December 29, 2015
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you very much, Commissioner, and thank you for your leadership. As we end another year of extraordinary success for the NYPD, I want to thank you for all you’ve done for the people of this city this year, and for all that the men and women of the NYPD have achieved this year.
The commissioner and I are going to go a little bit later on today to a somber gathering, to the wake for Detective Lemm, and we have his family in our thoughts and prayers, and obviously this is a painful moment for the city as we’ve lost a very good man, serving our nation overseas.
But there is a lot to be thankful for at the same time. And we have someone with us today that I’d like to introduce you to, who really represents all that is good about this city and all that’s good about the NYPD, and I’d like to ask him to just come forward for a moment. I’m going to tell you a quick story and then talk to you about the specific preparations here related to New Year’s Eve. I’d like Officer Christian Campoverde to please come forward, and your wife Daniella – join us.
Now this is a story that all New Yorkers will appreciate. Officer Campoverde was shopping with his family at the Queens Center Mall last week. He saw a man about to jump off a balcony. He approached him, he spoke to him, he calmed him down, he got the man to safety and treatment. I want to say, Officer Campoverde, I want to thank you for your extraordinary efforts. The officer has benefited from the Crisis Intervention Training that the commissioner and his team have focused on for the men and women of the NYPD to help them recognize mental illness challenges and how to deescalate difficult situations. 5,000-plus officers are getting this training and it’s related to our ThriveNYC initiative around mental health. Our police officers are at the frontline in so many ways, including the frontline of dealing with people with mental health challenges. And Officer Campoverde, you did it right and you saved a life – and we are all very proud of you. Thank you.
Now, as we prepare for New Year’s Eve, we know hundreds of thousands of folks from all over the world will be gathering here in Times Square. It is a time-honored tradition. It is something people look forward to all year. It’s one of the great events in this city each year. It’s iconic and an example of New York City at its best – and the eyes of the world will be on us.
Well, we will be prepared. The NYPD has done extraordinary work preparing for this event. I want to thank Commissioner Bratton and his team. I want to thank every one of our partner agencies, who’ve been extraordinary in this effort as well. I want to particularly thank the FBI Assistant Director in Charge for the New York Field Office, Diego Rodriguez, for his leadership.
We’re ready. And I had the honor yesterday of participating in one of the preparatory exercises – a tabletop exercise at 1 Police Plaza, led by some of the key leaders of this department, including our Chief of Counterterrorism, James Waters, and our Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism, John Miller. I want to thank them for that very careful and exhaustive exercise, preparing for any number of eventualities.
And this is why the NYPD is so great at what it does. Commissioner Bratton, Chief of Department Jimmy O’Neill, the whole leadership team constantly drills, constantly focuses on preparation. I want to thank you for all the work that’s going into making sure that we will be safe. And the numbers of officers that will be there will be extraordinary and the preparation is extraordinary as well.
I also want to thank key folks who are here with us today who’ve been part of this effort – our Director of Citywide Events, Michael Paul Carey. I want to thank the chair of the City Council Public Safety Committee, Vanessa Gibson, who’s been so supportive of all police efforts. And I join the commissioner in thanking Jeffrey Straus of Countdown Entertainment and Tim Tompkins of the Times Square Alliance, who are key partners in this effort.
Now, we pride ourselves in this city – we are the best-prepared city in the country, the best-prepared city to prevent terrorism and to deal with any event should it occur. For 14 years, the NYPD has successfully thwarted many, many attempts on this city. Many plots were thwarted because of the extraordinary intelligence work and the on-the-ground work of the NYPD.
And I mentioned at the beginning – this is against the backdrop of continued success in fighting crime. NYPD has once again shown it can keep driving down crime. We will end this year with yet another reduction in crime – a two-percent drop in crime since last year, a reduction in shootings since last year – a lot of success that the men and women of this department can be proud of.
On New Year’s Eve, the department will be out in force. There will be a tremendous number of officers who you will see. There will be many officers you won’t see. There will be obvious security measures you will see, and a number of measures you won’t see. What we can assure is that the preparations are extraordinary.
And we are benefitting now from a new element that is our Critical Response Command. This was authorized in the budget in June by the City Council – 500-plus member Critical Response Command, specifically chosen and trained officers who work full-time on counterterrorism – well trained, well armed, prepared for any eventuality. This is the first time we’ve had such a full-time dedicated force in such a number in this city – and it is going to make a big difference.
I just want to quickly summarize in Spanish – just a few sentences before turning over to my colleagues.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, again, thank you, Commissioner Bratton, for these extraordinary preparations. And I know that people looking forward to celebrating on New Year’s Eve will be good – in the good hands of the NYPD, and will have a safe and wonderful celebration together.
Thank you, Commissioner.
Commissioner William Bratton, NYPD: We are available for specific questions. Before starting the questions, I would indicate one of them that you are bound to ask is about the threat picture. We are not aware of any threat at this time that we deem credible. And we have a constant threat analysis stream that we are constantly reviewing, but, again, we are not aware of any threat at this time that we deem credible to this event here in Times Square.
