December 19, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: It is an honor to be with you today. And I have to tell you, a promotion ceremony is something very special. I've had the real joy of being at graduations, when we see men and women start on their career with this extraordinary police force. But a promotion ceremony is an indication of what years and years of hard work and commitment lead to. I understand that for everyone seated here, this moment didn't come easily. It came with a lot of devotion, a lot of hard work, constant learning, constant improving. It's admirable that something, for a lot of you, you set your sites on early and work towards it incessantly. This is the finest police force in the world, and as you take on more and more responsibility, it is an indication of your quality – of your commitment when you go higher up in the greatest police force in the world. That is not a small achievement. It is a profound achievement.
And I want to say to all the family members here, you too played a crucial role supporting these men and women as they move forward in this agency. It wasn't easy. Family members often have to inspire us, often have to stand by us. Sometimes they have to console us. Ultimately, we only get there with the help of our family. So, I want to thank the family members for all you have done. I'd like the family members to join me in applauding all those being promoted today.
I'd like to acknowledge the leader of this police department. I've said it from the day I had the honor of appointing him – he is someone who's done more to drive down crime all over this country than anyone walking the earth today. He is the finest police leader there is. Commissioner Bill Bratton.
And I want to thank everyone on this dais. I want to single out new leaders, as part of the commissioner's leadership team, who are helping to make this department better and stronger all the time – our first deputy commissioner, Ben Tucker, and our chief of department, Jimmy O' Neill. Congratulations, again, to both of you. Thank you for all you do.
I always make it a point to thank someone who doesn't get enough thanks because he runs all of these ceremonies, Lieutenant Tony Giorgio. Please give him a round of applause.
I'd like to thank Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, who's gaining a lot of members today, and that is a good thing. Congratulations, Michael.
So, you have had the toughest proving ground there is. I don't think anyone would doubt that being a police officer in New York City is the ultimate expression of this profession, and to do this work, day in and the day out, takes skill and commitment. It's never easy. You knew coming in the door it wouldn't be easy. But then to persevere and work your way up – that takes a special capacity. So, you’ve had to prove it. This wasn't just taking a test. This was doing the work, day in and day out, in the streets of this city, no matter what was thrown at you. And you pass the kind of test that really matters – the test of doing the work, of being out, serving the people. You prevailed on that playing field, no matter how tough it was. I hope you have a profound sense of pride today. I know your families have tremendous pride in you.
Now, we say this is the finest police department in the world because we have proof – the level of professionalism, what's been accomplished, particularly in these last 20 years. I like to say, and again, I like to be very straightforward about the fact that good news doesn't get the attention it deserves. The good news is, over 20 years, this department has achieved a miracle of making the cities safer and safer all the time, against all the odds, against every projection. You did that. So many people who came before you did that, so many of the leaders up here did that. I'd like to remind people the situation we find ourselves in this year compared to last year. As I was preparing to assume office, I heard people say, very honestly to me, that 2013 was such an extraordinary year for fighting crime. The numbers were so amazing. It's probably impossible to beat them. So everyone felt appreciative of what you all achieved in 2013. Everyone thought it was a year for the ages. And that was a great thing, but of course, the immediate sentence after that is, too bad it can't be beat. I believed you could beat it. Commissioner Bratton believed you could beat it.
When you listen to Commissioner Bratton carefully – as I've had the honor to do now, many, many times – you understand how much a winning game plan is based on believing there is something else out there to reach, believing there's some place we still haven't been. When commissioner did his first tour of duty here, I assure you, there were many doubting Thomas’s. There were many people who believed that the crime situation in New York City could not be altered. He believed – and a lot of other great people believed something could change and they started a series of innovations and reforms that were unimaginable. If I had said to you in 1994 – when Bill Bratton was first commissioner – if I had said, I have a vision that we'll be standing here together, 20 years later. We won't have 2,000 murders a year, we'll have something closer to 300 murders a year. We'll have crime that we continue to find ways to drive down. We'll have technology that every officer will benefit from, that will help them do even more, have the best information, the best ability to do their job. If I had said that was what was going to happen, if I had met you in 1994, you would have had every right to think I was crazy. Day by day, month by month, year by year, the men and women of this department achieved that vision, and they sustained it.
