Former NYPD Commish talks W.T.C security, O.W.S. and stop-and-frisk

Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. Photo courtesy of Julie Gauthier

Bill Bratton, former Commissioner of the New York Police Department under Mayor Rudy Giuliani and currently Chairman of Kroll, a risk mitigation and security firm, spoke at a Lower Manhattan Marketing Association function at Pace University on March 22. Bratton sat down with the Downtown Express to discuss the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy and its proposed security roadmap for the World Trade Center. During his speech, we also asked Bratton about his take on Occupy Wall Street.

BY ALINE REYNOLDS AND JOHN W. SUTTER

Do you believe the NYPD under Commissioner Ray Kelly’s leadership has struck the right balance on the stop-and-frisk policy?
Stop-and-frisk is an essential tool of American policing and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. We need an aggressive police practice to deal with the epidemic of crime — without it, no city would be safe. It’s quite obvious that it’s an issue that is still a work in progress. The public has the expectation to be informed about the practice in terms of how it’s performed, and the Police Department has an obligation to respond to its queries, which is what it’s doing. There’s an expectation that crime should be way down. The numbers the Police Department keeps and releases from time to time clearly indicate that there’s a continuous increase in [crime rates]. That’s, I think, the crux of the debate in New York at the moment.

What do you think of the W.T.C. campus security plan that the NYPD released to the public earlier this month?
I know it’s also the subject of a great deal of debate, but I haven’t been following it, quite frankly, so I can’t comment with expertise on it.

How should the plan be carried out, in your opinion?
There needs to be a lot of transparency, but not so much on some of the internal systems. You want to maintain security, but there needs to be discussion about foot traffic and vehicular traffic. There’s concern about access for tourists, businesses and residents. It’s a delicate balance of security that’s not intrusive but rather is implemented in a way that raises the comfort level that all is being done to protect the area.

What are your thoughts on Occupy Wall Street?
 I’m a strong supporter of the right to demonstrate, but I am not a strong supporter of the right to occupy. I’m sorry, but it’s against the law, and you can’t allow violations of the law. We’ve got an anomaly in the situation here:  We’ve got a public park owned and maintained by Brookfield Properties, a private entity that had an obligation to keep it open 24 hours a day. All city parks close at 1 a.m., including Central Park. I think many cities made the mistake of embracing the [O.W.S. protests] with open arms, because it just created major problems.

Rumors were swirling last year that British Prime Minister David Cameron wanted to hire you as the next Police Commissioner of London. What ultimately transpired?
There was speculation about it, but the position was never offered. It was largely a creation of the media during a time of great controversy. Metropolitan Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson stepped down in the midst of the Rupert Murdoch hacking scandal. The country had just experienced a series of significant riots that they hadn’t seen in a long time. They thought it may be the appropriate time to look beyond police borders for new leadership, but very quickly, United Kingdom Home Secretary, Theresa May, said it’s not a good idea to open up the position to somebody outside the British Isles.

Do you have any role in the British police force?
I participate in conferences on gang violence and offer some thoughts on what the police might do to enhance what they do.

If Police Commissioner Kelly were to resign and you were offered the job again, would you take it?
It’s difficult to comment on something that hasn’t happened. No one has approached me. The job has not been offered. I’d wait for the door to be open before I walk into it.

What about succeeding Mike Bloomberg as mayor? Have you thought of that?
I can declare here that I am sane by declaring I have no interest in running for Mayor of New York City. I looked at that a few years back, and came to the precipice and basically stepped back before I leaped and probably killed myself.

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