Pity poor Bill Bratton. New York City’s police commissioner keeps delivering the goods for Mayor Bill de Blasio—to say nothing of New York City—and all he gets in return is one mayoral kick in the teeth after another. The latest? De Blasio’s appointment of civil rights activist Maya Wiley to head the Civilian Complaint Review Board, Gotham’s police watchdog. Wiley replaces Richard Emory, who left the panel earlier this year under an ethics cloud. She brings a cloud of her own, having just stepped down as chief counsel to de Blasio’s scandal-wracked regime.
Wiley’s ascension comes hard on the heels of a report by de Blasio’s handpicked inspector general for police matters, Philip Eure, that ripped the Broken Windows theory of policing—a spectacularly successful, two-decade approach to public safety in New York, and Bratton’s signature approach to keeping cities safe. Eure’s report was greeted with the ridicule that it deserved; only hacks and activists deny the efficacy of Broken Windows. Even the mayor—a man with barely concealed animosity toward police and policing—felt compelled to repudiate the document.
But Eure is a critical cog in de Blasio’s public-safety machinery, and so the report ultimately is mayoral handiwork, just as Wiley’s appointment will be on the administration’s record. Everything de Blasio does in the personnel department seems designed to send a message to Bratton: “I’m stuck with you, Mr. Commissioner, but I don’t really trust you. Nor do I trust the 30,000-plus police officers under your command.”
The CCRB gig is part-time, and Wiley will also assume the role of “senior vice president for social justice” at the New School. It’s not clear exactly what that means, except in one very specific way. On the face of it, every cop in the city has reason to mistrust Wiley’s values, judgment, and objectivity. Emory was bad enough in the role, and all he did was run a law firm that helped CCRB complainants sue the city.
Neither Emory nor Wiley is fit for the watchdog job in this respect: Consider what the reaction would have been if Rudy Giuliani had put a Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association lawyer in the gig.
How much longer Bratton is willing to put up with City Hall’s disrespect is a reasonable question. He has his flaws, for sure, but results speak loudly for themselves: Violent crime in most major cities surged dramatically after the Ferguson, Missouri, debacle, but not in New York, which remains far and away the safest big city in America. This speaks to the competence of Bratton’s leadership. Imagine what’s likely to happen if Bratton is replaced with someone carrying Wiley’s ideological baggage—or Emory’s ethics. That is, imagine a completely unnecessary nightmare.
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