Commentary Magazine


Topic: William Bratton

Standing with the Cops Against de Blasio

According to this story in the New York Times, the number of murders in New York City dropped to 328 in 2014. That’s the lowest figure since at least 1963, when the Police Department began collecting reliable statistics.

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According to this story in the New York Times, the number of murders in New York City dropped to 328 in 2014. That’s the lowest figure since at least 1963, when the Police Department began collecting reliable statistics.

As a reference point, in 1990, the number of murders was 2,245–roughly seven times what it is today. This drop in murders from 2013 (335) capped a year of lower numbers in nearly every major crime category.

This constitutes one of the most stunning social policy successes of the last 50 years, and it didn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of tremendous professionalism by the NYPD, from the quality of its police officers to crime-fighting approaches that include increased focus on the small number of people responsible for a majority of offenses and their patterns of criminal behavior; embracing the “Broken Windows” approach to fighting crime; and reliance on a data-driven management model referred to as CompStat, which is responsible for lowering the crime rate and improving the quality of life in New York City.

All of which makes the anti-cop narrative that has been advanced by people like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Holder, along with President Obama, so indefensible. Thanks to the sacrifices and excellence of police officers all across the United States, and especially in our large urban areas, our streets are far safer and the quality of life in our cities is far better than it was a quarter-century ago. This occurred despite the fact that many criminologists were predicting crime rates would sharply rise throughout the 1990s and beyond because of demographic reasons (a bulge in the number of young males) and because the percentage of children born out of wedlock continued to go up. Instead, rates of murder, violent crime, and overall crime have dropped dramatically. For example, from 2000 to 2012, the violent crime rate fell over 23 percent–and before that, from 1993 to 2000, the the rate fell 32 percent.

For people like de Blasio, Holder, and Obama to suggest that systemic racism is characteristic of our police departments and to constantly undermine confidence in cops is disgraceful, particularly given the tremendous achievements by police officers in protecting innocent people from harm and maintaining order in our streets. It tells you a very great deal about the progressive mind that those on the left are so eager to attack the police even when they are performing their duties with great distinction.

We live in a time during which cops should be praised and honored for their bravery and their accomplishments. Instead we have political leaders acting in ways that are undercutting and slandering law enforcement officers. The result is a poisonous climate in which a diseased and malignant mind like that of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who wrote on an Instagram account, “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs,” can be catalyzed to lethal violence. Which explains why I’m supportive of police officers who have on several occasions now turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio. Their contempt for him is well-deserved. “We might be reaching a tipping point with the mind-set of officers, who are beginning to wonder if the risks they take to keep communities safe are event worth it anymore,” Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said. “We’re seeing a natural recoil from … officers who don’t feel like certain people who need to have their backs have their backs.” (New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, when asked about the role of Obama and Holder in the current climate, said officers “feel that they are under attack from the federal government at the highest level.”)

It is all quite contemptible–and for the left, quite predictable.

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De Blasio Can’t Turn His Back on Sharpton

Today, both New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani termed the reaction of cops to the appearance of Mayor Bill de Blasio at the funeral of one of two assassinated policemen as “inappropriate.” The decision of police officers to turn their backs to the mayor en masse was a dramatic illustration of their lack of confidence in his leadership and a sign of the crisis for law enforcement that has been exposed by recent events. Nevertheless the rift between the mayor and the police could be healed by, as Giuliani also noted today, by a clear apology that shows he understands that he was wrong to join the gang tackle of the cops after Ferguson and the Eric Garner incident. But anyone expecting that to happen understands nothing about de Blasio or contemporary liberalism, which is waiting impatiently for the second murdered officer to be buried before trying to turn the national conversation back to a false narrative of racism from one of the left’s ideological war on the police.

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Today, both New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani termed the reaction of cops to the appearance of Mayor Bill de Blasio at the funeral of one of two assassinated policemen as “inappropriate.” The decision of police officers to turn their backs to the mayor en masse was a dramatic illustration of their lack of confidence in his leadership and a sign of the crisis for law enforcement that has been exposed by recent events. Nevertheless the rift between the mayor and the police could be healed by, as Giuliani also noted today, by a clear apology that shows he understands that he was wrong to join the gang tackle of the cops after Ferguson and the Eric Garner incident. But anyone expecting that to happen understands nothing about de Blasio or contemporary liberalism, which is waiting impatiently for the second murdered officer to be buried before trying to turn the national conversation back to a false narrative of racism from one of the left’s ideological war on the police.

Giuliani, who had many run-ins with the police during his eight years at City Hall over contractual issues, rightly understands how dangerous the breech between the police and the political leadership of the city can be for public safety. Thus, his plea for De Blasio to swallow his pride was good advice: “Mayor de Blasio, please say you’re sorry to them for having created a false impression of them.”

