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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Bill Bratton's second, but different, time around

Bill Bratton attends the Wired business conference in

Bill Bratton attends the Wired business conference in partnership with MDC Partners at The Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan. (June 14, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

For a second time, Ray Kelly departs as police commissioner at the end of one mayoral administration with Bill Bratton due to succeed him in the next.

But this handoff of the NYPD baton has a sharply different feel from the 1994 version.

Twenty years ago, Bratton came in under GOP Mayor Rudy Giuliani's aggressive anti-crime mandate. Kelly had been Democratic Mayor David Dinkins' commissioner in 1992 and 1993.

Come Jan. 1, however, Bratton returns under a Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio, who campaigned against the way police frisks were carried out in minority neighborhoods.

And Bratton takes over a department largely shaped by Kelly and his team, who served in the job for a record 12 years.

The mayor and his appointee spent some time at Thursday's announcement in Brooklyn buttressing the idea that Bratton's record in both New York City and Los Angeles meshes with de Blasio's stated mission.

The expected differences between Bratton I and Bratton II go beyond stop-and-frisk policies and tricky definitions of what constitutes progressive "community policing."

Internally, Bratton, now 66, is unlikely to draw the kind of wrath that he did from Giuliani, with whom he famously fell out in 1996. You won't have a lawman-turned-mayor whose most treasured claim of accomplishment -- crime fighting -- could be upstaged by Bratton.

Bratton Thursday even conceded that "some of those differences" with Giuliani "were created by me, in hindsight."

This time out, the primary assigned challenge for Bratton will be maintaining crime reductions while improving community-police relations. This may mean the inevitable "bad" police shooting puts a different political pressure on de Blasio and Bratton than it might have in past administrations.

Another new challenge for Bratton will be reducing traffic fatalities.

In addition, Bratton II begins 12 years after 9/11 -- which means a priority on local defense against mass destruction and murder. One Bratton fan, a veteran of municipal government, said: "Bill should get along with the FBI. The idea is to keep us all from getting blown up. Kelly can say he's been able to do that."

Perhaps it is symbolic that Elaine's, the Upper East Side hangout where Bratton and his top aides, including John Miller and the late Jack Maple, would go to be seen and schmooze in the 1990s, closed its doors in 2011.

Bratton can be relied on to strike a high profile in the public spotlight. The immediate question is how that profile fits in this regime.

A well-known detractor of Bratton from his first run as commissioner said darkly of the appointment: "I wonder how long it will be before Mayor de Blasio finds out Bill Bratton's special talent for making motion look like progress."

For the record: In his 1998 book "Turnaround: How America's Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic," Bratton wrote about considering a 1997 mayoral run against Giuliani. He said he changed his registration from independent to Democrat and "before I got in the ring with Giuliani I'd have to win the Democratic primary."

"I was a centrist candidate," he said, one who might win the general election "but would have more difficulty fending off liberals in a primary . . . "

Liberal primary candidates like, say, de Blasio?

Anyway, for now, the new mayor-elect and commissioner-select are a team, displaying what de Blasio in one of his wonkier moments Thursday called "philosophical affinity."

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