NYPD Commissioner Bratton on Broken Windows, Community Policing, and More

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

NYPD Chief Bill Bratton (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

"The vast majority of what we do is in response to community concerns," says NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. He discusses the death of Eric Garner, the nature of community policing, and how he sees the role of the NYPD in going after low-level offences (known as the "broken windows" approach.) Bratton says that there is a "fundamental difference between Stop, Question and Frisk and quality of life offenses. One is a reasonable suspicion... and quality of life types of offences -- those are in fact are criminal acts witnessed by a police officer, or violations of city ordinances, whether it's traffic violations, littering...that's what police are expected to do, which is enforce the law." Nevertheless, Bratton admitted that Stop, Question, and Frisk "is a basic element of community policing... it is not over. The idea is that you do it legally."

Transcript of Highlights

On Stop and Frisk

Stop, Question and Frisk has not gone away, it has not been discontinued, it has not ended. It’s not over…  The idea is that you do it legally and lawfully… That’s the challenge of policing, to conform to the law. To do the right thing at the right place at the right time.

On Differences Between ‘Stop and Frisk’ and ‘Broken Windows’

There are two distinct differences between ‘Stop, Question and Frisk’ and ‘Quality of Life’ offenses. One is a reasonable suspicion and I think it was clearly understood by both the federal court decision, the reaction of many political leaders in the city – and indeed myself as I commented on it – and the union leadership of the rank and file, the NYPD. The belief that their officers were being pushed…  We have dropped that level of activity down dramatically with no significant result increase in crime with one single exception and that’s in the areas of shootings. Other than that, crime is down in every other category that we measure.

In terms of quality of life types of offenses, those are in fact actual criminal acts witnessed by a police officer or violates of city ordinances – traffic offenses, littering, all these things are in fact against the law... If people would obey the law, then they would not draw the attention of the police.

On the Challenge for Police

Commissioner Bratton: We’re showing significant decreases in summons activity, in marijuana arrests for example. The department is always engaged in trying to provide balance. The idea being that a significant part of what we do is in response to citizens. If we were to stop responding to 911 emergency or 311 quality of life calls there would be a phenomenal hew and cry that we were neglecting the minorities of the city because unfortunately for many minorities the neighborhoods they live in, some of the circumstances they find themselves incumbent with in their neighborhoods unfortunately... They want something done about that.

The challenge for police -- and this goes to the heart of the recent mayoral election, to Mayor de Blasio's campaign --  the challenge for him as mayor and the challenge now for me as police commissioner --  is to insure that in our supervision of our police officers, in our training of them, and our guidance of them, that they are always reminded of the need to police constitutionally. That you can't break the law to enforce it. And secondly, that to the greatest degree possible, try to do it in a way that we build relationships rather than worsen them.

Brian Lehrer: So since you’re emphasizing 911 calls, 311 calls – do you think preventive policing a la 'Broken Windows' is a trade-off that most black and Latino residents of the neighborhoods of New York are actually willing to make -- but they’re not the ones who grab microphones, denounce the police and get media attention?

Commissioner Bratton: That’s correct. There’s no denying that the law-abiding residents of even some of the high-crime neighborhoods of this city are concerned about police behavior when dealing with the criminal elements or the violators in their community. And that’s the challenge for the police.



William Bratton

Comments [62]

LOL, our racist, racially divisive President does his newest "Trayvon Martin" stirring of racial hatred -

"Obama offers condolences to family of Michael Brown" WASH POST

Aug. 12 2014 09:30 PM

LOL ... they even out do Brian, The Liberal White Boy -

"MSNBC guest Dr. James Peterson claimed that the media shouldn’t be talking about the violent race riots going on in Missouri over the police shooting of an African-American teenager, calling it “a red herring.”

Peterson spoke with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” Tuesday. The duo discussed the shooting of Michael Brown and the days of riots that have followed — although Peterson wasn’t too keen on discussing the violence and looting at all."

