New York activists speak out against Bratton’s NYPD legacy

New York Police Commissioner William Bratton. © Carlo Allegri
Activists who were critical of the hiring of Bill Bratton two years ago when he was selected as New York’s police commissioner held a “speak-out” next to NYPD headquarters as he served his last day.

Chanting, “We don’t need these killer cops on our streets, or on our blocks,” a group of about 30 activists rallied outside NYPD headquarters on Friday.

“NYPD is making arrests for jumping the [subway] turnstile. I have clients who get criminal records which will stay with them for the rest of their lives for $2.75,” said Noha Arafa, a public defender for 11 years with New York Legal Services.

“Not only do they get a criminal record but I have had clients who have served jail time for jumping the turnstile, 30 days in jail, a 16-year old black man gets 30 days in jail…This isn’t ending with Bratton. This is 20 years of his legacy when he came here under [Mayor] Guiliani. His legacy will continue with [new NYPD Commissioner] O’Neill. O’Neill is talking about community policing that 100 percent of NYCHA buildings will have NYPD in them.”

The pressure group New Yorkers Against Bratton said that last year New York saw over 29,000 arrests for fare-beating and almost 124,000 summonses.

Activists were joined by family members of those killed while Bratton served two terms as NYPD’s commissioner, including relatives of Nicholas Heyward Jr., Anthony Baez, Anibal Carrasquilo and Anthony Rosario. The rally also included parents whose children were arrested during NYPD “gang” raids.

New Yorkers Against Bratton was launched at City Hall two years ago when Democratic Mayor de Blasio announced he had selected Bratton as police commissioner. Bratton had originally served a term under Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and had also served terms as police commissioner for the Los Angeles Police Department and for Boston.

“Bratton leaves this week after nearly three years of virtually unchecked political power and influence,” New Yorkers Against Bratton said in a Facebook post. “The mayor and the city council were his accomplices. Despite growing criticism of Bratton's discredited 'Broken Windows' policing theory (including by the Department of Investigations), de Blasio fawned over his police commissioner. Amidst a national outcry against police abuse, the city council fought to gift Bratton another thousand extra cops to the NYPD's already massive headcount. In the end almost 1,300 cops were added to the city budget.”

The Broken Windows criminology theory argues that unless police maintain and monitor urban areas to prevent small crimes such as vandalism, public drinking and toll-jumping are stopped, they will lead to more serious crime. Bratton's policy was continued during the Bloomberg administration and morphed into a program of “stop, question and frisk” leading to record numbers of arrests which were only curtailed under a federal court case that found the police had engaged in racially discriminatory policing.

“Our collective fight doesn't end with Bratton – it continues against Broken Windows as well as programs and systems he's expanded and put into place for the future of the NYPD: public housing "gang" raids, Predictive Policing and the continued militarization of the police department,” said the organizers. “By launching military-style raids on NYCHA residents and giving cops the idea that they can 'predict' crime, Bratton has armed the police department for another century of criminalization and imprisonment.”