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Stop and frisk a dilemma for Bratton as NYPD head

December 6, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — William Bratton faces a dilemma ahead of his second tour of duty as New York City police commissioner, nearly 20 years after gaining worldwide attention for the “broken windows” crime-fighting approach that he championed during his first stint.

Bratton inherits a department that is under intense scrutiny for its use of stop and frisk, a policing tactic he has utilized in every stop in his decorated career. Since leaving the NYPD, Bratton has worked in private security firms and headed the Los Angeles Police Department from 2002-2009. He has lent his expertise abroad, advising the British government on gangs in 2011 in the wake of rioting in London.

The stop and frisk tactic allows police to stop anyone acting suspicious. Its supporters, like outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, believe it has driven down crime, while its critics believe it unfairly targets minorities and has splintered relations between police and communities of color.

One of the tactic’s most vocal critics is Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, the man who is giving Bratton a second shot at running the nation’s largest police force.

New York City’s drop in crime, which began under Bratton in 1994, has intensified to record lows.

While unveiling his choice of Bratton on Thursday, de Blasio insisted that the new commissioner was the right man to further the city’s public safety gains while improving police-community relations. He also downplayed statistics that show that the number of stops surged during Bratton’s tenure as head of Los Angeles Police Department.

“The community came to understand that the stops that were necessary were being done for a good reason,” said de Blasio, who takes office Jan. 1. “There was that communication, that sense of legitimacy, and an appreciation.”

Bratton reiterated his support for stop and frisk on Thursday but has likened it to chemotherapy, saying that it must be utilized in proper doses.

“We have a situation in this city at this time that is so unfortunate,” Bratton said. “At a time when police and community should be so much closer together, that there should be a bond of legitimacy and trust between them, it’s not the case in so many communities in this city. It’s unfortunate. But it can be corrected.”

Bratton, known for his outsized personality and fondness for the limelight, was police commissioner under Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, from 1994 to 1996. Bratton emphasized the broken-windows theory of police work — that criminals who commit small crimes, such as vandalism, also commit more serious crimes.

Bratton also helped spearhead the use of CompStat, a data-driven system of tracking crimes that allows police to better allocate their resources to high-crime areas. The real-time system, which is still used today, “changed the game forever,” de Blasio said Thursday.

Crime immediately plummeted under Bratton, but he frequently fought with Giuliani over who deserved credit. He resigned after two years.

Last year, New York City reported 414 murders, a record low, and this year is on pace to be lower still.

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