After high-profile police killings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton told national television audiences, “We need to find ways to see each other.” It was a call for the police and minority communities to recognize each other’s humanity. The conciliatory tone sounded at odds with Bratton’s public persona two decades ago, when he first served as New York’s police commissioner. Then, he unleashed officers to fight crime block by block. Now, reports the New York Times, faced with a nationwide drumbeat of black and Hispanic men and women killed by the police and an intensifying danger of reprisals against officers, Bratton is “challenged to put the leash back on his ranks.”
The Times says the problem for Bratton, whose name has is synonymous with a hard-charging, crime-busting mentality, is that many seeking criminal justice reform see him as part of the problem, if not a key player in its origins. The newspaper says some reformers consider Bratton “a relic, too moored to the past to usher in quick change.” Bratton, 68, is in his final lap of more than 45 years in policing. He says he will not stay beyond Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term. Some people doubt his zeal for change as he has surrounded himself with advisers from his early decades in policing and staunchly defended his continued focus on quality-of-life issues.