Thursday, June 26, 2014


William J. Bratton has made a name for himself
 based largely on a “broken windows” theory of policing.
(Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)






(Thursday, June 26, 2014 University Heights, The Bronx, NYC)  Welcome back Bill.  After six months in his second tenure as the NYPD Commissioner the Bill Bratton we knew and respected back in the early 1990’s is once again asserting himself in old familiar ways and we applaud the return of this Bill Bratton. All New Yorkers of a certain age can vividly recall the “bad old days” when New York City ranked at the top of all major crime categories and the City itself seemed at times to be tenuously balanced on life support as the NYPD fought crime tooth and nail in some of the most crime ridden Precincts in the nation.  As our City sank ever deeper into the scalding molten lava of crime, low quality of life, wide spread crime in our subways and on our streets during the disastrous years of the hapless administration of David Dinkens, the arrival of Rudy Giuliani into City Hall as our Mayor was welcomed by all.  Giuliani, a tough former Federal Prosecutor for the Southern District of New York was a well-known and highly regarded crime fighter that a beleaguered population looked to for solutions despite his political affiliation as a Republican in one of, if not the most Democratic cities in America.  Giuliani tapped one-time Chief of the NYC Transit Police, a native Bostonian highly regarded in Law Enforcement circles, Bill Bratton to serve as his NYPD Commissioner.  The rest of that chapter in the storied past of NYC and the NYPD is, as they say, history.


After getting off to somewhat of a rocky start in his second term as NYPD Commissioner, Bill Bratton seems to have found his sea legs.  Some of his earliest restructuring of the top cops in One Police Plaza, alterations of patrol tactics and anti-crime strategies, as well as a handful of profound shifts in the Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Divisions, the “old” Bill Bratton is once again seeking novel approaches to policing the City that has changed and been changed so much since his last go round in the first Giuliani administration.  It was during that tenure that Bratton, an innovative flamboyant Cop, Jack Maple who designed the technological template for what became CompStat, implemented a variety of measures that ultimately resulted in the most amazing turn around and elevated the City of New York to the literal “safest big City” in the United States.  That Bratton has returned to a City that he had an integral role in making safer in his first term in 1PP cannot be denied.  The initiatives put in place in the post 9/11 years under Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly have proven to be successful in the constant overcast of another terrorist attack.

As the initial shock of September 11th, 2001 began to fade some of the initiatives Ray Kelly implemented in both the Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Divisions, as well as a sound patrol practice known as “Stop, Question and Frisk” (SQF) became controversial.  The “See Something, Say Something” campaign enlisted all New Yorkers  to be constantly vigilant of any suspicious activity such as unattended packages or backpacks left on subway trains, and it paid off.  Some have questioned the legality of the means to the ends in this equation as well as the right to privacy and freedom of religion citing the enhanced monitoring of New York City’s large Muslim community as “racial targeting”.  Such knee-jerk reactions are typical here in this bastion of Liberal Democrats however every step Kelly implemented in his Department was upheld in the Courts despite repeated attempts to have NYPD’s operations curtailed.  The activists’ version of an effective policy dropped the “question” element from the equation as it became derisively known as simply “Stop and Frisk”.  It was in this legal battle as well as the enhanced surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods coffee shops and Mosques that forced Bloomberg and Kelly to scale down their efforts.  Yet, it cannot be dismissed that the NYPD thwarted, averted or prevented (some would add "allegedly") 13 terrorist plots.  That NYC has not seen another terrorist atrocity since 9/11 is an undeniable fact and arguably should be credited to Kelly and his Department.

When our current Mayor Bill de Blasio was a candidate he ran on a strong anti-Stop, Questions and Frisk platform, called for an end to what he viewed as “racial profiling” by the NYPD and vowed to “reform” the NYPD with measures that included the installation of an Inspector General, Philip Eure, as the supreme “watchdog” over NYPD.  Eure’s purview remains ill-defined given the already existing Civilian Review Board that has been in operation for many years. During the earliest days of the de Blasio/Bratton tag team it appeared that Bratton was prepared to be more of a contrite penitent seeking the approval of all the varied “disenfranchised” communities within our Five Boroughs.  After all, candidate de Blasio was never shy in his criticism of the NYPD, Ray Kelly, Mayor Bloomberg and any and all of their policing initiatives.  When the candidate became our Mayor and appointed Bratton as his Top Cop many rank and file Member of Service (MOS) of the NYPD were uncertain of what, if any changes Bratton would enact.  Others among the ranks had only been newborns during Bratton’s first stint in 1PP. 


Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack there has been a dramatic increase in the number of surveillance cameras operated by the NYPD, private security firms, local shops and other public places.  While the exact number will not be released by the NYPD, personnel in the Intel Division unofficially claim that they operate upwards of 22,000 closed circuit monitoring cameras including at least half that number having long term recording capabilities.  As any New Yorker knows all those tinted dome affixed to street corners, building lobbies and exteriors as well as the portable NYPD surveillance towers are keeping a watchful eye on us all.  In recent years in NYC and other locations across the country closed circuit cameras have contributed mightily in the identification and arrests of criminals of every ilk.  Yes, there are privacy issues and it will always be a hotly debated topic among civil libertarians and public advocacy groups and Law Enforcement.  Certainly it is a valid debate but in the world of asymmetrical warfare and non-state sponsored terrorism, it could reasonably be posited that the security of the “great good” can trump the absolute privacy of people in public domains.  In this age of exploitive, narcissistic “social media” where people willingly, if not wantonly reveal themselves in a cyber/viral manner, there seems to be a cognitive dissonance when it comes to individual privacy. That the very same technology we use privately can also be utilized for public safety should not be as controversial as it often is.


Yesterday Commissioner Bratton announced his plans to have surveillance cameras installed in all subway stations and subway cars.  That he man who first employed some high-tech algorithms and innovations back in the 1990’s would seek novel approaches in an effort to keep the crime rates decreasing only seems logical.  His idea is to enable the NYPD to do “more with less”, to utilize the available technology in the on-going fight against crime throughout our vast, largely subterranean rail transportation system.

If all the subway track in the service of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) was laid out end to end it would reach from Times Square to Detroit, a distance of approximately 829 miles.  That’s a lot of track and the subway system has an average weekday ridership of 5.5 million commuters.  There are 484 subway stations in the complex City-wide network that presents, and always has, a host of challenges for the NYPD to effectively monitor and police.
Bratton envisions an underground surveillance array of cameras that will be monitored by Cops armed with tablet computers and other hi-tech, hand held devices.  This would represent the latest innovative method of “smart policing”; of doing more actual crime intervention with fewer Cops assigned to a designated locale.  Such an MTA-wide network of cameras and communications technology could and would prove its value and financial “return on investment” in a very brief time as one NYPD Three Star Chief commented in a phone conversation earlier today.  He spoke under the condition of anonymity because he is not officially authorized to speak to the media on behalf of the NYPD. 


Another of Commissioner Bratton’s announcements yesterday was directly related to the as yet to be determined relationship between the decrease in Stop, Question and Frisk usage and the uptick in crime, particularly gun violence in some off the highest crime Precincts in the City.  Here, at the 46th Precinct in the University Heights neighborhood of The Bronx there has been a troubling increase in violent crime since the orders from 1PP to reduce the frequency of SQF.  Returning to his penchant for statistically derived patterns and trends, Bratton has ordered a review focusing in the seven other Precincts besides the 46th that are experiencing the most disturbing increases in gun crime after reductions in SQF.  As a “numbers guy” and a stickler for accountability among the ranks he commands, it is only natural that he would revitalize some of the methods that had yielded some much of the NYPD’s success during his initial tenure as Commissioner. He has announced some plans to revamp deployment of his Officers as determined by CompStat and seasonal specifics such as increasing the police presence in Coney Island as the summer beach and boardwalk activity heats up. We view these as more proactive, practical applications of a Police Department that must always be dynamic due to the nature of our City both as the home to almost 9 million residents and a world renowned, international capitol.   


As even the most casual reader of the Brooding Cynyx knows, we have been highly critical of the second incarnation of Bill Bratton.  We had been very skeptical regarding the return of Bratton and never missed an opportunity to make our opinions known.  We have received a great deal of criticism for our negative stance on Bratton Version 2.0 and have respected all opinions voiced including those most critical of our own opinion.  While much remains to be seen in the not too distant future we have begun to turn the objective corner on our assessment of the return of Bill Bratton.

It is encouraging to watch as Bratton settles more comfortably into his Office and begins to assert himself and emerge from beneath the shadow of the Mayor who chose him specifically to perform an extremely challenging job.  Without doubt there will be troubles along the way; as we all realize here in Gotham City anything can happen in the blink of an eye.  We live and move at a pace that can only ever be natural for the native born.  We’re tough and resilient, we don’t suffer fools easily, we can be aggressive and abrasive to the outside world but among our diverse and disparate selves we are one, we all share this 326 square miles with each other and are the only people on the planet who can proudly claim the title of  "New Yorker". 

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