Question: This is for the commissioner. Thinking of Paris and San Bernardino, California – the pattern this year has been terror attacks on relatively small soft targets. With all the focus on Times Square, what about the thousands of businesses outside this area?
Commissioner Bratton: As the Chief referenced, we’ll have approximately – actually close to 6,000 officers in and around the Times Square event. We’ll also be policing, as you referenced, major events from Coney Island, up here in Central Park. And we will in addition have additional resources – our normal patrol resources – out in the various precincts. Some of those will be supplemented with additional overtime personnel. So that the ability to protect everything all the time, everywhere is not possible in any venue anywhere in world, but both through our capabilities on the threat analysis beforehand, the prevention side of it, as well as the capability to respond very quickly – in that regard, we have enhanced significantly the capabilities of the department over the last several months. He’s referenced the new units – Critical Response Command, the Strategic Response Group – almost 1,400 additional officers in addition to the emergency service units that people in New York are used to seeing. So we believe we are as prepared as anybody can be for the strategic focus here in Times Square, the other major venues, but also, the policing of the city that we do every day, day in and day out.
Mayor: Okay, you go first then – that’s okay.
Question: [inaudible] are not the same all the time, sometimes [inaudible]. How do you [inaudible] this New Year’s Eve and your concern with New Year’s Eve in the past years, where you had different events happening around the world?
Commissioner Bratton: [inaudible] the ones I’m more specifically aware of, certainly during my time as commissioner. We are aware that the threat picture has changed because of ISIS. It’s changed significantly from what it was a year ago or two years ago. And in response to that, and in fact ahead of that in some respects, that’s why we have enlarged our capabilities here in the city with these additional units. We have a lot more personnel. We have a lot more personnel that have been trained on how to deal with these issues. And we’re constantly trying to expand the equipment. We’re in the process – for example, we’ll have a lot of dogs out on that evening. You’ll see them everywhere. We were already in the process of expanding that capability very significantly also.
Question: On New Year’s Eve there’s always that heavy police presence in Times Square. In light of Paris, if you’re going to Times Square [inaudible], then what exactly specifically are you going to see that is different?
Commissioner Bratton: Well, police that will have, I think, it’s about 600 to 800 additional officers over and above what we’ve had. You’ll see many more with the heavy equipment – the long guns that they refer to, the helmets, etcetera. That – they will be, as the chief mentioned, at every checkpoint. Those types of capabilities will be there. In addition, we have our Hercules teams, which are the Emergency Service Unit groups that you so frequently see around the city. We’ll have additional Hercules teams out that evening. So, the public should expect to see, not only in the Times Square area, but literally throughout the city, particularly at the special venues, a very significantly-enhanced police presence. And in addition, what you don’t see – the coordination behind the scenes with our colleagues – the Joint – Federal Joint Terrorism Taskforce. There’s a lot behind the scenes that you won’t see. We have enhanced the camera capabilities in and around Times Square for this event over and above the very extensive system that we already have. So, again, we’re as prepared as you can be for this event coming up.
Chief of Department James O’Neill, NYPD: That’s how last year and previous years have been setup, but nothing's changed.
Question: Chief, what about the second [inaudible].
Chief O’Neill: That’s always been in place.
Question: The Critical Response Team has 500 members. [inaudible] what they would respond to, what do they do? Why is that [inaudible]? Just from you, is New York ready? Given Paris, given San Bernardino.
Question: Is New York ready?
Mayor: Well, let me start and then turn to the commissioner. Yes, New York is ready. We – again, we’re the best-prepared city in the country. We know how to do big events – we’ve shown it time and time again. There was real concern before, for example, the Thanksgiving Parade. We ended up having the biggest attendance we’ve ever had – an extraordinary NYPD presence. It went beautifully. There was concern before the tree-lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center, same thing – we beefed up NYPD presence, went very smoothly. We’re going to do the same thing here. One of the realities, as Commissioner Bratton said, is there’s a new world because of what’s happened with ISIS. I had the occasion back in January to go to Paris after the first attacks there, and in the conversations after I returned with the commissioner, it really helped to solidify our thinking about the need for this Critical Response Command. We got great support from the City Council in June, and we authorized it and put the money in the budget to do it. The difference now is we have a much better-trained force. And again, a dedicated force – these 500-plus members of the NYPD, full-time – this is what they do. They are trained, they’re armed specifically to prevent terror, and God forbid there were an incident, to respond very, very quickly – as the commissioner said, to respond, in fact, in multiple locations if necessary – as many as several dozen if necessary. So you cannot be more prepared than what the NYPD has put together here. And that’s why New Yorkers should feel very, very comfortable going about their business over these holidays.