When we got to last year – that record year, that unbeatable year – and then this team came on the playing field on January first, and proceeded to systematically set new record after new record – August, this year, the safest August since 1993; September, the safest since 1993; October, the safest since 1993; November, the safest since 1993. You are getting better. You're getting stronger. You're innovating more, and that is something to be particularly proud of. Being the greatest does not involve resting on your laurels. Being the greatest does not mean you look back to yesterday’s generation that was the greatest, and you enjoy their glory. Being the greatest means creating your own glory, and that's what this department is doing right now.
And on top of that, there's another reality at play here. I want you to know I hear this from national leaders. I hear this from mayors around the country, police leaders around the country. There is a respect, in some cases, even awe at what this department has done in recent weeks. Because in difficult moments in our history, it takes tremendous skill, it takes wisdom, it takes great strategic capacity, it takes strength, it takes discipline to protect our democratic values while making sure there is no violence and disorder. You've done that. You’ve done that and that is not easy, but you've done it, day in and day out.
The eyes of the nation – in fact, the eyes of the world have been on this city and have been on this department, and the result is the respect for the NYPD has grown. And you have upheld the best traditions of our democracy. And we say very clearly, that people expressing their voices is part of the American way. But people who would commit violence, people who do any type of disorder – that is a denigration of our values. It will not be accepted. It will not be tolerated. And any act of violence against our police officers is an act of violence against our values, against our constitutional freedoms, against our society.
But what you've managed to do is show people that democracy can work, that people can participate no matter who they are, where they come from, what they look like. The American dream is living, right now, in the streets of New York City in the way you are comporting yourselves. And you have gained even more respect for this city and this department in the process.
So, I'll conclude by saying – you could look at this moment and say, well, being promoted into a position of greater responsibility, greater impact, at a moment where all the records have been set – you could say, well, maybe that's bad luck. I look at it the other way around. I think you're being promoted at a moment where this department is getting better and stronger, where there are new records to be set. There are new ideas, new approaches to pioneer. I think we've only just begun to find out what this department can do to protect and serve the people of this city, to build a closer relationship with people in every neighborhood to bind us together. It's a season to take stock of things. It's a season of appreciation. On behalf of all 8.4 million New Yorkers, and again, I have the honor, as the elected leader of this city, to say that phrase and mean it – on behalf of all 8.4 million New Yorkers, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for what you do. I want to thank you for the leadership you're providing. You have a lot to be thankful for. We have a lot to be thankful for, as a city. It's a season of appreciation, and we appreciate you. A Merry Christmas to everyone, a Happy New Year, a Happy Holidays, and God bless you. Thank you.
[. . .]
Question: For you and for the mayor, do you think the arrests in this Brooklyn Bridge scuffle have done anything to ease either the perception of tension between the police and the protesters since the Garner decision?
Mayor: I think the arrests are important because they make clear that we won't tolerate any violence in any of these protests – any type of violence. And violence against our police officers, as I said earlier today, is a particular affront, because it suggests an unwillingness to abide by the norms of a democratic society, to attack those who are the protectors of our society.
So, I think the arrests just make very clear our commitment to consequences in this situation, and what I have said consistently is we are – to all those who protest, I respect them for making their voices heard in a democracy. But they also have to take responsibility for those in their midst, even if they are the smallest minority – anyone who might do violence of any kind, anyone who might do violence towards a police officer – the protesters have to work actively with the police to stop that. They need to provide information to the police. They need to tell those individuals that they must cease and desist. They need to help the police find them if anyone does such a thing. And I think a lot of the protest leaders, including those that I met with this morning, fully appreciate that. They want to do all they can to weed out any violent members in their midst.
Question: Regarding the facial recognition – is it true that the videos that we saw, which are particular grainy, are effective in the use of facial recognition to match them against their own databases – the points of reference on the videos?
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton: The facial recognition we have in this department, one of the most advanced systems that are currently out there. But even they have limitations, depending on the quality, if you will. Again, the investigation is going to seek to utilize, with what we have, as well as additional video or pictures that we may acquire – that will seek to utilize the facial recognition system whenever possible.
Question: Mr. Mayor, could you talk a little bit more about your meeting this afternoon and this morning with the protesters? What was accomplished there, and what sort of message do you think it’s sending to New York citizens?
