Could This Choice by NYC’s Mayor-Elect Expand Stop and Frisk?

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William Bratton

William Bratton (Associated Press)

William Bratton will return as police commissioner to America’s largest city, reports the New York Daily News. He last led New York City’s police department in the 1990s, and has also headed Los Angeles’ force.

Bratton, 66, was named the new commissioner Thursday at the Red Hook Justice Community Center by incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio, who issued a news release trumpeting the hire.

“Bill Bratton is a proven crime-fighter,” de Blasio said in advance of the announcement. “He knows what it takes to keep a city safe, and make communities full partners in the mission.”…

…During Bratton’s first tour, felony crime in New York dropped 39%. The incoming commissioner enjoyed similar success during his run atop the Los Angeles police.

New York’s mayor-elect has vowed to reform the police practice of stopping and frisking people they consider suspicious, on the grounds that as currently practiced it disproportionately targets minorities and results in few arrests.

However, those who think de Blasio’s selection of Bratton may signal the end of stop and frisk should take note: the practice was actually expanded in Los Angeles on Bratton’s watch. Reports the New York Daily News in a separate article:

In 2002, the year Bratton began his tenure at the Los Angeles Police Department, cops conducted 587,200 stops of pedestrians and drivers. Six years later, that number skyrocketed to 875,204 stops — a 49% spike, according to a little-noticed May 2009 report from the Harvard Kennedy School.

As in New York, where critics like de Blasio have accused the NYPD of racial profiling, the stops focused heavily on minority groups.

However, the numbers suggest that L.A. cops were somewhat better at identifying lawbreakers than N.Y. officers have been under the current police chief, Raymond Kelly:

In a stark contrast to New York, the number of L.A. stops that led to arrests climbed as the number of stops rose, according to the study. In 2002, only about 15% of L.A. stops led to an arrest. That number doubled to 30% in 2008, the study found.

On average, from 2002 to 2012, only about 6% of NYPD stops led to an arrest, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Bratton is also known as a proponent of “community policing,” which employs partnerships with local leaders and assigns officers to the particular neighborhoods they are responsible for policing.

So, anyone who was thinking stop and frisk would end under de Blasio had probably better think again.

More realistic questions are:  Will law-abiding black and brown people have less to worry about from New York City police, going forward?

And could that potential reality affect how other cities approach efforts to keep their communities safe?

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