It is becoming increasingly apparent at Police Plaza that Bill Bratton is not the man who served as police commissioner under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani two decades ago.
Assuming office in 1994, Bratton issued a Churchillian war cry that resonated across NYC. “We will fight for every house in this city. We will fight for every street. We will fight for every borough. We will win ... I did not come here to lose.”
And he was emphatic about fighting corruption. The day after the first of 36 cops were arrested in the sweeping 30th Precinct corruption scandal, Bratton hurled their badges into a gargabe pail in what appeared to be a gesture of spontaneous anger. He announced he was sending a message. “I am retiring their badges so that no cop will have to wear a disgraced number again.”
Unbeknown to the public, a cop had placed the pail nearby as a prop.
Today, as a widening corruption scandal roils the department’s firearms licensing unit, Bratton issues no war cry. He has transferred or reassigned 10 chiefs and inspectors suspected of having accepted gifts or other favors from Brooklyn’s Hasidic communities, but he seems subdued and tentative, reactive rather than pro-active.
Under Giuliani, Bratton relied on Chief of Department John Timoney and Chief of Patrol Louie Anemone for guidance. Both had decades of NYPD experience, which Bratton lacked. Bratton was so confident in their judgment that upon his appointment he ordered all 15 deputy commissioners and three-star “superchiefs” to submit resignation letters.
Today, it is not clear on whom he relies. He and Chief of Department James O’Neill go back to the Transit Police in the 1990s. NYPD sources say the unofficial commissioner is Robert Wasserman, a civilian consultant paid by the Police Foundation who vets transfers and promotions.
Also, there are other factors impacting policing:
n Like the 30th Precinct scandal, the current corruption scandal is not of Bratton’s doing. The coziness between the NYPD and the Hasidic community began long before he arrived. Because of its political clout, the relationship will continue after he departs.
n The city’s climate has changed since Bratton’s first tour. His signature broken windows police strategy has been discredited by some politicians.
n The federal investigation into the racially charged death of Eric Garner in Staten Island remains unresolved. Whether the Justice Department, which is investigating Garner’s death, is merely running out the clock until a new president is elected is unclear.
n The media landscape has also changed. Fringe players are now quoted in the mainstream media. The New York Times, long a beacon of moderation and objectivity, has become anti-police in both its editorials and news coverage.
n And, Mayor Bill de Blasio has offered no public support to Bratton in the ongoing corruption scandal. Not only does de Blasio know nothing about policing, his mayoral campaign and a pro-de Blasio nonprofit are separately also under investigation.