Commissioner Bratton: Well, we’ve also enhanced that, as we’re continually moving forward, not resting our laurels, if you will. We currently have 20,000 of the new smartphones out in the field – 20,000 of our personnel have them. By March, all 35,000 will have those. We have the ability to instantly message every one of those devices with pictures of people we might be looking for, with threat information, lost children. Those 1,200 new cops that we just graduated down at Madison Square Garden, they’ll all be here. They all have those devices – first class. So we have the ability to distribute information in a much easier fashion than we’ve had in the past. We have additionally a coordination with the various venues in terms of the ability to use the sound systems to be able to convey messages to the public if necessary during the course of the event. So there’s – a lot of planning has gone into this, and we’ve learned from the past, and we plan accordingly. And the new threat picture is something that we’re very aware of and plan for. In addition to what the mayor pointed out, I point out that we recently had the visit of the Pope and the U.N. visit – largest gathering of world leaders, I believe, in modern times – and that event went off and that was another one that had a very significant threat picture to it. Again, we believe that we are very, very well prepared, and we expect to have a very enjoyable event here in Times Square.
Question: [inaudible] ShotSpotter gun detection technology talks about how New Year’s Eve is a time for a huge amount of celebratory gunfire in other cities. I’m wondering if that happened last year – if you detected that in New York City? And if so, this year, how are you sort of – are you concerned that officers are going to be [inaudible] celebratory gunfire in the areas [inaudible]?
Commissioner Bratton: We’re very fortunate that we have nowhere on the scale of what I experienced in Los Angeles, what Detroit experiences every year, where every idiot in the world stands on his front porch and starts shooting in the air, not recognizing what goes up is going to come down – that in LA, just about every cop in LA was under an underpass at midnight because of the sheer volume of gunfire. We’ve never experienced that to that same degree here in this city. And at the same time, that the ability of fully staffing our precincts, the ability to respond – might there be more fireworks, the whole bit? Yeah, but we’ve done that every year for years and years and years. We’re not expecting any difference this year – other than we have the ShotSpotter technology that the mayor and the City Council are paying for and that we’re expanding – that will effectively allow us to determine with more accuracy where are the shots coming from and to go and one of the things we would seek to do is retrieve evidence if, in fact, they are out there celebrating with their guns. That – that’ll be of some help to us retrieving evidence.
Unknown: Can I – can I just make a moment to that?
Commissioner Bratton: Please do.
Unknown: We don’t – we don’t chase celebratory gunfire. We use it for intel. When I was a precinct commander up in the Bronx, we had a guy discharge an automatic weapon, and about a week later we did a search warrant and we came up with three semi-automatic rifles. So we use it for intel. So if you’re going to do it, be prepared to have a search warrant done on your apartment a week later.
Mayor: Okay. On the preparations for New Year’s, anything else on that before we go to other policing matters? Yes.
Question: [inaudible] emergency, how long would it take to clear out Times Square? And what [inaudible]?
Commissioner Bratton: We have evacuation plans, contingency plans in the event that it became necessary to have an orderly evacuation of the square for whatever purpose. And that has been part of our planning, part of our tabletops, and that’s where the ability to, one, inform all of our officers with those smartphones; two, the ability to control the loudspeaker systems, as far as keeping the public informed, so that we’re very confident that in the very unlikely event that it was a necessity to have an orderly evacuation from the square, that we have significant numbers of egress points coming out of the square, very large numbers of police that – almost 6,000 – who could help to deal with that, and a transit system that, as in any time, it deals with, at 12:15, most of the people in that square looking to get out of the square. So in some respects, we have a clearing-out of the square every year at 12:15 anyway.
Mayor: And to – to the second part of your question – just checked Chief O’Neill – it fills up in the last hour before the event, so half-hour, hour before the event is when you get to maximum attendance.
Question: [inaudible] number of [inaudible]?
Commissioner Bratton: We can get that it for you. That it’s – one of the things we’re not shy about putting out is what we put out in the street. There’s no police department in America can match what we can put out on the street. Those 6,000 officers that will be here – that’s larger than just about three or four police departments in the United States – and they’re going to be within this multiple-square-block area. No, so it’s – we can get those figures for you, but the – those numbers will be in the tens of thousands.
Question: And how does Paris – and how does it change planning for these events, given, I assume, more information [inaudible]?
Commissioner Bratton: What we try to do, as the mayor referenced, is learn from every event that occurs around the world. We benefit from the detectives that are assigned already in 14 locations around the world. The detective in Paris, the detective assigned to Marseille, the detective in London were very helpful, getting on the scene very quickly to help us understand what was going on in Paris. They’re embedded there, they have very good relationships – much the same as our detective in Israel keeps us very much abreast to what’s going on, unfortunately, with their circumstances each day with the stabbings. No, that – dealing with terrorism is the idea that it never goes away. It’s a disease that, unfortunately, is going to be with us for literally our life – our lifespan and probably that of our children, unfortunately. And the department is constantly seeking to stay abreast of it, and working with our colleagues and the federal agencies. So, again, I’ll reiterate that we’re anticipating a very safe event. We’re encouraging people to come to the city, enjoy it. It’ going to be in the 30s – so instead normally freezing to death out there, it’s actually going to be a very comfortable night. No rain in the forecast, and hopefully just a lot of enjoyment. We also encourage people to drink responsibly, so you don’t make fools of yourself while you’re in here celebrating.
