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De Blasio hails NYPD Commissioner William Bratton's efforts at healing city's racial divisions

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, left,

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, left, speaks during a news conference at the 44th Precinct station house in New York City, on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. Bratton detailed the NYPD's Summer All Out program that will put additional police officers in higher-crime neighborhoods during warm weather months. In the background is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Credit: AP / Kevin Hagen

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that Police Commissioner William Bratton "has done extraordinary things" to narrow the city's racial divide and agreed with the top cop that a British newspaper misrepresented his view on hiring minorities.

At a news conference with Bratton in the Bronx to announce a new police initiative to combat street violence, de Blasio said the commissioner has gone out of his way to bring the NYPD and the communities they patrol together.

The Guardian newspaper published a story online Tuesday with quotes from Bratton he said were taken out of context. The Commissioner said Tuesday night the story gave a false impression that stop and frisks of black men by officers can lead to their disqualification as NYPD recruits.

In an interview Wednesday night on cable news channel NY1's "Inside City Hall" Bratton again criticized the story while touting NYPD efforts to recruit more black men. At his side was Yuseff Hamm, head of the black fraternal organization the Guardians.

Bratton said the department was trying to combat a view among some black families that when a loved one decides to become a police officer "the family is not supportive of it, because they're saying, 'why would you want to join an organization that's been so demeaning of you?' "

Both Bratton and Hamm said the NYPD is not only examining how it can recruit more black officers but also how to keep them from dropping out once they've taken the civil service test. Bratton said he wants to shorten the time between a recruit's testing and hiring.

African-Americans make up only 15 percent of the NYPD and out of the recent graduating class of 732 male officers, only 8.4 percent were black, according to department data.

Earlier at the Bronx news conference, Bratton and de Blasio announced the Summer All Out program that will put more than 300 desk officers on beats in high-crime areas of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Bratton said there is no reason why more black candidates can't be among officers on patrol. A stop and frisk on the street does not preclude someone from joining the NYPD, Bratton said. But he said a prison record does. He cited national statistics putting the number of black men with prison records at between 20 and 30 percent as the reason they can't be touched as recruits.

"Stop, question and frisk is not a disqualifier, summons are not a disqualifier, misdemeanor arrests are not a disqualifier," Bratton said during the news conference at the 44th Precinct. "The only absolute disqualifier is a felony conviction."

With Matthew Chayes

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