Read more:

Aug. 12 2014 09:25 PM


Aug. 12 2014 09:09 PM
Donald J. Sepanek

I'd be fine with 'stop and frisk' if cannabis was legal. It's a successful policy that reduces incarceration rates, gets guns off the streets, and prevents crimes from occurring. Unfortunately, the way the law stands now, I can't support it.

Aug. 12 2014 03:05 PM
Ed from East Village

I enjoy the comments from the ghetto dwellers (both black and white). Their behavior explains the high crime rate in the "hood". Not poverty, not "inadequate" housing and education but their own behavior. Look the other way when criminal activity occurs and your neighborhood too could be a crime-ridden slum.

Aug. 12 2014 11:33 AM
Anonymous from New York

The problem and the answer lies on both sides of the question. We are living the consequences of injustice born years ago. NO, Black parents do not teach their children to mistrust police officers enforcing the law, the officers do that themselves.

Aug. 12 2014 11:31 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Crime and Enforcement Activity in New York City (Jan 1 – Dec 31, 2013)

Aug. 12 2014 11:22 AM
ellen from Upper Manhattan

Brian is fond of generalizing and of groups. For him, the Upper East Side is shorthand for a community of rich, selfish, spoiled New Yorkers who all live above the 20th floor and lead a very different life from you and me. While he may speak of the "Upper East Side" with impunity, I recall my first week here on East 93rd Street, when a shooting took place across the street. In all the years and neighborhoods I'd lived in NYC, I'd never seen a shooting and yet within 6 mos, there were three I saw or heard. In the Village, I rarely waited 10 minutes for a bus, but on York and First Aves I routinely wait 20 or more minutes. I live in a good building, a nice hi-rise. I'm on a pension and S.S. plus I have a reverse mortgage. The "Upper East Side," as Brian says it with barely-concealed dislike, is comprised of human beings, each with a different story. Tonight or tomorrow night, I'll likely get arrested for civil disobedience as I protest the continued construction of the huge garbage facility less than a block from City Housing and barely 3 blocks from my own apartment. If Mr. Lehrer would talk directly with the actual people from his "Upper East Side," he might hear some truths that would help him have a less biased viewpoint.

Aug. 12 2014 11:16 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

The Youtube video presented by pliny from soho

Shows a "yoof of color" hitting a white man in the head.

Aug. 12 2014 11:12 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

rosie - this, "fix those cultures to move beyond learned helplessness and chronic victim-hood, that the rest of the country will start to respect us. What we are showing everybody today about us is bad and it is up to us to fix that. Nobody else is going to do it for us. Respect can't be demanded, it has to be earned."............, is such mindless claptrap. just idiocy. as if the 35+ million black people are responsible for every black person. as if there are not structural reasons for the dysfunction is 'certain so called minority communities'. clueless people like rosie, play into the narrative that people like john from office promulgate. pathetic

Aug. 12 2014 11:09 AM
gene from NYC

To lionize Gardner, an addicter of kids (the main buyers of loosies; think he checked ids?), is outrageous.

And if you, Garnder, are a giant bear of a man, a full head taller and 150lbs heavier, than any of the cops, and you have heart disease and asthma, here's a wild idea--DON'T RESIST ARREST. DON'T START FLINGING THOSE GIANT, DANGEROUS 50LB ARMS ABOUT.

I've seen individual cops acting as arrogantly as the woman caller who was chased away from an arrest scene, so I recognize they can be rotten in this city. It was worse in the past, but still exists today.

But in this particular case, I don't see any way to bring under control a gigantic offender resisting arrest that's NOT going to endanger his already fragile health.

Aug. 12 2014 11:08 AM
RosieNY from NYC

Like or not, as a member of a minority group myself, saddens me to, once again, failed to hear any comment about personal and group responsibility for the the troublesome cultural and social state of those minority cultures. I grew up and lived in one of those groups and could not wait to get the hell out of such dysfunctional atmosphere. We can blame as many people as we want, as many things as we want, but it will not be until we, the members of those minority groups roll up our sleeves and fix those cultures to move beyond learned helplessness and chronic victim-hood, that the rest of the country will start to respect us. What we are showing everybody today about us is bad and it is up to us to fix that. Nobody else is going to do it for us. Respect can't be demanded, it has to be earned.