Mayor: That is wise advice. Let me just – one other thing I want to reiterate from what the commissioner said – think about the events, these very high-profile internationally-important events over the last six months or so. The Papal visit was one of the most extraordinary events in this city’s recent history – tremendous joy in those days in this city. It was an extraordinarily complicated operation. I would say this, honestly, the NYPD is so good they made it look easy. They had 170, I think it was, world leaders in town, the president of the United States in town – came off without a hitch. And this city and all the visitors from around the world who came for the Pope’s visit had an extraordinarily positive experience; the same again on Thanksgiving Day – the largest attendance in 90 years of the Thanksgiving Parade; the Rockefeller Center tree-lighting, an incredibly joyous moment, well attended. So, the point is we are very, very prepared, but let’s remember New Year’s Eve is one of the great celebrations of the year. People in this city and people from all over the world are coming here to enjoy it. And the Commissioner said it right – they can come here ready to have a great time. The NYPD will be on the job.
Any other police-related issues now? Any other police-related issues that you’d like to bring up? Go ahead.
Question: Mayor, I’m wondering if you or commissioner can respond – [inaudible] the officer had a history, badly reviewed and yet [inaudible]. I’m wondering what the NYPD does to prevent those type of officers [inaudible]?
Mayor: The commissioner will speak to that. I mean, that is a horrible tragedy that occurred in Cleveland. I just want to note one of the things that I think is most troubling is that when you hear the transcript of the original call made to 9-1-1, the caller said this is probably a juvenile and said it looks like a toy gun. And, obviously, that information was not transmitted. And that is a particularly troubling element of that situation. But the commissioner can speak to how we handle things.
Commissioner Bratton: Actually, Mr. Mayor, speaking to that, that – when those 35,000 smart phones are in the hands of every officer – right now, they’re in the hands of 20,000 of them – additionally, the vast majority of our patrol vehicles have the tablets that are in those vehicles – the officers will be able to see everything that the dispatcher has seen. And often times, before the dispatcher even dispatches the call. So, the circumstances in Cleveland that – we’re very fortunate in this city we’re moving toward a time that even as the dispatcher is entering information that she might not have the time to give out over the air, all that information is going to the officer that is going to get the assignment. Additionally, as the officer is responding to the call, he will be able to survey department files to determine what’s the recent history of calls there in the previous 24, 48 hours? Are their warrants and wanted at that location? Is there a firearm registered there? Is there parolees living there? That the wealth of information that our officers will have responding to a scene, emergency or non-emergency, is going to be phenomenal. By March, this whole department will have that capability. We are going to be – one of our goals – the most technologically advanced departments in the world, not just this country. And that’s going to be of significant value in the circumstance you talked about in Cleveland – that type of circumstance. Additionally, you are all well aware, those of you who are based in New York, because you hear it ad nauseam from us, we are expanding dramatically, thanks to the Mayor and the City Council, the funding, the additional officers, the training we’re giving to our personnel. This class of 1,200 we just graduated were the best trained, guaranteed, in history – the most prepared to go into the streets of New York – 12 days of training in the precincts they’re being assigned to. Additionally, they got the four days of training to deal with the emotionally disturbed and those under drug addiction similar to the event this officer – he just completed his training – that four-day training that we’re going to be giving out to almost 10,000 officers over the next year. So, to deal with a lot of the circumstances that you’re seeing around the country you’re going to have to depend on the training. And we are making an investment in the training. You’re going have to depend on officers understanding the need to deescalate rather than try to escalate. And we’re not going to ever, unfortunately, be immune or free from controversial incidents, but the idea is through the constant training, constant review of what occurred, so that we can learn from it, to try and prevent those incidents from occurring with any great frequency.
Question: In Chicago [inaudible] especially around the mayor’s decision there to, sort of, suppress video of the fatal police shooting of a civilian. In your opinion, is there ever an incident where you would make a decision to keep from the public a video of a fatal police shooting?
Commissioner Bratton: Some of that works with the guidance we receive from whether it’s if we’re dealing with the U.S. Attorney as, for example, in the Garner matter – that we have put our investigation on hold pending the civil rights investigation being completed. We deal under the guidance of district attorneys and, now, we – special prosecutors appointed by the governor – the attorney general’s office. So, we are not free agents in that circumstance – that we work under, oftentimes, the direction of a district attorney, special prosecutor, or the U.S. Attorney – and so, as you’re well aware, those of you who cover these stories here in New York, no two of these cases are ever exactly alike, and in that regard that videos are oftentimes very beneficial as we know, but the videos aren’t the end-all because they can be construed in many different ways depending on who’s viewing them and their particular perspective as they view them.