Giuliani was also right when he said what de Blasio most needed to do right now was to disassociate himself from Al Sharpton, the nation’s current racial huckster in chief. Sharpton has earned the obloquy of the nation with a lifetime of incitement and lies. But he was a crucial supporter of de Blasio’s mayoral campaign last year and has become an unexpected power broker in the Obama administration that has come to view the former sidewalk rabble-rouser and current MSNBC host as their go-to person on race issues.

But while the lame duck Obama may think there is no cost to his associating with Sharpton, de Blasio has a great deal to lose by doing so even if he doesn’t appear to understand this fact.

After only a year in office, de Blasio finds himself in a crisis largely of his won making. Having won by a landslide last year as the overwhelmingly liberal city elected its first Democrat in 24 years, the mayor clearly thought he had carte blanche to govern from the left. On many issues, he might well have gotten away with that decision. But having antagonized the police by campaigning against stop and frisk policies, he went a bridge too far when he joined in the chorus of those treating law enforcement as the enemy after Ferguson and then the non-indictment of the officer accused of choking Garner. That rhetoric created the impression that de Blasio agreed with those who have come to view police officers as guilty until proven innocent when it comes to accusations of racism or violence against minorities.

The police are not perfect and can, like politicians, make terrible mistakes. But the problem with the post-Ferguson/Garner critique that was relentlessly plugged by racial inciters, the liberal media and prominent political leaders such as Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder is that it cherry picked two extraordinary and very different incidents and wove it seamlessly into a highly misleading narrative about racism that might have been applicable in Selma, Alabama in 1965 but doesn’t reflect the reality of America in 2014. That this argument has roiled the nation and harmed racial understanding in a country that elected and then re-elected an African-American to the White House goes without saying. But the assassination of the two cops revealed that the cost of this egregious piece of incitement could be deadly.

That’s why it is past time for de Blasio to break ranks with Sharpton and his crowd and begin a process of healing that will save his city and his administration much grief in the next three years.

But the problem here is not just that de Blasio owes Sharpton and rightly fears what would if he chose to make an enemy of him. It’s that de Blasio, an aging radical who doesn’t particularly like to listen to advice from those who don’t already agree with him (a personal flaw that he shares with President Obama) is an ideologue that actually believes in the skewed racial worldview that an unscrupulous racial profiteer like Sharpton promotes. This inability to meet the police and the citizens they protect may well doom the city to years of racial strife and a rightly discontented police force. This could all be averted if de Blasio were wise enough to drop Sharpton and begin speaking as if he was mayor of all the people rather than just his considerable left-wing base. But even if it could allow him to better govern the city, de Blasio is no more capable of moving to the center than the president.

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Turning a Blind Eye to Homegrown Terror

On Tuesday, Americans commemorated the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing with solemn ceremonies and appropriate vows to not forget the victims. But in an ironic juxtaposition that few noted, the anniversary fell on the day when it became known that the New York City Police Department had abandoned an effort that was directly aimed at preventing more such instances of homegrown Islamist terrorism. As the New York Times noted in a news story and then celebrated in an editorial, the administration of new Mayor Bill de Blasio has disbanded the NYPD’s Demographics Unit that had the responsibility of monitoring extremists in the local Muslim community. For the Times and de Blasio, the decision by Police Commissioner William Bratton is a campaign promise vindicated and a victory for civil rights. They viewed the surveillance activities of the NYPD as a violation of the rights of Muslims and an unnecessary intrusion into that community’s affairs that amounted to illegal profiling.

But the notion that the NYPD’s efforts “undermined the fight against terrorism” is a noxious myth promulgated by radical Muslim groups who regard any scrutiny of Islamists as a threat to all Muslims rather than a prudent measure aimed at keeping tabs on preachers and groups that help incite hatred and violence. The decision of the NYPD to abandon the intelligence work that had helped keep the city safe in the last decade is not only yet another indication of the country’s return to a September 10th mentality. It is a case of willful blindness about the roots of homegrown terrorism that may, as the slip-ups in the investigation of the Boston bombers demonstrated, prove to be a costly mistake.

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On Tuesday, Americans commemorated the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing with solemn ceremonies and appropriate vows to not forget the victims. But in an ironic juxtaposition that few noted, the anniversary fell on the day when it became known that the New York City Police Department had abandoned an effort that was directly aimed at preventing more such instances of homegrown Islamist terrorism. As the New York Times noted in a news story and then celebrated in an editorial, the administration of new Mayor Bill de Blasio has disbanded the NYPD’s Demographics Unit that had the responsibility of monitoring extremists in the local Muslim community. For the Times and de Blasio, the decision by Police Commissioner William Bratton is a campaign promise vindicated and a victory for civil rights. They viewed the surveillance activities of the NYPD as a violation of the rights of Muslims and an unnecessary intrusion into that community’s affairs that amounted to illegal profiling.

