NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s academic guru, George Kelling, known for going on late-night subway ride-alongs, says transit cops should partner with social workers to better help people who are addicted and mentally ill who have made the subway their home.
Cops as social workers? That’s rich.
Or as another of Bratton’s gurus, the late former transit lieutenant Jack Maple might have put it: “How scrumptious.”
The term “social work” has a negative connotation around the NYPD. Bratton used the term pejoratively in his first turn as commissioner, provoking a dispute between him and his predecessor, Ray Kelly, that has continued for 20 years.
Beginning their “zero tolerance” crime policy, Bratton and his boss, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, sought to discredit the policing policies of the previous David Dinkins administration. They seized on Dinkins’ innovative “community policing” policy and criticized it as “social work.”
This so infuriated Kelly, who served under Dinkins, that he charged that taking credit for the city’s crime reductions, as Bratton and Giuliani did, was like “taking credit for an eclipse.”
“You can probably shut down just about all crime if you are willing to burn down the village to save it,” Kelly told Time Magazine in 1996 when Bratton’s mug appeared on its cover. “Eventually I think there will be a backlash, and crime will go back up. But by then Bill might be gone.”
Well, the NYPD’s wheel of fortune goes round and round. Bratton did go. And in 2002, Kelly returned. He forgot he’d ever heard the term “community policing.”
Instead, he proved to be tougher on crime than Bratton and Giuliani, in effect burning down the village with his stop-and-frisk policy.
Just as he had predicted, this caused a backlash, leading to de Blasio’s election, and as the wheel turned again, to Bratton’s return this year.
How ironic now that the Bratton crew is talking about social work. This at the same time when gun violence seems on the rise — there were 21 shootings this past weekend, three of them fatal.