Question: Mr. Bratton, [inaudible] new legislation targeting the behavior of street homeless people. We were wondering if, specifically, you were planning new criminal penalties and if those would be resulting in arrests?
Mayor: So, again, that’s a process that we go through with the City Council. We’ve begun those discussions on different options but it’s premature to predict the outcome because it really is about discussions with our partners in the legislative process. We’ll have more to say as that advances.
Question: [inaudible] there’s a move by some to allow the use of hoverboards and electric unicycles on [inaudible]. What are your feelings about that?
Mayor: I’ll just start and then turn to the commissioner. Look, we understand this is something that a lot of people have an interest in and we want to make sure if they are used in this city, on any larger scale, that they’re done safely – it’s done safely – and so, that’s a matter we’re going to work carefully with NYPD and with the City Council on how to properly legislate, to ensure safety and appropriateness.
Commissioner Bratton: As the mayor has mentioned, my understanding is the City Council is developing a legislative proposal that we’d be involved in, reviewing, and contributing to but, being quite frank with you, I think that anybody who buys one of those things is out of their mind –
Seriously – in terms of the spontaneity of them catching on fire – many of you probably saw the video this morning of one in a facility that caught on fire in a box. Can only imagine if that had occurred at 2 o’clock in the morning, that whole shopping mall would have gone up. So, if you want to expose your family to that, good luck to you – as well as the two or three hours it takes you to try to learn to ride the damn thing. You got to put you helmets and your elbow pads on because you’re going to be banging into a lot of things. So, before we go wholesale into this, it’s going to require a lot of review and study. We live in an extraordinarily crowded city. You have a hard enough time walking down the streets, let alone hovering down the streets.
Question: For Commissioner Bratton – in recent days, former Commissioner Kelly has indicted that [inaudible] maybe explained by changes in definitions [inaudible] specifically shootings. In the last 20 years, [inaudible] recorded by CompStat changed at all?
Commissioner Bratton: It’s amazing the comments you’ll make when you’re selling a book.
Being quite frank with you, those comments were outrageous. My cops work hard – very hard to reduce gun violence in this city. So, for him to him to denigrate that hard work that has resulted in shootings being reduced significantly in this city and claim, in some fashion, that we’re playing with the numbers – shame on him, let him back up that allegation. He’s been too busy to respond, as you know, to all of you, in terms of your questions about that allegation. Well, if you’re going to make it, stand up. Be a big man and explain what you’re talking about.
Question: Just a follow-up, I mean –
Commissioner Bratton: You don’t need any follow-up on it. I’ve already basically laid the challenge down to him.
Question: The NYPD’s latest numbers show that overall [inaudible] –
Mayor: Overall? Say again?
Question: Overall complaints about graffiti are up about 14 percent [inaudible] –
Mayor: I’m just going to start and pass to the commissioner. We’ve spoken to this, actually, several times already. We take graffiti very seriously. We take all quality-of-life offenses seriously. This is why I believe in broken-windows policing – and sometimes the statistics cited are about short-term trends but I can guarantee you, we are going to go right at the graffiti problem and keep devoting resources – and part of the reason why we have resources – it certainly connects to the previous question – the NYPD has done such a good job of driving down serious and violent crime, that there’s now more available time to address quality-of-life issues. On top of that, by the end of next year, 2,000 more officers, in terms of real patrol strength, will be on our streets. So, we’re going to go at these quality-of-life offenses, I think, more strongly than ever.
Commissioner Bratton: Currently, the department realized, very significantly, on its Transit Police Vandalism Unit, that has a lot of expertise on reading graffiti – if you can read what these characters put up on a wall. They’re very good at it and I’m going to be expanding that unit, again, with the resources that the Council and mayor have been providing. I’m able to put resources into, whether it’s dealing with homeless issues – in terms of dealing with the training for the emotionally disturbed or drug addicted individuals – similarly for graffiti. We’ve had a number of experiments underway. If you were to, basically, go out, right now to the LIE and start at the Midtown Tunnel and go out to the Nassau County Line, it’s unlikely that you’d see any graffiti the full length of that. Chief Chan has been coordinating with the city – transportation department that have been, very quickly, throughout the course of the summer, removing graffiti on that highway, just to see, can we do it. If you recall, there were six – well, most of you are too young to recall – but in the 1980s there were 6,000 subways cars totally covered with graffiti in this city and they began one train at a time – one ten-car train at a time. They painted it white and moved it through the city and if it got from one end to the other and there was painting on it, they repainted that car. Similarly, on the highways, we began with the LIE to see if we applied ourselves, could we in fact do it – and I’m very pleased because I’m up and down that LIE all the time – that literally for the last six months, Chief Chan and his people have been focused on it and basically – you might ride out there, there might be something there but it’ll be gone by tomorrow. So, there’s an example of what we can do when we apply ourselves to it – those 6,000 subway cars, they look a lot different now than they did back in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Question: Do you have any more information on the officer who collapsed [inaudible].