Mayor: I think it is a very important moment. We are going through a challenging moment, a difficult moment, but an important moment. We have experienced tragedy, both here in this city, and around the country. There’s a pain that is being addressed right now, and those who are protesting are seeking fairness and they presented a vision of what they believed was necessary. And I explained to them that there were some areas where I found agreement with them, there were others where I didn’t. But I assured them that we are doing the work of both keeping people safe, and building a better relationship between police and community, and a more fair society.
I think it’s important to let people have that opportunity to present their concerns, but I also took the occasion to say very clearly, that they need to be leaders in making sure there is no violence. And they need to be leaders in making sure there is respect for our police officers, who in fact, have done an outstanding job of making that these protests were peaceful and orderly. I said it earlier, and I believe it –literally, the eyes of the nation, the eyes of the world have been on New York. That has been in stark contrast to some situations in other parts of the United States, and other parts of the world, just in recent weeks, where we saw continual conflict. Instead, here in New York City, people have seen peaceful exercise of democracy, and that is to the great credit of the NYPD, and that is to the credit of all New Yorkers.
And so, I just reminded these leaders that they have a responsibility, and they willingly accepted that. In fact, they said to me that they had already long since – they too condemned, on Saturday night, the attacks on the lieutenants. And they have said that they’ve made very clear to their followers that that won’t be tolerated, and that everyone has to take responsibility for making sure there’s a better environment.
Question: Are you taking their list of demands seriously?
Mayor: By definition. They are not the only people who have put forward these ideas. Many elected officials have. Many faith leaders have. But again, there are some I agree with, and there are some I disagree with.
Question: For the mayor – you, I think, told reporters afterwards that it’s important for you to do a better job of explaining broken windows – what it means today, what it means going forward. Is that an issue of explaining it? Or is that an issue of changing what broken windows is going to be?
Mayor: That’s a good question, so let me do the first version. I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot from me in the coming weeks on this point.
I am not a law enforcement professional – I’m speaking as a citizen. Because of the broken windows approach, we are the safest we’ve ever been. And I lived through the 1980s in this city, and the early 90s, and I don’t ever want to go back there, and I don’t think any New Yorker wants to go back there. And this strategy, largely due to the leadership of Commissioner Bratton, was a crucial part of turning around that situation – in connection with CompStat and other important innovations, and the right leadership. To me, the broken windows theory has always been literally what it meant in its first iteration. It spoke to the dynamics we saw with our eyes in the 1980s in this city where we saw issues go unaddressed – you know, robberies, car thefts, you name it, that often went unaddressed. And the theory literally means, if one window is broken in a building and it is not addressed, eventually all of the windows will be broken.
Well, we saw – we literally saw that. We saw the decline of whole neighborhoods and a sense of disorder. And I equate the broken windows theory with a consistent commitment to responsive policing – policing that addresses community concerns, that addresses any call that a community member makes asking for help, that does not ignore the little things, because the little things can turn into big things, that recognizes that sometimes the perpetrator of a small crime is actually someone who has done a lot worse or might do a lot worse, and that small crime leads us to someone with a weapon or with a bad intention that we need to get ahead of. So I think there’s a lot of reasons to believe in that theory.
Now, the second part of the question would be – does that theory grow with the times? Well, you know, you can talk to Commissioner Bratton and George Kelling and others for a much more erudite answer, but I’ll give you my layman’s answer. Of course it grows with the times, of course it changes with the times. It changes because you train a new generation of officers in new approaches, as we’re going to do here in this department – to deescalate, to work more closely with the community. It changes because there’s new leaders being brought up all the time, who constantly refine the approach. It changes, for example, when we say we think marijuana possession in small quantities should not be an arrestable offense. That changes the approach – and you’ll see other adjustments like that.
But the core ideas about responsiveness and addressing community concerns and keeping crime low – and I know people want those things to happen – I think sometimes they get caught up in the title and the rhetoric and their own interpretations of what this history is – but if I said, do you want responsive policing? Do you want the police to come when you call? Do you want small problems addressed or do you only want big problems addressed? Well, I think the vast majority of New Yorkers would say, yes, we want the police to come when we call. Yes, we want order kept. Yes, we want small things addressed and big things addressed. I know so many community residents, for example, who see graffiti as a horrible insult to their community. They think it’s a sign of disorder. They think it’s a sign of falling backwards. They want it cleaned up. They want it addressed. As a councilman, I used to get those calls all the time.
