Len Levitt is the author of “NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country's Greatest Police Force."
Shootings across the city are up 13 percent from a year ago -- 43 percent in the past month. No big deal, says Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Crime goes up, he says. Crime goes down.
Are you kidding? Imagine how those figures -- and his response -- would have played during Bratton's first turn as commissioner under Mayor Rudy Giuliani 20 years ago. Or when Ray Kelly was police commissioner. When the homicide rate rose slightly one year, Kelly spokesman Paul Browne went into verbal contortions to explain the trend.
But that was before Bill de Blasio became mayor -- when the department's monthly, and even weekly, crime statistics were the city's signature political issue. Every commissioner for the past 20 years had to deal with those short-term figures, no matter how tenuous they were.
Bratton's shrug to the recent spike in shootings underscores the political revolution under de Blasio, whose criticisms of Kelly's stop-and-frisk policies in part catapulted him to City Hall. Now for the first time in 20 years, crime is not the signature political issue. De Blasio's issue is public education; particularly early childhood education.
He also has brought his own brand of ethnic and racial politics to the NYPD.
He's made sure Bratton retained the department's highest-ranking Latino and black officials. The former is First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro, who as an assistant chief 20 years ago, Bratton did not care for but whom the department's Hispanic officers organizations pushed for commissioner. The latter is Chief of Department Philip Banks, whom Bratton did not know.
The appointment of Lt. Rob Gonzalez to assistant commissioner of training further reflects the new direction of NYPD politics. Gonzalez is the outspoken former head of the Latino Officers Association, which lobbied for Pineiro as commissioner. Gonzalez, who also holds a doctorate degree the LOA has loudly trumptered, sent a copy of his resume to de Blasio.
Let's point out that most NYPD appointments have political overtones. In the past, they leaned to confidants, who happened to be white males.
Gonzalez knows about this personally. In 2004, he was passed over for a prestigious FBI Academy course in favor of a white lieutenant who happened to be the son of a chief.