Commissioner Bratton: This is the officer that, you may be aware – one of our police officers, this morning, we believe suffered a massive heart attack and passed away – on-duty officer, 20-year veteran of the department. His family has been notified – they’re at the hospital. A tragedy – that we have very preliminary details. We’ll be able to give more out to you later in the day. But even while we were graduating those 1,200 kids this morning, here’s an almost 20-year veteran of the department basically going about his duties – and again, we believe it may have been a heart attack, but that’s very preliminary at this stage.
Mayor: Okay. Who else? Go ahead.
Commissioner Bratton: This will be something that we’ll be looking to work with the City Council on. We get many complaints from Council members whose districts are afflicted with these – the proliferation of the motorized bicycles, basically – and they have been proliferating. We will work with the Council to go at it in several ways. One – we do have – Chief Chan and his people have the ability to stop them, seize them. But I’d like to also basically deal with the store owners who basically engaged in using these young men – primarily young men – instead of riding bicycles, now an increasing use of the motorized vehicle, which is illegal in the city of New York. So, similarly, that after the first year, after consultation with the City Council, particularly those Council members who are very concerned about this issue in their districts – that it’s something I think we have the capability and resources to become more focused on.
Mayor: Okay. Last call on policing – Emily?
Question: The city and the police department are in a different place than they were a year ago [inaudible]. How would you describe the morale of the rank and file [inaudible]?
Commissioner Bratton: That’s a great question because we poll that, and the polling of that is that it’s on the rise, which is very good. Last year at this time, we were in the midst of a significant tragedy – the murder of two of our police officers – we were in the midst of disturbances around the country that we’re also experiencing here in New York. But I think over this last year, the City Council, the mayor, I think the leadership team up here has clearly shown that it is committed to working on that morale situation. So, by way of example, expanding the size of the force – the force has been shrunk by 6,000 officers over the previous 12 years. We are also, for the first time in the history of the police department, fixing up all of our precinct facilities. They’re all now going to be cleaned twice a year by the contractors. I’ll be proposing budgets to the City Council and the mayor. We’ve already had discussions about modernizing the bathrooms and locker rooms in every one of those facilities. We have been working on officer safety issues for them. The new bulletproof vests that the Council approved that will be replaced every five years based on the warranty. We have been giving them the training they have been looking for. There’s no police department in America that now provides the level of training that we provide. We have been modernizing our vehicle fleet to give them vehicles that are more comfortable to work with. We have been looking at the technology, as I’ve discussed – the smartphones that they’re equipped with. We have expanded the number of tasers that officers use – not just sergeants now, but police officers. So, from a morale standpoint, we have listened in everything that they have spoken to, in terms of safety concerns, training concerns, equipment concerns – we are responding. Indeed, the mayor actually hired an additional 50 attorneys at the city’s lawyer’s office to fight frivolous lawsuits against our police officers. So, that an officer now, if he is sued, he is notified that he’s being sued, and then works with city attorneys to vigorously fight against those frivolous lawsuits, something that is of significant benefit to the officer, something that was not done in the past. So, from a morale standpoint, something I’m very conscious of, and we spend a lot of our time on our reengineering efforts – understanding what their concerns are. We have recently computerized our career path development program, so people can find a way to get ahead in the department in a fair way. So, I’m comfortable, in closing, as police commissioner, that we are in a better place than we were a year ago. And, as we progress into the new year, we’re going to be in a far better place, because there’s many other things coming down the line that will of benefit to our officers in terms of their safety and their ability to police the city safety. Thank you.
Mayor: Okay. Last call on policing issues, then we’ll go to other off-topic issues, and we’ll let these good folks behind me go on with their good works. Thank you, Commissioner, very much – just have a little moment of transition.
Okay. Let’s get assembled.
Mayor: Say again?
Mayor: Amen. Thank you.
Alright, happy New Year in advance, everyone, and let’s see if there’s anything else on your mind after all those questions.
Question: Do you think that [inaudible] –
Mayor: Look, I don’t comment on the decisions of grand juries. I have to respect the process. I understand why people in Cleveland are tremendously frustrated right now. And as I said, one of the things we’re trying to make sure is at the front end of the process, the right information gets to the officer, because had the full story gotten to those officers, I would like to believe he would still be – Tamir Rice would still be alive today. So that’s something we’re very, very committed to addressing with the smartphones and other technology.
Mayor: I will do my best to be reflective. I like being prompted to be reflective.