But the notion that the NYPD’s efforts “undermined the fight against terrorism” is a noxious myth promulgated by radical Muslim groups who regard any scrutiny of Islamists as a threat to all Muslims rather than a prudent measure aimed at keeping tabs on preachers and groups that help incite hatred and violence. The decision of the NYPD to abandon the intelligence work that had helped keep the city safe in the last decade is not only yet another indication of the country’s return to a September 10th mentality. It is a case of willful blindness about the roots of homegrown terrorism that may, as the slip-ups in the investigation of the Boston bombers demonstrated, prove to be a costly mistake.

As I wrote last year when former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly came under fire for these surveillance tactics as a result of a lawsuit and a book that claimed the department had wronged Muslims, the charges were unfounded. Not only was the work of the Demographics Unit all authorized by the courts and completely legal, much of the criticism of its efforts stemmed as much from a rivalry with the FBI, some of whose agents resented the fact that the NYPD was infringing on what they considered to be their turf. Such turf battles were part of the reason that the 9/11 plotters succeeded, but years later the same lamentable trends in American law enforcement have resurfaced. Yet rather than sit back and wait for the feds to do their jobs, after 9/11 New York cops rightly decided they had to do whatever was necessary to ensure that they were not surprised again.

What the NYPD did was not an effort to besmirch all American Muslims, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding citizens. But it did seek to go after Islamists who do pose a threat to U.S. security where they congregate: at religious institutions led by individuals who encourage support for extreme Islamist views. Though the FBI has been heavily influenced by criticism from radical groups like CAIR—which masquerades as a civil-rights group despite its origins as a political front for Hamas terrorist fundraisers—and has treated homegrown Islamists with kid gloves, the NYPD was more tough-minded. As the Wall Street Journal noted earlier this week, this effort paid off to help make New York safer. But the department was lambasted by those who regard counter-terrorism intelligence work as intrinsically wrong because it is directed at the minority of Muslims who do pose a threat to public safety.

Much of this stems from the much-ballyhooed myth of a post-9/11 backlash that alleged American Muslims were subjected to discrimination and a wave of attacks. Though there is no proof that such a backlash ever existed, the notion that attention paid to the actual sources of Islamist hate is somehow intrinsically prejudicial has taken hold and helped to chip away at support for necessary police work. Even as Americans sadly remembered the horrors of the Boston bombing, the demonization of counter-terrorism continued on various fronts. Edward Snowden’s collaborators won a Pulitzer for their help in undermining U.S. intelligence work. But the celebration of the disarming of the NYPD demonstrates just how insidious the myth of the post-9/11 backlash has been in treating commonsense precautions as an affront to all those who wish to pretend that radical Islam is not a threat.

New Yorkers must now pray that their security has not been sacrificed on the altar of misguided political correctness based in fictions spread by radical apologists for terror. If homegrown terrorists like the Boston bombers slip through the fingers of the police in the future, de Blasio, Bratton, their supporters at the Times, and others who have waged war on counter-terrorism will bear a great deal of responsibility for what follows.

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Progress on Crime

According to the FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report (see here and here), compared with data from 2008, violent crime in America decreased by 5.5 percent; property crime declined by 4.9 percent; and arson offenses declined by 10.4 percent.

When disaggregating the data, we find that all four violent crime offenses — murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — declined. Robbery dropped by 8.1 percent; murder by 7.2 percent; aggravated assault by 4.2 percent; and forcible rape by 3.1 percent. Violent crime declined by 4 percent in the nation’s metropolitan counties and by 3 percent in non-metropolitan counties. And all four regions in the nation showed decreases in violent crime in 2009 compared with data from 2008. Violent crime decreased by 6.6 percent in the South, 5.6 percent in the West, 4.6 percent in the Midwest, and 3.5 percent in the Northeast.

In addition, all property crime offenses — burglary, larceny-theft, and motor-vehicle theft — decreased in 2009 compared with 2008 data. Motor-vehicle theft showed the largest drop in volume, by 17.2 percent, larceny-thefts declined by 4.2 percent, and burglaries decreased by 1.7 percent.

The figures, which are still preliminary, indicate a third straight year of crime decreases, along with a sharply accelerating rate of decline.

The New York Times begins its story by saying, “Despite turmoil in the economy and high unemployment, crimes rates fell significantly across the Unites States in 2009.” Richard Rosenfeld, a sociologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said, “That’s a remarkable decline, given the economic conditions.”

