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NYPD Commissioner-designate William Bratton pledges respect to community

Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action

Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, sits between New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, right, and newly-named police commissioner William Bratton, left, during an event honoring South African leader Nelson Mandela at the National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. (Dec. 7, 2013) Credit: AP

New York police Commissioner-designate William J. Bratton pledged at the Rev. Al Sharpton's Harlem headquarters Saturday to build strong relations with communities where tactics such as stop-and-frisk have caused tensions.

"My commitment to you is that your police force in your city will be respectful," Bratton told the crowd of about 100 people, who cheered and applauded following his remarks.

"I like being a cop because I know what we can do when we get it right," Bratton said. "My promise to you is that we will get it right."

Bratton went to the National Action Network headquarters for his first public appearance since Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio named him Thursday to lead the department.

De Blasio has tasked Bratton with overhauling the department's stop-and-frisk practices to reduce their use and to end what the mayor-elect, as well as Sharpton and other activists, has attacked as racial profiling.

De Blasio also attended the gathering, which was devoted in part to commemorate the recent death of South African leader Nelson Mandela. Bratton said the NYPD under his leadership "will practice what Mandela preached . . . respect for all, compassion for all."

De Blasio told the crowd a major reason he selected Bratton was because of his work mending community relations as Los Angeles police commissioner. Bratton assumed the post in 2002, as tensions still lingered from the 1991 beating of Rodney King, a black motorist whose pummeling by LAPD officers was caught on video.

De Blasio said Bratton helped turn critics into allies. "I became convinced that that's the direction I know we will now go in here in New York City," he said.

"We're going to keep this city safe, but at the same time respect every single community of this city while we're doing it," De Blasio said.

Sharpton recalled he was a foe of Bratton when he served as former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's police commissioner from 1994 to 1996.

But Sharpton praised Bratton's work in Los Angeles, saying he made it a point to open a dialogue with civic leaders on issues such as gang and youth violence.

Crime-fighting skill also matters, Sharpton said.

"We want not only a city that doesn't profile us, but we also want a city of no crime and no violence," he said. "Just how we are stopped disproportionately, we suffer crime disproportionately. We need a balance in this city."

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