Aug. 12 2014 11:02 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Joanna from the Bronx,

Do your "youth of color" commit more crimes than "youth of no color"?

What do the NYPD crime statistics show?

Aug. 12 2014 10:57 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@ Stew, actually they do...Yo have no idea what you're talking about.

Aug. 12 2014 10:55 AM

Some problems are the result of laws that are supposed to be for the public good. As an example, cigarettes in NY are very expensive. Yeah, I know nobody should smoke but they do. If you are well off you can buy the pack; if not you try to buy singles. The laws on the sale of cigarettes create a market for a cheaper product. What we've ended up with is a kind of prohibition system that seems to affect mostly the poor. Other so called quality of life issues also seem to mostly affect the poor. Maybe we need systems that don't depend only on the police who are put between some poor guy and the merchant who is selling cigarettes legally.

Aug. 12 2014 10:51 AM

Only about poverty, eh?

So white Appalachia (perhaps the most impoverished area of the U.S.) has comparable crime rates to S. Central Los Angeles, Detroit, East St. Louis?


Aug. 12 2014 10:48 AM

As always there are three sides to every story and until people with opposing point of views start educating themselves on the flip side, nothing will change.

Police Officers deserve respect for putting their lives on the line every day, full stop! That being said a choke hold should never be used.

A citizen should never resist arrest and taunt police officers, full stop!

It is not now, nor will it ever be black and white, it is grey.

If you are on the left or right side, you are part of the problem, open your eyes and start becoming the solution!!

Aug. 12 2014 10:46 AM
Theo from Brooklyn

How about respecting authority.

Aug. 12 2014 10:45 AM

"White gentrifier?" I thought gentrification had to do with incomes, not race.

Aug. 12 2014 10:45 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Last I heard, the march is just on Staten Island, not across the bridge.

Aug. 12 2014 10:44 AM
Jake S

You've got to be kidding me with this caller. Did you hook up a Conservative Talking Point Machine to the phone?

Aug. 12 2014 10:43 AM

Brian you cannot just "take race out of it." Let go of the conceit that you can. Race has been demonstrated to be the most salient variable in the experience and fatality of civilian interactions with the police.

Aug. 12 2014 10:43 AM
pliny from soho

here is a short video from the very white west village

Aug. 12 2014 10:43 AM
Matt from Bk

Caller was right about the inconsistency of enforcement. People do what they want in the city. Enforcement is so lax in so many different areas. And the city doesn't enforce laws consistently.

Aug. 12 2014 10:43 AM

I always struggle with this, because I know it is considered racist, but I do wonder what impact is being made by the adults in some of these neighborhoods in the way they teach their children to view the world. Why does a candle lit vigil turn to store looting? Can it be the tension is on both sides?

Is the mistrust birthed on both sides? I don't think all Black and Latinos listen to their music with the headphones pulled out, but most people who do that are Black and Latino. Not all Black and Latino people toss litter in the street, but again most people who do that are Black and Latino.

I don't like Block parties regularly either, yet I hear Arabs and Asians criticize Black culture for the same things that get attributed to White people.

Aug. 12 2014 10:40 AM
John from office

Waiting for the segment on black on black crime and killing each other for not wearing the right color, BRIAN.

Another segment where the callers talk about police lynching blacks in the street every minute of every day. WE ARE VICTIMS, let us kill each other!!

Aug. 12 2014 10:40 AM
Jane from New York

A few years ago, I am an Asian female and was with 2 friends, one black male and one white male, and I wrote on scaffolding for a construction site in Soho. A couple of cops pulled over and made my friends clean up the writing, even though I told them I was the one who was doing it.