So, I think we need to step back, in the new year, talk, once again, start over – what does this mean? And where is it going to take us? And I think there will be a growing understanding that this is the right approach, but we have to constantly work to make it better, and, by definition – and this commissioner has, I think, been the exemplar of this example – that we want to police in a fair and equitable manner. Some people will say broken windows is – implicitly means that different people will be treated different, that there will be some kind of bias. No, of course not. We are working every day to make sure policing is fair and that everyone is treated equally, but I think that the broken windows approach is what allows us to keep crime low while we continue our efforts to ensure fair and equitable policing, and a closer relationship between police and community. Do you want to add?
Commissioner Bratton: If I could speak too, for just a moment, that there was a piece that George Kelling and I coauthored in today’s Wall Street Journal that – and then there’s a City Journal winter’s edition that’ll be out in January, that expands on what the mayor is talking about.
There are those that would seek to co-join the issue of stop-question-and-frisk with broken windows, as if the two of them are the same thing – they are not. They are two totally different sets of issues – very different under the law. Stop-question-and-frisk is a reasonable suspicion that a crime is, has been, or is about to be committed. Broken windows policing – quality of life policing – is where a crime, in fact, is being committed, that an officer is now seeking to disrupt – whether it be a minor crime – a violation of city ordinance – a state statute, whatever – it is an actual crime that the officer is witnesses. So they are two totally different types of behavior – a criminal act versus suspicion of it.
So the idea to try to co-join the two in – some of that’s about the idea because of the success in dealing with the stop-question-and-frisk issue in the sense of highlighting that it was overused in this city. It is not being overused in New York.
And I applaud the mayor’s understanding and appreciation of the history of this city, and how it got as bad as it did – and not just New York City. I was living in Boston – it went through the same thing. The country went through the same thing. And the focus of quality of life policing is on behavior, not on social status – whether you’re homeless or you’re a minority or you’re male or you’re female, your sexual preference – it is on behavior – criminal behavior. And if you don’t like a particularly law, well, go change the law, but don’t expect the police to not enforce the law when somebody’s complaining about it.
It’s pretty simple, and it’s – but it’s become confused, particularly in this city, but also around the country. We also have battling academics and researchers, each one trying to prove their theory is the best. Well, I’m teamed up with probably one of the best researchers in America – George Kelling – and I’m the practitioner. It’s worked for me for 40 years going to back to when I was a young in Boston in the 1970s, where I was practicing it before Kelling and Wilson wrote about it in the 80s. And believe me, I was here in the 90s, and the subway system in the beginning, dealing with fare evasion and graffiti, and then in ’94, beginning to deal with the street conditions. It works, and it is – in some respects, it’s the penicillin that deals with the – the many illnesses that are afflicting this city.
Mayor: Let me just do another follow-up, I’m sorry. Between the two of us, we have a lot to say, but you – you – you asked, so you’re going to get it – and I want to appeal to reason here.
Sometimes it is important not to just be caught up in the day’s events or the conflict of the moment, but to talk about the underlying realities. The commissioner just pointed to something I think very very important. Let’s recognize the conversation around broken windows for what it is and what it isn’t. Let’s recognize the reality of stop-and-frisk and that history. Let’s separate those discussions because they’re profoundly different.
But also, let’s talk about how change is made. We had a discussion in the community of this city over the last few years. There was an election, there was a policy change, there was a settling of a lawsuit. From a high point of 700,000 stops in 2011 – three years ago – to now, around 50,000 this year. That’s a very profound change in people’s lives. That is because of the democratic process.
We looked at the question of marijuana arrests. A change in policy was made based on trying to apply these ideas for today’s reality. That’s lead to a 60 percent – six-zero percent – decrease in those arrests, in real time. I don’t blame anyone in this room for talking about a variety of issues, but I sure think those are examples of things that are right now affecting – in the case of marijuana arrests – thousands of New Yorkers; in the case of the stop-and-frisk reform, tens of thousands – in fact, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.
And that needs to be talked about more, because those are exactly the changes that are going to allow us to focus resources on more serious crime and to bring police and community closer together.
