Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Return of Bill Bratton and the Silencing of a Movement

Josmar Trujillo
Christmas came early this year for police unions and business interests when Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio announced that Bill Bratton would once again be the police commissioner of New York City on December 5th.

The appointment of Bratton may have not been surprising for those who had followed media reports the last few months that had De Blasio hinting at Bratton as his man. What was perhaps more surprising was the lack of a strong and unified response to the Bratton appointment from some of the more visible police reform groups and erstwhile progressives that had loudly and publicly denounced the Bloomberg administration and its police commissioner, Ray Kelly.

I remember seeing the live coverage of the announcement of Bratton's return on TV and feeling my face warm with anger. In college, I had read all about Bratton's policing philosophy and making the connections between his "Broken Windows" approach and the pro-active type of policing, perhaps best expressed through the controversial Stop and Frisk policy, that slowly became the norm in New York. More recently, I followed the movement against Stop and Frisk develop from activist cries to election season pandering for votes. The Stop and Frisk movement, which began at the grassroots level before it ever became a mainstream electoral talking point, had spent years trying to clean up the racist, civil-liberties-violating mess Bratton had laid the groundwork for when he last called the shots at 1 Police Plaza.

The day after the announcement, City Councilman Charles Barron condemned the appointment alongside activists and parents of NYPD brutality victims on the steps of City Hall. He called for a "grassroots campaign" to oppose the Bratton appointment. I had already begun conversations with activists and friends via email and on social media about what could be done. Most of us assumed that policing activist groups, like those in the Communities United for Police Reform coalition, that had been heavily involved in the legislative and legal fights against the Bloomberg-Kelly regime, would have a plan of action around Bratton.

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