Aug. 12 2014 10:39 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Brian, I'm surprised you didn't specifically ask Cmmr. Bratton about the differential treatment of people in neighborhoods w/different populations when police officers *do* see the same type of behavior. There were multiple calls/posts/Tweets in a recent segment on your show about how the police respond to things like drinking in public in white vs. black or Latino neighborhoods. This doesn't have to do w/the crime level/police presence. I'd have liked to hear you play 1 of those calls back & ask for the commissioner's response.

Aug. 12 2014 10:39 AM
Leah from Manhattan

I guess the Brian Lehrer show is now allowing calls where people can vent their ethnic prejudices without consequence. I'm disappointed in your failure to challenge the xenophobia and stereotyping remarks of the recent caller, Brian.

Aug. 12 2014 10:38 AM
Paisley Davidson

Everyday I see people breaking the law--with their cars. I live in South Bushwick, formerly in Greenpoint, and I am witness ON A DAILY BASIS, several times per day, to drivers driving through red lights, stop signs, not yielding to pedestrians and cyclists, failing to use their turn signals, and, of course extreme SPEEDING. These are "nuisance" crimes that actually lead to at least (probably far more) deaths than shootings. They are at least as detrimental to quality of life as drug sales (in my opinion), and yet the police seemingly do nothing about THESE crimes, which are probably perpetrated as often by white/middle class people as they are by people of color/low-income citizens. I honestly wish the police would start paying attention to this scourge and putting forth as much effort towards the menacing actions of reckless drivers as they do "broken windows."

Aug. 12 2014 10:37 AM
Terri from Brooklyn

I'm a white woman living in a black neighborhood in Brooklyn, and I never call the police for quality of life issues (mainly noise), largely because I worry that if the police do respond, in will be in a manner disproportionate to to the offense.

If I see someone getting hurt or an otherwise serious crime, I'll call; but otherwise, forget it. I don't trust that the police won't make matters worse.

Aug. 12 2014 10:37 AM

If we're talking about selling "loosies" & paying taxes (or not) then how about companies like Apple who barely pay any taxes? Who's harassing them? Why don't we put them in a choke hold.

Aug. 12 2014 10:36 AM

i give the commissioner points for tone; his predecessor and the former mayor, and the mayor before that, were very often tone deaf on these issues. a few bottom lines for this listener: the problem with stop and frisk was that that the nypd implemented the policy in an impermissibly UNLAWFUL way; that had to stop. NO one gets to suspend constitutional protections by fiat. Likewise, rude and discourteous cops have to go. they SHAME the department and dishonor the people they are suppose to serve. i get the sense that this commissioner, to the extent he can, will help boot the bad apples. but we absolutely must not forget that these broken-windows offenses are a BFD when they occur in front of your home, outside your apartment building, on the corner down the block from your family, or in front of your children's school. they matter. people who live miles from the harm need to remember that. so these aren't black-and-white issues. there is plenty of nuance to go around.

Aug. 12 2014 10:36 AM
Jeri from Washington Heights

I just want to add that another way of dealing with someone "resisting arrest" is to BACK OFF, let the person cool off, then approach again and try to talk to them about the issue.

The police are supposed to act as the "adult" in the situation, not the escalators of violence. Sometimes people resist arrest because THEY ARE INNOCENT.

Aug. 12 2014 10:35 AM

@john from office

"How about teaching your children to respect authority, be it teachers, or police and not be "all in your face" with everyone.

The black community, seems like all over the country, is suicidal."

WTF! Even if I were to accept your premise, where's the gain in teaching your children to respect authority when authority systematically disrespects them? Respect is two-way and you often get what you give.

Oh, how I wish you were being sarcastic again but sadly I don't think you are.

Aug. 12 2014 10:35 AM
Xochitl from Manhattan

From my perspective it comes down to respect. It is holding on to the understanding every person is more than a single action or a uniform; that we are all multi-faceted beings capable of a wide-variety of actions positive and negatives.

Aug. 12 2014 10:35 AM
Emily from Brooklyn

In order to reduce crime, NYPD must reframe broken windows in order to invest ALL NYC citizens. Right now, it's NYPD vs. low-income communities of color, when it should be NYPD vs. people who are likely to commit crimes. The "quality of life" concerns that Bratton mentions reflect a white ideal of what a "good neighborhood" looks like.

