The departure of William Bratton as New York City police commissioner comes at a moment when police establishments all over the country are under extreme pressure.
Bratton, a veteran of not just New York City but Boston and Los Angeles police departments, represents the best of what being a policeman in American has meant. He is the refutation of the current campaign of calumny and destruction led by those who use the relatively rare incidents of police brutality and discrimination against minorities to condemn all law enforcers.
It was under Bratton’s leadership that New York City’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani dramatized the obvious but often forgotten necessity not to tolerate violations of the law, however minor. Any excuse of crime, no major how small [breaking windows for sport], was the beginning of the breakdown in civil order, they argued. And Giuliani’s campaign to eliminate minor infractions of the law as well as the more egregious crime was eminently successful.
Some of the methodology – the ability to stop and search suspects on the street without a warrant, for example – has been under fire from sincere guardians of our human rights. Yet it is clear that these methods, kept in their proper place and perspective by commanding officers such as Bratton, have been remarkably successful in eliminating what had become an environment of criminality of the 60s and 70s in the New York City.
Any fair minded observer recognizes that there have been police abuses in the past. Like any organization, the police have their “bad apples”. But the current campaign to use such instances, publicized by a sensationalist and often twisted media, is an effort to undermine all that Bratton has stood for in the crusade to maintain order and civility in our busy and complex urban culture.
Unfortunately, some of our public figures have lost their balance in confronting the issue. Courting such radical and pernicious groups as “Black Lives Matter!” is the most outrageous example. Its origins in Ferguson. Missouri in a supposed violation of a black man’s rights and death by a police officer is bogus. Witnesses, local authorities and the Department of Justice after extensive investigations have all confirmed that what happened was, instead, an attack on a policeman by a veteran criminal offender.
Even more destructive, marching through the streets by Black Lives Matter supporters calling for the death of policemen was rewarded by the Obama Administration with invitations to the White House. Responses from others who have fought for law and justice in policing that “all lives matter” were answered with insults and accusations that past racial discrimination was at the root of their argument for elimination of prejudice.
The continuing campaign against the police carried on by Back Lives Matter and its affiliated organizations threatens to contribute to the demoralization of our guardians of peace and security. The decline in major crime in the last several decades has already taken an upturn, presumably as police are prevented from exercising discretion in pursuing possible criminal activity. Blaming crime on poverty and inadequate public facilities is a [to coin a phrase] cop-out. The world and American life is full of instances of the majority of individuals strong enough to overcome the worst of these deprivations to live good and successful lives.
Baltimore has seen outrageous exploitation advantage by elected politicians and public prosecutors of the old wounds of racial discrimination for purely narrow political gain. Such outrageous behavior by public officials is erodes the whole concept of police responsibility and the fair application of law and order for all citizens, whatever their racial and ethnic background.
We can only hope that Bratton’s departure – and we are reminded he has taken his leave before and returned – is not now a signal of the a new era of policing in which attacks on police and their diminished activity is to be the order of the day.