Guest column: William J. Bratton, former police commissioner and chief of police.

Talk is cheap. And trust is in short supply. Save it for the bargaining table.

William J. Bratton, former Commissioner, Boston PD, former Commissioner, NYPD, former Chief of Police, LAPD.

Reproduced in its entirety from The Washington Post, June 4, 2021:

Opinion: As a longtime police chief, I believe we have to reestablish trust

Opinion by William J. Bratton

June 4, 2021 at 6:39 a.m. PDT

William J. Bratton served as commissioner of police in New York City (1994 to 1996 and 2014 to 2016) and Boston (1993–1994) and chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (2002 to 2009). He is co-author, with Peter Knobler, of “The Profession: A Memoir of Community, Race and the Arc of Policing in America,” which is set to be published this month.

Over the past several years, police officers and some of the communities they serve have experienced a crisis of confidence. Trust has eroded in all directions.

Much of this stems from the weight of history, particularly the parts of police history that intertwine with our country’s legacy of race-based oppression. It has recently been inflamed by outrage over several high-profile use-of-force incidents. Some of those incidents, such as the murder of George Floyd, deserve that outrage. Others do not. But they all deserve scrutiny, and every police leader has a duty to ensure that our profession does not practice or tolerate injustice.

But abolition — or even broad defunding — of the police is absurd. Most people want policing — particularly those in marginalized communities. New Yorkers “want to see cops in the community,” City Council member Vanessa L. Gibson, who represents the West Bronx, said during a defunding debate last summer. “They don’t want to see excessive force. … But they want to be safe as they go to the store.”

The interim head of the city’s transit system, Sarah Feinberg, expressed a similar concern in a recent statement. “Our employees and customers agree: 87 percent of riders say that seeing a visible presence in our system is very important to them,” she wrote.

The truth is, when the crunch comes, people want more police, not less. Today’s crunch is that, after three decades of falling crime rates, the U.S. murder rate surged more than 20 percent in 2020. The speed at which hard-fought gains are evaporating is alarming.

So how do we re-create the necessary trust?

Trust starts with accountability. When a use of force is unjust, justice must be as swift as due process allows. Derek Chauvin was fired within 24 hours and convicted within 11 months.

All police departments need oversight mechanisms like the force investigation division I established in Los Angeles and re-created in New York.

Trust must be anchored in data and context. Bureau of Justice Statistics data show about 61.5 million people had at least one police encounter in 2018. That same year, about 990 people were killed in police shootings, or 0.0016 percent. About 94 percent of those 990 people were armed.

About 23 percent of the 990 were Black — compared with 13 percent of the U.S. population. That’s a striking disparity. As tracked by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, however, the statistics of who commits violent crime — and, more importantly, who is victimized by it — show even greater disparities. In New York City in that year, Black residents were about 23 percent of the population but 63 percent of all murder victims and 62 percent of murder suspects. For shootings, those figures are 73 percent and 73 percent. That’s a complicated context but one that deserves to be examined fully and without preconceptions.

Trust needs transparency. It’s always better to tell your own story first, thoroughly and honestly. If you can tell it with body-camera videos, all the better. Cops should keep them on and make the footage available to the public — even when it reveals a problem in policing. The videos are more often than not exculpatory, so early release would most often provide context that would reduce tension. Every department should also have an open data portal, and the federal government should mandate wider statistical reporting.

Trust comes from listening to the people we serve. Over four decades in law enforcement, I have heard consistently that people want us to prevent crime rather than react to it. We do that by stopping little things before they get big. Unaddressed disorder leads to petty crime, and then more serious crime, and finally violence. But “broken windows,” as the policy was called, has become shorthand for racist police behavior and zero-tolerance policing. It is neither. It’s about addressing behavior, and enforcement is only one tool — and should not be the first option. Cops have to work with and for the community, not against it.

During my second stint in New York, we drove down every enforcement measure, including stop, question and frisk, while continuing to drive down crime. But there are limits. When criminals are caught in the act, are police supposed to let them flee rather than risk using force? If this is what communities want, police deserve clarity.

Right now, cities are seeing waves of police resignations and finding it difficult to recruit new officers. Considering the studies that show more police equals less crime, this is a problem. We need to hire more officers, train them in de-escalation and crisis intervention practices, and connect them to the communities they serve. To rebuild trust, we need refunding, not defunding.

We have significantly reduced crime before. We can do it again if police dig in on our efforts to establish trust with all communities and double down on our shared mission: keeping people safe.

Read more:

Eugene Robinson: Derek Chauvin’s conviction shouldn’t feel like a victory. But it does.

The Post’s View: Unlike so many other times when Black people died at the hands of police, the Chauvin jury got it right

Christy E. Lopez: Defund the police? Here’s what that really means.

George T. Conway III: Republican senators managed to outdo themselves in cowardice

Greg Sargent: Mitch McConnell is laughing in your faces


From The Tumalo Lookout:

It may surprise you to learn that I agree with most of what the former police commissioner and police chief has written. I even agree with Mr. Bratton’s point that most people want police — and I’m definitely one of them.

I also agree with Bratton that abolishment of police departments is absurd. (Generally, that is; there are always exceptions.)

Furthermore, I’ll go a step farther and state emphatically: it’s asinine to talk about “disarming” law enforcement in this country, especially when there’s no meaningful gun control for the general population.

And, finally, I even agree that many municipalities around the country need more cops. I’m prepared to vote for more for my own local police and sheriff’s departments, and I’ve told my own sheriff that on several occasions (when he was still talking to me).

I still stand by it. With conditions, of course.

But just because I agree with Bratton’s opinion piece doesn’t mean I buy it.

This is all just so much PR spin. It’s intended to talk angry taxpayers and voters back from the edge.

Who do you think his intended audience is? Not cops — he’d be publishing his opinion in law enforcement journals, not The Washington Post. Damned few cops read WAPO — it’s just FAKE NEWS to them.

And, do you think it’s any coincidence that Bratton’s essay comes out at the end of the fiscal year?

Nope. Bratton’s piece is just swill. It’s silage, fodder, feed, forage, slop, swill for MacWhitey to swallow whole without chewing.

It’s the same ol’ same ol’ that politicians-with-badges have been spewing at middle-class (White) America for decades.

It sounds real good. But there’s never any actual change.

And that’s because cops, including those who walk and talk like Bratton, don’t intend to relinquish a single iota of their control. They will always fight change, to their last bullet.

Don’t be calmed by Bratton’s salve. It’s made of sheep milk, goat urine and bull shit. With a dab of honey and perfume to boost sales among the gullible.


Oh, and about that claim that “Trust comes from listening to the people we serve.

Don’t step in Chief Bratton’s hoozanga.

Cops won’t “regain” trust by “listening” to the people they’re killing and brutalizing. We’ve long since learned that when cops “listen” it’s just for show.

Trust can only start by ending the murders, the brutality, the racism, the secrecy. For it to last, trust requires true, continuing, mandatory transparency and it requires true, legal — criminal and civil — accountability.

And I don’t see any of that happening. Anywhere.

Nope. We’re way, way past being satisfied with cops “listening” to us.

We’re way, way past trusting cops.

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