The New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton

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The appointment of William J. Bratton as the New York Police Commissioner served as a sign of the upcoming changes in the relationship between the police force and the citizens. As a highly experienced administrator, Bratton aims at improving the relationship between the police officers and the local communities by implementing a new strategy of combating the crime. At the same time, he diplomatically solves any raising conflicts between police officers and the highest New York officials.

During forty-five years, William J. Bratton made a remarkable career from a beat cop in the Boston Police Department (BPD) to the New York City Police Commissioner. A graduate of Boston State College and the FBI National Executive Institute, Bratton started his career path with receiving an award for valor in 1976, and by 1980 he has risen to the highest sworn position in the BPD, the Superintendent of Police. Since 1990’s, Bratton has held the positions of chief or commissioner in five police departments, including the posts of the Boston Police Commissioner, New York Police Commissioner and the Los Angeles Chief (“Commissioner William J. Bratton”). Notably, he received a high praise for diminishing the crime level to the lowest point in the history of New York and Los Angeles in in the middle of 1990s and early 2000s respectively (Auletta, 2015). According to the former Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, Bratton is aware of the importance of the “community-focused and constitutional” policing (Auletta, 2015). Undoubtedly, one would consider assigning him for the position of the New York Police Commissioner: Bratton’s previous experience and high recommendations made him a highly qualified candidate for that job.

The New York Police Commissioner is a multitask job. According the New York Charter, the Commissioner is responsible for “the government, administration, disposition and discipline” of the police agencies of the city (“New York City Charter”, 2004, p. 133). Bratton is also obliged to oversee the execution of all laws and regulations in police departments (“New York City Charter”, 2004, p. 13). Moreover, the Police Commissioner determines the general approaches to policing, based on the recommendations of his deputies. Each of the deputies is responsible for overseeing a certain aspect of the police work, such as counterterrorism measures, training, management, budget, intelligence and strategic initiatives (Guerra, n.d.). Therefore, the position appears to be a mainly administrative job of controlling and supervising the police force.

Upon obtaining the new post in 2013, William J. Bratton did not hesitate to implement the new police reform. Since 1990s, he has been an ardent defender of the so-called strategy of “broken-windows”, based on the conviction that the concentration on struggling with the minor crimes and disorderly behavior may discourage the more serious crimes. The idea belongs to the sociologists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling and serves as a substitute for the “stop-and-frisk” approach, perceived rather negatively by the local communities (Auletta, 2015). According to Bratton, the “broken-windows” strategy has largely contributed to the decline of crime rates in New York. That approach, in Bratton’s words, helped to establish “freedom from fear” and “freedom from disturbance” (Auletta, 2015).

Apart from the abovementioned facts, it is worth mentioning other initiatives of the Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. In July 2014, Bratton started a neighborhood policing program “One City: Safe and Fair - Everywhere.” It aims at establishing permanent contacts between the police and the local citizens via placing officers in certain areas on a permanent basis, as well as efficiently coordinating labor resources (Auletta, 2015). Six months later, Bratton announced about the implementation of another initiative. It included the creation of a well-trained and heavily armed unit of officers. Their main task is patrolling the high-crime areas and targeting the potential terrorist threats (Goodman, 2015). Although there are no immediate results of these measures, they seem quite helpful in creating the friendly image of the police and preventing the possible terrorist attacks.

However, the Commissioner’s new approach became a rather debatable issue in the mass media. Many critics argue that the strategy of “broken windows” is ineffective and even harmful for the New Yorkers. A criminologist and law professor at the Columbia University, Jeffry Fagan, points out in his interview to the New Yorker that there is no empirical proof of the correlation between the punishment of misdemeanors and decline of crime level (Auletta, 2015). This argument seems persuasive, since many cities and towns nationwide display the low violent crime activity without practicing the mentioned strategy (Editorial Board, 2014). Moreover, the most common targets of the multiple arrests for minor crimes are Afro-Americans and the Hispanic. As they become burdened with criminal records and ruined reputation, the offenders risk losing their job, being suspended from school or banned from military (Editorial Board,  2014). Moreover, Bratton’s decision to form two new units was also widely criticized by media sources. According to the journalist J. David Goodman, the neighborhood-patrolling unit lacks the proper control mechanism, and the anti-terrorism unit may cause panic among civilians (Goodman, 2015). Overall, Bratton’s strategy faces a strong criticism from media for its negative impact on the life of the New York City.

The peculiarities of the Commissioner’s job are rather extensive. According to the New York Charter, the Mayor appoints the Police Commission to serve during the next five years and may remove him at any moment (“New York City Charter”, 2004, p. 132). This fact obliges the Commissioner to develop productive working relationship with the Mayor as a necessary condition for achieving his professional goals. Furthermore, the Police Commissioner must consider the opinion of his colleagues in the Police Department, as well as the citizens’ attitude to the police force. Without the support of the each side, the Police Commissioner may face tremendous obstacles in performing his duties (Rein, 2015). Obviously, Being a public figure and constantly exposed to the political pressure, the Police Commissioner has to develop diplomatic skills.

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