In my section of Bed-Stuy, stoop dwelling, backyard barbeques, hanging out in the bodega and pick-up basketball BUILDS community and selling "loosies" is a response to the economic reality that sometimes folks can only afford a single cigarette at a time-- coming down hard on loud music does nothing to build trust between police and my neighbors.

Aug. 12 2014 10:33 AM
john from Office

Zimmerman was not a cop!! Wow the woman caller is paranoid, a perfect example of the victim mentality!!!!

How about not breaking the law.

Aug. 12 2014 10:33 AM
Jeri from Washington Heights

I think it is a bit disingenuous to suggest that a business-owner in a neighborhood who is complaining about someone selling "loosies" outside his door is generally representing "community opinion." Perhaps a more systematic way of assessing "community interests" is needed--a real survey, taken on the street, of people actually living in the neighborhood, ranking how important they think various crimes are. I suspect that most people in the neighborhood (NOT just the business-owners who are losing some business) would care very little about someone standing about selling "loosies", and would on the contrary care very much more about safety around schools, helpful neighborhood faces, help with getting treed cats down from trees, etc., etc.!

More police officers in neighborhoods like mine would be welcome if they interacted with regular people, not just each other and the business owners (who have their own agenda).

Aug. 12 2014 10:31 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


I fully agree. The police by now should have been given non-lethal means and weapons to immobilize someone who does not appear to have a lethal weapon pointed at them. They should be teaching something besides shooting in the police academies, I hope.

Aug. 12 2014 10:29 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

did the hack known as brian lehrer just say the people "with the anti-police agenda"? is that a joke?

Aug. 12 2014 10:26 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@Barb "shoot the foot"? this is not Hollywood. Someone comes at you with a knife or shoot at you with a gun - you stop the threat by any means.

Aug. 12 2014 10:25 AM
April from NYC


Aug. 12 2014 10:23 AM
Barb from NYC

STOP slaughtering unarmed black people, period. Arrest, if necessary. Even if necessary to shoot for some egregious reason (self-defense), shoot the foot. Just STOP killing. STOP KILLING.

Aug. 12 2014 10:21 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Nice try Brian, but whether there is a link or not to more shootings, stop and frisk under the Bloomberg years was done mostly unconstitutionally and that's what matters.

We can bring crime down to zero by putting cameras in people's homes and a tracking device on their person - that is not America.

Aug. 12 2014 10:20 AM

"Proper Procedures" sounds all well and fine except:

#1. Minorities are much more likely to go to court than non-minorities. Multiple trips to court is not desirable.

#2. Police, judges, lawyers and to an extent, jurors are paid to spend weeks in court. Citizens who are falsely accused of a crime often loose money when having to go to court. The incentive is to avoid these proper procedures.

#3. The courts, in the USA, have not historically been "fair" to minorities. Again, the incentive is to avoid these proper procedures.

Aug. 12 2014 10:19 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

This would be an opportunity to discuss how police can better respond to nuisance crimes. Police do not have to effect arrest every time they witness a nuisance level crime. They can instead detain, question and admonish someone by using the DISCRETION it is within their lawful authority to exercise. Especially true with regard to victimless "tax" violations worth fractions of a penny to the state... like selling loosies, for instance.

This sort of policy can be implemented without any changes in the law by the Police Commissioner. But he won't. Because what's another body in the street when his POWER is challenged. The NYPD no longer serves the public good, they serve themselves and the 1% who run this city. Just another gang with a mealy mouthed spokesman.

Aug. 12 2014 10:18 AM

I am skeptical about this supposed response to citizen complaints in "bad" neighborhoods. I am a white woman on the UWS, and have called the police and 311 numerous times with noise complaints in my backyard and in Central Park, and they are never addressed. And just a note of sympathy and disgust for the death of Mr. Garner.

