New York Police Commissioner Confirms Work Slowdown By Officers : The Two-Way But William Bratton tells NPR the issue was being corrected. The death of Eric Garner in police custody and the subsequent slaying of two New York City police officers has created a tense atmosphere.
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New York Police Commissioner Confirms Work Slowdown By Officers

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New York Police Commissioner Confirms Work Slowdown By Officers

New York Police Commissioner Confirms Work Slowdown By Officers

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

As we've been reporting all week, William Bratton is a man in the middle of a bitter argument in New York City. On one side, the officers of the New York Police Department, of which he is commissioner. On the other side, the mayor who brought him back to New York City for his second stint as police commissioner there, Mayor Bill de Blasio. We've been hearing a lot about William Bratton here, and now we're going to hear from him. Commissioner, welcome to the program.

COMMISSIONER WILLIAM BRATTON: It's great to be with you. Thank you.

SIEGEL: First question. This week, the head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, denied that there is a slowdown or rulebook protest by the NYPD. You said Monday you'd look into it. A 90 percent decline in criminal summonses that have been issued. Is there a police protest, a job action, now underway or isn't there?

BRATTON: There is. We've had the opportunity over several days now to take a close look at the numbers and we are quite clearly - or were in a slowdown. It is being corrected. We've been taking management initiatives to identify where it's occurring, when it's occurring. I think the officers themselves have on their own been beginning to return to normal patterns of work. So we're coming out of what was a pretty widespread stoppage of certain types of activity.

SIEGEL: Have you identified or in any way disciplined leaders of that action?

BRATTON: No. The approach we've been taking is been measured and I think that it is beginning to work. I think the union leadership also have been indicating to their members that it is time to get back to more normal patterns of performance.

SIEGEL: But just to be clear, when the head of the PBA said here that the drop-off had to do with the fact that there were no more solo foot patrols or no solo patrol cars because of the murders of officers Ramos and Liu. You're saying that was not the case. There actually was a grassroots slow down.

BRATTON: That would be one factor in terms of the decline of some of the numbers. But it would in no way influence significantly the overall drop-off of activity. We did double up traffic enforcement agents who normally work by themselves so that in and of itself would reduce the number of summonses, parking summonses. But overall, there were just a lot of officers who were not performing to their normal level.

SIEGEL: How soon would you expect to see things back to normal?

BRATTON: We are already starting to see that. I had a meeting with my management leadership team this morning, precinct and district commanders. This has not impacted at all on our crime reduction. So the lack of discretionary activity on the part of officers, particularly for minor types of so-called quality-of-life offenses, or our crime reduction efforts.

SIEGEL: Of course, some critics would say that implies that there's perhaps far too many summonses being written for quality-of-life offenses.

BRATTON: Thank you for raising that. I'm sorry that we're going to be back to broken windows enforcement. We can step away from quality-of-life enforcement for a period of time, but the vast majority of our quality-of-life enforcement is citizens asking us to come to deal with the aggressive beggar, the prostitute, the marijuana smokers in their hallways. So...

SIEGEL: You're obviously unshaken in your confidence in broken windows.

BRATTON: Oh, having been the architect...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

BRATTON: ...Of it in 1994 here and having been the architect of it in Los Angeles in 2002, I think I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't work. So the advocates that are advocating that it's racist, that it's unfair, I'm sorry. When properly directed and controlled, it is none of those things.

SIEGEL: But Commissioner Bratton, did the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island at police hands over selling loosies - loose cigarettes - did that incident give you any pause about what may have been an overly zealous crackdown on a crime but a petty crime?

BRATTON: I'm sorry that crime when multiplied is a loss of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue to the state of New York, money that can be used for better schools, better hospitals, better police protection. So we need to move beyond the single act of - the selling of loosies sounds so - why do we even bother? Well, why do we even bother with a prostitute in the corner? Because in the aggregate...

(CROSSTALK)

SIEGEL: It isn't just why don't you bother, many people would understand why you phone in a complaint and why the police bother. The question is how can that reach a point of physically manhandling somebody? I mean, isn't the summons enough in that case?

BRATTON: Look, I'm not going to get into the particulars of that case because I'll ultimately be making a disciplinary case, but life would be so much easier if people didn't resist the police in the first place and there would not be altercations. Life would be so much easier in the first case if people didn't engage in activity that resulted in other citizens calling, complaining about their activity. So in terms of that particular case, I can't speak to it. But on the larger issue, we will continue to go where we're called to go and we will continue to look at the totality of offenses rather than the singular offense.

SIEGEL: As you've acknowledged, African-American men of all classes, all levels of education and income relate a sense of being treated far more suspiciously and far more roughly than they believe white men are treated by police. Can one acknowledge that sentiment and talk about it without angering police to the point of protest?

BRATTON: Actually, by narrowly defining it to police - its a fact of life in American society. It's not just police, it's storeowners. And African-Americans will tell you that, that when they walk into a store...

SIEGEL: But the store owners don't work for me. The store owners aren't paid by the taxpayers. The police are.

BRATTON: No, but we're talking about a much more complex, larger national issue. Don't go blaming the police. I'm sorry, we're not going to be the whipping boy, if you will, for this issue in America.

SIEGEL: Well, Commissioner William Bratton of the New York Police Department, thank you very much for talking with us.

BRATTON: It's always a pleasure to be with you. Thank you.

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