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Bill Bratton's pledge: 'I will get it right in this city once more'

William J. Bratton attends a press conference in

William J. Bratton attends a press conference in which Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced that Bratton is to serve as New York City's next Police Commissioner in Brooklyn. (December 05, 2013). Credit: Charles Eckert

William J. Bratton will return to his former post as New York City's police commissioner, saying he would bring "mutual respect and mutual trust" to relationships between the department and community.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio Thursday announced he had chosen Bratton, who served as the city's top cop in the mid-1990s, to fill one of the new administration's most significant and scrutinized appointments.

Bratton pledged a "new day" of policing that "must be done fairly, respectfully."

"It must be done compassionately, it must be done consistently," Bratton said at a news conference with de Blasio at the Red Hook Community Justice Center, a court that addresses quality-of-life issues in Brooklyn. "We have a situation in the city at this time that is so unfortunate."

Bratton, 66, inherits a city with deep rifts between the NYPD and minority communities created in large part by the stop-and-frisk effort that critics say unfairly targets blacks and Latinos. De Blasio campaigned on a platform that included reforming the tactics championed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

But Bratton also returns to a city with dramatically lower crime rates than those he faced when he served as NYPD commissioner under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

His new challenges will be keeping crime down while combating terrorism and repairing police and community relations, he said. But Thursday he and de Blasio spoke mainly on healing divides that contributed to what the mayor-elect called a "tale of two cities."

"Public safety and respect for the public aren't contradictory ideas," de Blasio said.

Bratton, whose career began in Boston and who also led the Los Angeles Police Department, vowed to fulfill de Blasio's mission to create "mutual respect and mutual trust" between officers and the community.

"I will get it right in this city once more," he said.

Critics voice concerns

But critics said the use of stop-and-frisk surged under Bratton's watch in Los Angeles.

"Mr. Bratton knows of my concerns and the concerns of others about racial profiling in stop-and-frisk policing but at the same time is aware of our desire to continue the decrease of violence and crime in our community," civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement.

Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), co-sponsor of two City Council bills to curb stop-and-frisk, in a statement congratulated Bratton but added, "there was no perfect candidate, and I am cautiously optimistic."

As the first police commissioner under Giuliani between 1994 and 1996, Bratton earned plaudits for helping drive down crime by embracing community policing and the "broken-windows" theory -- prioritizing quality-of-life crime control.

But he clashed repeatedly with his boss over credit for a safer city. In an incident that soured the relationship and was reported to lead to Bratton's ouster, the commissioner appeared on the cover of Time magazine, with the headline, "Finally, we're winning the war against crime. Here's why."

Bratton Thursday acknowledged he and Giuliani had their differences and some were his fault.

Giuliani in an interview had only compliments for Bratton, calling him "one of the best choices I made."

Republican Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, noted that he appointed Bratton 20 years ago this week, when New York City logged about 1,950 homicides compared with about 300 this year.

Giuliani: 'The best guy'

"The challenge now is to maintain it," Giuliani said. "It's not easy, but he's the best guy to do it."

Kelly, who has supported the stop-and-frisk effort, congratulated Bratton in a statement.

"I look forward to working with Bill to ensure a smooth transition," he said. "Today, our city is safer than ever before with historic decreases in crime, including record low shootings and murders, and I am confident that record of safety will continue."

Patrick Lynch, president of the city's largest police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said in an interview that Bratton "understands it is not about quota, it is about effectively getting job done."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called the selection "a smart choice," noting that Bratton has a track record of reducing crime in Boston, Los Angeles and New York.

A Bloomberg representative declined to comment.

De Blasio, a Democrat, emphasized that though his administration -- which takes over Jan. 1 -- will have the same NYPD commissioner as Giuliani's, it has different values.

"It's a new day with new leadership and with an even more refined and, I think, compelling approach that he will apply now," de Blasio said.

Bratton's appointment came one day after de Blasio named his first deputy mayor, government veteran Anthony Shorris, to oversee day-to-day operations.

With Anthony M. DeStefano

and Matthew Chayes

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