Aug. 12 2014 10:17 AM
john from office

Why is it that these events never happen with chinese people, hasidic jews, greeks in Astoria. It is always in the hood. Maybe, it is how people react to the police and not how the police react to people.

How about teaching your children to respect authority, be it teachers, or police and not be "all in your face" with everyone.

The black community, seems like all over the country, is suicidal. Lets go and loot the Stop and Shop! Showing our outrage!!!!

Aug. 12 2014 10:14 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

JG - I agree BUT, many infractions should not be criminalized. This is where broken windows need to be modified. Give people tickets or tell them to move on, for minor infractions.

Aug. 12 2014 10:14 AM
Every day cops running amok. Commmish you guys are nothing more than a gang. NO accountability or justice against cops that go way past their mandate. Stop and frisk is bad, you are a jackbooted thug.

Aug. 12 2014 10:14 AM
Amy from Manhattan

It's been shown that people who have been stopped & frisked are less likely to report crimes. This could make it look as if crime goes down when stop-&-frisk is overused & up when it's used less.

Cmmr. Bratton just said civilian deaths at the hands of police is "relatively rare." Relatively rare is not good enough.

Aug. 12 2014 10:13 AM
Benjamin Marshall from Plainfield, NJ

Listening to Bratton right now, I feel he is obfuscating the situation. The point is not about 'loosies' or quality of life issues, it is about the choke hold that killed Garner. He said 'I can't breathe,' and the police ignored his cries. It is the choke hold that is the issue, not whether or not crimes should be punished.

Aug. 12 2014 10:12 AM
Herb from New Jersey from New Jersey

So if I understand the Commissioner, that video we saw of the victims death is justified because of everything we saw. The actions of the officer who executed the man was because this is how he was ordered to handle such a situation.

Maybe we now need SS troops to police the police to handle the criminal element within the police.

Aug. 12 2014 10:11 AM
Winona from NYC

Loose cigarettes are sold inside bodagas too in upper Manhattan. I understand the broken windows policy but loose cigarettes? Gimme a break! How about foot patrolling the streets with "neighborhood cops" not just ones sitting in the patrol cars and texting?

Aug. 12 2014 10:10 AM
Anonymous from ENY Brooklyn

Give me a break, most officers are not out there "building" relationships with the people, the law abiding are viewed with the same animosity as the criminal element, stop lying.

Aug. 12 2014 10:10 AM
James from Bronx

I have seen many many people get a ticket or even arrested for quietly sipping a beer in St Mary's Park.

Then I go to Central Park and see beer being sold in the park by Shakespeare in the Park, people drinking wine in the open by the pond, etc etc.

It is clearly different policies for different people, you cannot evade the reality of that.

Also, release all the 311 and 911 calls he claims the police are responding to in communities of color.

Aug. 12 2014 10:10 AM
Jessie Henshaw from Way Uptown

The tragedy of using police to enforce our quality of life... is THEY'RE NOT IN CHARGE OF THAT. More seriously, though, the challenge is as you suggested, to support the quality of life in neighborhoods under stress from any systemic hardship... That's NOT [olice that are trained to respond like goons.

Aug. 12 2014 10:07 AM
Joanna from Bronx

Good to hear that rare strong tone, albeit briefly, in Brian's voice getting Bratton to spin out of his spin and into reality about the impact on youth of color of the unjust policing practices so rampant.

Also stop spying on activists!

Aug. 12 2014 10:07 AM

Great reasoned arguments...but you still shouldn't' have killed the man. Why not hang around Wall St and CPW to find some criminals.

Aug. 12 2014 10:04 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Having grown up in the housing projects and still living in predominantly black and hispanic area, I fully believe in the "broken windows" doctrine that if you allow small infractions to go unnoticed and unpunished, things only get worse. They never get better just on their own.

Aug. 12 2014 10:04 AM
Nat from New York

Will the Commissioner acknowledged that there are not to dichotomous groups in New York, the "The Community" and "The Police". The NYPD are employees of the people of New York??????

Aug. 12 2014 10:03 AM

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