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OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt

NYPD Confidential: Bill Bratton, Bill de Blasio's life preserver

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton answers questions along with

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton answers questions along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during a news conference at One Police Plaza Monday, Dec. 22, 2014, in the wake of the shooting deaths of two NYPD officers. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Just a couple months ago, Chirlane McCray supposedly told her husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio, "I told you we can't trust him." She was talking about NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.

But since the assassinations of Dets. Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on Dec. 20, de Blasio has wrapped his arms around Bratton as if he were a life-preserver.

Since the killings -- by a deranged Baltimore black man who cited the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner before shooting the officers -- de Blasio won't go near police without Bratton. When de Blasio visited the families of the slain officers (posthumously promoted to detectives) or presided at police conferences, Bratton was with him. The mayor had Bratton with him at a sit-down with heads of the police unions, including Pat Lynch of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

There's no love match between the mayor and Bratton. Theirs is a marriage of convenience. Depending on your viewpoint, Bratton has either staked out or been thrust into the position of conciliator between the mayor and the cops. "Bratton has always been a consensus-building guy," says Lynch's spokesman, Al O'Leary, who served as Bratton's spokesman for the transit police in the 1990s.

Bratton probably will spend the next few months on shuttle diplomacy between the mayor and Lynch. So what now? On police matters, de Blasio is paralyzed. Worse, he doesn't understand the police department. In his eulogy for Liu, the mayor spoke of the city's divisions but didn't acknowledge he may have contributed to the divide.

When asked by TV host Matt Lauer whether the mayor had lost the "trust and confidence" of police, Bratton said that some members turning their backs on the mayor was "reflective of the anger of some of them."

Those were telling words from a commissioner about his boss. Had Bratton done that under Rudy Giuliani, he'd have been fired. His comments were, as a Bratton supporter in police affairs, said, "classic Bratton."

Perhaps he'll end up on the cover of Time magazine in 2015 as he did in 1996 for his crime-fighting efforts. That story led Giuliani to fire him as commissioner.

Who knows? Maybe Time will credit Bratton, not de Blasio, for healing the rift between police and City Hall -- or at least keeping it from widening. If that happens, de Blasio won't be able to do a thing about it.


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