Question: [inaudible] meetings about [inaudible] any other organization and what about [inaudible] existing?
Mayor: Well, let me separate two questions. I will certainly be open to other meetings. I have no plans for any additional meetings in terms of those who are engaged in protest but I'll be open to it. We got a letter today from the Lieutenant of Benevolent association and I think Mr. Turco set exactly the right tone. He reflected the discussion, for example, the way Cardinal Dolan talked about situation of recent days – the need for people to talk together respectfully. And I think that where there has been an atmosphere of respectful dialogue, things move forward. We're very proud, for example, to have come to an agreement with the Superior Officers Association. That was based on months and months of smart, respectful dialogue. It didn't mean people didn't have differences, it meant we work them through in A manner befitting of the work we do and honors the work we do.
So, I appreciated the letter I received from Mr. Turco and we're certainly going to be open to meeting with anyone that we can a respectful and positive dialogue with.
Question: There are two rallies planned for this evening, one supporting the police, the other not. How are you going to keep those rallies separate [inaudible]?
Commissioner Bratton: Well, I understand in the briefing I received this morning, the first so-called rally – the pro-police rally – is a Facebook page. You may be the only person at that rally if you’re there tonight. We're not anticipating many would be showing up. The various police unions have indicated it's not something they're supporting and encouraging people not to show up. Is it going to result in maybe a larger number of demonstrators hostile to the police showing up? Possibly – with the expectation that there's going to be somebody to demonstrate against besides us.
But as in all the cases over the past 3, 4 weeks, we're prepared to deal with just about any type of demonstration. We're not expecting anything about particularly out of the ordinary this evening.
Question: [inaudible] we talked [inaudible] about patrolling windows, the importance of not tolerating minor violations, yet there's been very accommodating attitude to protesters who block traffic, often without – certainly without permits. How do you reconcile those two [inaudible]?
Mayor: I'll do my layman's interpretation. Look, protest is part of the American tradition. I would argue – for those in the room who know their history – there's a lot of protest that lead to the establishment of the United States of America. I think the decision here and I think the thinking here in this building was very smart, strategically smart, and smart in terms of the values our democracy was. We have a large number of people who are going to express themselves in a way that we haven't seen as much until the new-media age. This is a different reality.
Once upon a time, you could never have organized – not so long ago, once upon a time – 10 years ago, 20 years ago, you could not have organized protest in this manner. You could not have had the, kind of, communication in drawing people together on short notice and people moving around in unpredictable locations. You could say, "Let's have no protest. Let's ban protest. Wouldn't that be convenient?" That would be wonderfully convenient. We could be like many countries in the world that don't allow protests – be a more convenient society and it’ll be a much worse society living in. It would be an undemocratic society. It would violate all of our values. Then you could say, “well, how about everyone gather together and go exactly where you want and stay right there." That too would be nice.
But in this dynamic – today's new-media environment – and because people are expressing themselves in the way they choose, it causes the police to have to be more flexible. And I think they have done it brilliantly. I think the NYPD has been exceptional in the way they've handle this. I would like to always keep any disruption to a minimum. By the way – in many, many of the situations we've seen – very brief moments of sitting down in the middle of the road and then get up and move along for example – very minor disruptions.
When the disruptions become unacceptably long, or, of course, whenever there's a threat a safety – for example, when an emergency vehicle needs to get through – more action will be taken. We've seen plenty of situations for protesters who've been warned – they've reached that point and they're about to be arrested. The vast majority of times, from some of the information I've received here, protesters choose to disperse at that moment. Some who don't and engage in classic civil disobedience, are arrested.
So, I think this is the right strategy. And I think again, people all over this nation have been watching New York City do it right. And democracy – we respect it, and this city has continued to function quite well right in the middle of holiday season. Despite a few minor disruptions, this economy is booming – more tourists than ever, stores are doing great, more jobs than ever. So, I think we've struck the right balance.
Commissioner Bratton: I’m going to ask Chief O’Neill to speak to that. He’s chief of operations for the department – chief of department – and really directs and has been out there every night around these demonstrations – to give you the police perspective, if you will. Jimmy?