Actually, it’s not all that remarkable. Crime rates, for example, fell significantly during the Great Depression. As David Rubinstein of the University of Illinois has pointed out, if you chart homicide beginning in 1900, its rates began to rise in 1905, continued through the prosperous 20s, and crested in 1933. They began to decline in 1934, as the Great Depression began to deepen. And between 1933 and 1940, the murder rate dropped by nearly 40 percent, while property crimes revealed a similar pattern. One possible explanation is that times of crisis, including economic crisis, create greater social cohesion.

The drop in all levels of crime since the early 90s has been staggering and counts as a truly remarkable success story. There are undoubtedly many explanations for it, from higher incarceration rates to private security to improved technology. But surely advances in policing deserve a healthy share of the credit. As William Bratton, the former police chief in Los Angeles and New York has said: “We’ve gotten better at spotting crime trends more quickly. We can respond much more quickly.”

It’s perhaps worth noting that at a time when faith in many public institutions, including government and the media, is almost nonexistent, two institutions that command public trust are the military and law-enforcement officials. It’s no surprise, either, as they have impressive results to show for their efforts — from the battlefields in Iraq to the streets of New York.

One final thought: one of the things that characterized the 70s was a deep distrust of authority and of symbols of authority. Animus and disrespect were directed against our military and our cops. The former were accused of war crimes because of their service to our country in Vietnam; the latter were called pigs. Today the situation is dramatically reversed and dramatically better. In that sense, and in many other respects, our nation is a great deal better off than in the 70s.

We certainly have our share of social challenges. But in addressing them, we shouldn’t forget about the progress we have made, both practically and in terms of some of our social attitudes.

According to the FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report (see here and here), compared with data from 2008, violent crime in America decreased by 5.5 percent; property crime declined by 4.9 percent; and arson offenses declined by 10.4 percent.

When disaggregating the data, we find that all four violent crime offenses — murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — declined. Robbery dropped by 8.1 percent; murder by 7.2 percent; aggravated assault by 4.2 percent; and forcible rape by 3.1 percent. Violent crime declined by 4 percent in the nation’s metropolitan counties and by 3 percent in non-metropolitan counties. And all four regions in the nation showed decreases in violent crime in 2009 compared with data from 2008. Violent crime decreased by 6.6 percent in the South, 5.6 percent in the West, 4.6 percent in the Midwest, and 3.5 percent in the Northeast.

In addition, all property crime offenses — burglary, larceny-theft, and motor-vehicle theft — decreased in 2009 compared with 2008 data. Motor-vehicle theft showed the largest drop in volume, by 17.2 percent, larceny-thefts declined by 4.2 percent, and burglaries decreased by 1.7 percent.

The figures, which are still preliminary, indicate a third straight year of crime decreases, along with a sharply accelerating rate of decline.

The New York Times begins its story by saying, “Despite turmoil in the economy and high unemployment, crimes rates fell significantly across the Unites States in 2009.” Richard Rosenfeld, a sociologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said, “That’s a remarkable decline, given the economic conditions.”

Actually, it’s not all that remarkable. Crime rates, for example, fell significantly during the Great Depression. As David Rubinstein of the University of Illinois has pointed out, if you chart homicide beginning in 1900, its rates began to rise in 1905, continued through the prosperous 20s, and crested in 1933. They began to decline in 1934, as the Great Depression began to deepen. And between 1933 and 1940, the murder rate dropped by nearly 40 percent, while property crimes revealed a similar pattern. One possible explanation is that times of crisis, including economic crisis, create greater social cohesion.

The drop in all levels of crime since the early 90s has been staggering and counts as a truly remarkable success story. There are undoubtedly many explanations for it, from higher incarceration rates to private security to improved technology. But surely advances in policing deserve a healthy share of the credit. As William Bratton, the former police chief in Los Angeles and New York has said: “We’ve gotten better at spotting crime trends more quickly. We can respond much more quickly.”

It’s perhaps worth noting that at a time when faith in many public institutions, including government and the media, is almost nonexistent, two institutions that command public trust are the military and law-enforcement officials. It’s no surprise, either, as they have impressive results to show for their efforts — from the battlefields in Iraq to the streets of New York.

One final thought: one of the things that characterized the 70s was a deep distrust of authority and of symbols of authority. Animus and disrespect were directed against our military and our cops. The former were accused of war crimes because of their service to our country in Vietnam; the latter were called pigs. Today the situation is dramatically reversed and dramatically better. In that sense, and in many other respects, our nation is a great deal better off than in the 70s.

We certainly have our share of social challenges. But in addressing them, we shouldn’t forget about the progress we have made, both practically and in terms of some of our social attitudes.

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