Question: [inaudible] how you feel the city is [inaudible] could’ve done better, including [inaudible]
Mayor: I’ve done plenty of retrospective. I’d really like to focus now on going forward. I’m very confident about the direction of this city. You just heard, I think, an extraordinary explanation of all that is changing in the NYPD. And let me say, Commissioner Bratton has spoken about the last year or two in America and all of the profound debate going on about policing. And we know that policing has to be reformed continually. And the commissioner said it very powerfully at the graduation ceremony, that this next generation of officers will be the change agents, who will reform American policing, who will prove what it is capable of in its highest, best form, and that will include bringing police and community into full partnership, something that hasn’t been achieved truly in many, many decades. So I am excited at the prospect of an even safer city in 2016, a more unified city, particularly in terms of the relationship between police and community. I’m very excited about the reforms that we’re making at the NYPD, because they are taking hold more and more. The retraining is going to have a huge impact. You just met an officer who got the new approach to training and was able to save a life because he was properly trained in how to handle someone with a mental health challenge. Our officers were asked to deal with incredibly complicated mental health challenges before without the training. So a lot is moving that is going to make the NYPD more effective and the relationship between police and community closer. Very proud of the big changes we’re making on other fronts – our schools are getting better – we have a lot of work to do, but there’s no question, the addition of pre-k, the addition of after-school programs, the progress we’re making on graduation rates and test scores – that is very, very positive news. The job numbers now – they keep getting updated – the last time I used to talk about 170,000 new jobs since I took office, it’s now gone up further. That indicates a strong economy and one that we’re going to take into the new year in a way that I think is going to give more and more New Yorkers real economic opportunity they didn’t have before. So there’s a lot to be proud of in this city, a lot to look forward to. I never minimize the challenges – they are many, but we also have more tools to address those challenges than we’ve ever had before.
Question: Mr. Mayor, you mentioned that you’re going to up quality-of-life enforcement [inaudible] –
Question: – many advocates have [inaudible] racial disparities [inaudible] quality-of-life [inaudible]. How are you going to ensure that increasing quality of life enforcement doesn’t compound racial disparities?
Mayor: Two answers. The first is what Commissioner Bratton has talked about in terms of the peace dividend is crucial. You know, we had almost 700,000 stops in 2011. This year, we’re going to be between 20,000 and 30,000 stops. We know that 90 percent of those stops were of people who had done nothing wrong. That was – police statistics told us that. The very fact that so many fewer people are being stopped, that so many fewer young people are being arrested for low-level marijuana possession; the fact that, as the commissioner has indicated, over 800,000 fewer encounters between police and members of the community – right there, that changes the real experience the people are having on the ground. And particularly for young men of color it means they have had a less intrusive reality vis-a-vis the NYPD. The focus on fairness and equity is part of all we do, and the retraining is a crucial piece of that. The retraining is focused on improving the relationship between police and community, on helping officers be mindful of how to approach a situation and communicate more. Many cases, as the commissioner has said, where in the past an arrest might’ve been the go-to option, there are other options that have been utilized very effectively. The retraining complements other pieces of the equation – increased use of body cameras that is starting to happen now. All of this will encourage, I think, profoundly, an atmosphere of greater fairness and greater accountability for everyone involved. So I believe that we can address quality-of-life crimes very effectively while focusing on fairness more and more at the same time.
Mayor: A couple of different points, and I’ll just say it broadly – the Early Learn program includes a lot of childcare efforts that are very important, but are not pre-k, and then there’s also the pre-k effort. So in some cases, we’re talking about two different pieces of the puzzle, but look, we are in negotiations right now with the organization that represents those employees. They don’t work for us directly – they work for nonprofit organizations. We’d like to see them do better and we’re talking right now about ways to help them do better, so more to come on that.
Question: Mr. Mayor, will you be spending New Year’s Eve here in Times Square?
Mayor: Yes, I will. I will reprise my role from last year, pushing on that – whatever that button thing is to make the ball drop.
Mayor: I think I – look, I think we always have to respect the judicial process, so I don’t know enough about the case to know if it’s been adjudicated. I think the Yankees often make controversial move, and sometimes they don’t pay off, but this one’s too early to tell. I like the move made by the Boston Red Sox better.
Question: I just wondered about – you have such a great view of dropping the ball [inaudible] enjoyed it?
Mayor: I enjoyed it, but I think after you watch it year in and year out I was expecting something very different. It really wasn’t that different than what I saw on television. So – also I went with two jaded teenagers, who I was expecting last year to be really jazzed up – that did not occur. But it was still a – it was a fun experience for sure and it’s great moment for New York.
Question: You said this morning on the radio that [inaudible] focus on wages, benefits, and affordable housing. Are you planning to announce new initiatives related to wages and benefits, or are you focused on implementing [inaudible]?
Mayor: Well, again, we had – as I said this morning, we have the budget being presented in a few weeks, then the State of the City address. That’s where I’ll fill in a lot of those blanks. Clearly, we’ve put a huge array of initiatives into play – things like the affordable housing plan, for example – that we’re going to keep deepening and will reach more and more people with every passing year. So we’re going to certainly be talking a lot about how we can increase affordability. But the wage and benefit issues, as you know, some of them we can act on here – we’re very proud of what we did on paid parental leave – that was a big step forward for this city and one I think will become much bigger as we engage each union in the collective bargaining process. But some of the most important decisions on wages have to be done in Albany, so I’m looking forward to the legislative session, where I certainly believe there’s a growing momentum in the state towards a $15-dollar minimum wage, and I’ll be working in every way I can to help achieve that.