Chief of Department James O'Neill: Good afternoon, everyone – Jim O'Neill, I'm the Chief of Department. As I've said from the outset, we're looking to balance the rights of the protesters with the rights of the other eight and a half million people in New York City that work and live here. And we are showing restraint. And if there's an issue in an intersection, or a highway, or a bridge, and we feel there's a safety issue, then we'll take action and correct the condition. People have the right to have their voices heard and we're doing our best to accommodate that right.
Question: I wanted to ask the mayor – just wondering if you could say a little bit more [inaudible] there was some areas of agreement for protesters [inaudible] wondering on what particular [inaudible] and whether you plan to take specific steps to address [inaudible]?
Mayor: Well, one of them, to me is, indicative of one of the things we have to improve in the dialogue here in the city and I'll continually to appeal to all of you to do that. On the list of demands – I think it was 10 demands – was that there should be a retraining effort so that police and community can work closer together, so that there would be more communication, more dialogue, de-escalation of violence in encounters between police and community, et cetera. I said that's a great demand. I'd love to agree with that demand, except we're already doing it. So, that was a demand that was easy to agree to because it was already in motion because of the vision of this commissioner.
So there are, I think, examples like that, of things that are already part of what we are doing. I think, for example, they also raised the question of whether we need some additional steps in the justice process. They particularly have called for a special prosecutor. I'm not sure that's the best example, but there are may be a valid, good alternative. But I think the point is, they put forward a set of ideas – I said, “here's some I think are promising, here's some I disagree with, here's some we have to think about more" – a very healthy dialogue. And it was actually an example of how a democracy is supposed to function. People are supposed to put their ideas on the table and we're supposed to consider ideas from every view point and then we make our decisions.
Question: Another question also for Mr. Mayor – a former [inaudible] detective [inaudible] he wants to run against you for mayor [inaudible].
Mayor: It's a democracy – anyone can run who wants to run.
Question: Commissioner, are you going to meet with the Justice League as well? They said that they wanted to meet with you at 12 [inaudible].
Commissioner Bratton: I've not received that request. I'll evaluate it if I do receive it, thank you.
Question: Mr. Mayor, about the horse-carriage ban – this afternoon [inaudible] change your mind among others, do you have a reaction?
Mayor: I'm a fan of his, he's a great actor. I just disagree with him. We don't make our decisions based on celebrities.
Unknown: Two more, please – two more.
Question: Mayor, Chirlane’s office released a year-end video today. Were you consulted in the production of that video and have you seen it?
Mayor: I am shocked to say I was not consulted in the video but I'm sure it's a great video and I have – look, I must say I'm subjective on the question of my wife. But she has devoted herself all this year, for not a penny, to helping people in this city. She played an extraordinary role in the effort to both win funding for our Pre-K program and then reaching out to parents all over the city to get them and their children involved. And she's leading the charge in the fight against domestic violence and to help those who suffer from mental illness and she's going to be doing a lot more in 2015. I'm incredibly proud of her and incredibly appreciative but I have not seen her video.
Phil Walzak: Last call, guys.
Mayor: You almost gave Phil a Christmas present. [Laughter]
Question: Commissioner, could you talk a little bit about the Daily News today [inaudible] internal affairs investigation [inaudible] allegations of police [inaudible]?
Commissioner Bratton: I think you're referring to the incident down on the Seventh Precinct? Yes, our officers were responding to a gang assault or something to that effect. An individual ends up hospitalized as a result of a beating that he may have received at the hands of three to four young men. And our officers, during the effort to arrest one of the men thought to be involved with the incident – there's a video taken by a bystander that I think has been played on some of your local stations – that shows three or four officers attempting – uniformed officers attempting to arrest that young man. During the course of it, the individual that we have identified as one of our plainclothes anti-crime officers runs up and appears to strike the individual with his closed fist twice in the side of the body. And so, based on that investigation that's underway by our internal affairs group – I think this incident occurred on the 15th – that officer has been suspended pending the investigation going forward.
Phil Walzak: Thank you all.
Mayor: Thank you.
Commissioner Bratton: Okay, thank you.
Mayor: Is this the last I’ll be seeing [inaudible]
Phil Walzak: Not necessarily.
Mayor: Not necessarily – well, I’ll say happy holidays in advance, just in case I don't see you. Happy holidays, everyone.