies.

Backtracking, he acknowledged the “unfortunate consequences of stop and frisk” but continued to express his dissatisfaction with the article.

Missing from Bratton’s conversation, interestingly – was any mention of women who may be candidates for the force and may be of African heritage.

An analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than five million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent; according to the NYPD’s own reports.

In 2014, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 46,235 times. Of those, 38,051 or 82 percent were totally innocent. The number of black people stopped was 24,777 or 55 percent. The 12,662 Latinos stopped accounted for 29 percent while the 5,536 white people stopped amounted to only 12 percent.

In the first quarter of 2015, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 7,135 times. A high percentage, 82 percent, were again toatally innocent. The 3,693 of those who were black accounted for 53 percent of thestops and the 2,123 of those who were Latino accounted for 30 percent. The 864 who were white amounted to 12 percent.

Perhaps Commissioner Bratton needs to examine his department records before asking for a retraction as he continued to dig himself deeper into his own racist language: “It’s an unfortunate fact that in the male black population, a very significant percentage of them, more so than whites or other minority candidates, because of convictions, prison records, are never going to be hired by a police department. That’s a reality. That’s not a byproduct of stop-and-frisk.”

Sadly, the Commissioner seems to have overlooked the underlying reasons for mass incarceration here and around the country; The U.S. has the largest number of prisoners in the world. Here in the wealthiest nation on the planet where the gap between those that have,  the one percent, and the rest of us continues to grow.

The Black Lives Matter movement that has proven to be a diverse, multi-racial and intergenerational movement is playing an important role in this period of social justice and policing reform and has brought pressure to bear on the Commissioner.

City Public Advocate, Letitia James, said, “This is a teachable moment that affirms that broken windows policing destroys lives and opportunities. We need to enact policies that promote diversity of our police force and city as a whole.”

Photo: New York City Police Commisioner William Bratton, left, speaks at a recent press conference. In the background is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Bratton, the city’s “top cop,” said a British newspaper misrepresented his view on hiring minorities.  |  Kevin Hagen/AP


Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.