Question: Mr. Mayor, your police commissioner [inaudible] very strong criticism or critique of his predecessor Ray Kelly. [inaudible]?
Mayor: I think the commissioner spoke eloquently.
Question: One of the biggest problems in 2015 facing the city was the housing crisis. Do you expect in 2016 that that will still be one of our biggest challenges? And [inaudible] affordable housing plan on track entering 2016 [inaudible]?
Mayor: The affordable housing plan is on track. Now, as I think you saw last year, a lot of the closings for the year, a lot of the financing agreements happen literally in these last few days of the year. We’re very encouraged by how we’ve come into December. We’re very encouraged, of course, by what was achieved at Stuy Town and Peter Cooper, which was something that has been worked on for years and years – it was finally achieved this year, protecting 5,000 affordable units. What we did in the Riverton up in Harlem – almost 1,000 affordable units preserved. So I think our numbers are going to be very strong, but we won’t have the final numbers until we get to the first week of January.
Karen Hinton: Last question.
Mayor: I – I have a final statement for the year.
Hinton: Yes, please.
Mayor: Ready? Was there no other question?
Okay, yes – okay, they have the last questions and then I’ll do my final statement.
Yes, you can.
Question: I mean, I know they work for nonprofits, but they [inaudible]. Do you believe they should at least be making [inaudible]?
Mayor: So again, it’s a collective bargaining process – I just want to be clear. Our goal is to get everyone to $15 an hour in this whole city, whether they work for a nonprofit, whether they work for the city government, whether they work for a private sector firm. That happens in stages, as you know. This particular issue you’re talking about I care about deeply, because it’s people who work with children and I want to see them do better, but it is subject to collective bargaining, and collective bargaining has a lot of different pieces. But I do feel hopeful that we’ll make progress in just the next few weeks.
Question: Do you think that there is any relationship between the decrease in the number of stops police are making and the increase in the numbers of single adults who are homeless?
Mayor: Can you explain the theory?
Question: Some people [inaudible] have guessed that there might be [inaudible] relationship between fewer people actually physically being in jail day to day and the increased numbers of people on the streets or [inaudible] –
Mayor: Well, I – it’s the first time I’m hearing that connection made, so I’ll only speak broadly to it. I’ve certainly heard no – no serious professional suggest that, and the police have not suggested that. Look, the last thing we want is to keep increasing our jail population in situations where someone shouldn’t be in jail. That – everyone here rightfully is concerned about the changes that have to be made at Rikers. I’ve been real blunt with you guys that Rikers must change – and there’s a lot more that you’re going to see happening as we reform Rikers Island. But one of the things that has to be done is to stop having people go to Rikers who don’t belong there. Certainly no one belongs in Rikers simply because they’re homeless. So if they violate a law and if they’re subject to arrest, that’s a different matter, but not just because they’re homeless. So the way to address homelessness is what we’ve defined with the HOME-STAT initiative, to – and we’re talking about those who are permanently on the street – to go out, find each one, find an individual solution to their situation. As I’ve said, they got to the streets, they had an individual path – each person, once upon a time, had a better and more normal life. They ended up on the streets. We have to find their pathway back to a better life. That’s what the HOME-STAT initiative will focus on; and everything we’re doing in terms of the shelter system to get people out of shelter and to permanent housing – about 22,000 people so far, a lot more to go. But no, I don’t have any reason to believe there’s a correlation related to stop-and-frisk.
Okay, my closing comment of the year – so, first of all, to all of you in your chosen field, last night Chirlane and I went to the movie Spotlight. I want to strongly recommend it to all of you. First of all, it was very powerful for me as someone who grew up in the Boston area, but it is a – it is an example of all that is good and powerful about journalism, and I think it’ll be inspiring. I urge you all to see it.
And the second is, we’ll be talking obviously in 2016 about the future not only of this city, but of what’s going to happen to this country that will deeply affect this city. The American people are going to make decisions that will have a profoundly important impact on New York City. We had good news a few weeks back when the highway bill finally passed, and it involved progress for New York City that we hadn’t seen in most of a decade – an example of a national that profoundly affected New York City. There was a ray of light there on the highway bill – we need to see a lot more of it in terms of mass transit funding, affordable housing funding, education funding, and other policies that will support New York City. So a lot will happen next year. I strongly believe you will gain insight from the latest edition of The Atlantic magazine – the article entitled “Why America is Moving Left.” I think it speaks volumes about what next year is going to be about and the kind of debate that actually offers an opportunity for real domestic issues that have gone untreated – affordable housing again, education, infrastructure, things that have not been sufficiently addressed, that have particularly hurt New York City and other urban centers. Next year may be a real sea change moment, and I think you’ll find that article very interesting.
That is my literature and movie recommendation for the holidays.
I want to wish you all a very, very happy New Year – I assume I’ll see a lot of you in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. And we will pick it up with a lot of interesting stuff starting next week.
Thanks very much.