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NYPD Commissioner William Bratton increasingly showing more of his unvarnished side, experts say

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton is shown in this

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton is shown in this file photo taken on Aug. 4, 2015. Credit: Bryan R. Smith

After months of being the consummate diplomat, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton has shown a sharper-elbowed style in dealing with critics in city government and the news media.

In recent remarks about City Council efforts to propose measures dealing with problem cops, fears about a violent crime increase and doubts about cutbacks in stop, question and frisk, Bratton hasn't been shy about reminding the world that he is a veteran who knows what he is doing.

"You can attack the mayor all you want, attack me all you want, but don't attack the work of my cops, because I will punch back," said Bratton in response to a recent comment by city Comptroller Scott Stringer about "politicized" crime stats.

When he came on as police commissioner for the second time in January 2014, Bratton seemed like a breath of fresh air to some, particularly council members who had strained relations with his predecessor, Ray Kelly. Bratton showed a willingness to collaborate and change things, notably in the wake of the 2014 death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.

But Bratton's recent displays of impatience and flashes of anger, some law enforcement experts said, are not surprising.

"He has been prickly since the beginning of time," quipped Franklin Zimring, a professor at Berkeley School of Law who writes extensively about New York City crime and watched Bratton when he was police chief in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2009.

Given time to measure his responses, Bratton is more diplomatic, Zimring said.

"But his college training wasn't at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy," he added.

Bratton "is a strong administrator and sometimes says things he shouldn't," police historian Thomas Reppetto noted.

An NYPD spokesman didn't respond to emails and telephone messages Wednesday.

When asked recently about Stringer's comments, Bratton said they "were an unnecessary remark for political purposes." Stringer later said his criticism wasn't aimed at cops but rather City Hall.

The push by some City Council members to increase NYPD oversight, particularly over problem officers, Bratton said, was an attempt to meddle when the department was already trying to deal with things internally.

"I have been around a long time, I have created a lot of reform, they can monitor if they want, but we don't need additional legislation to require us to do what we are already doing," Bratton said.

Since Bratton has said he won't be around for another term, some think he is feeling emboldened.

"I think one significant thing that has changed is that he said he is a lame duck, so he feels free to emote on things," said Prof. Edward O'Donnell of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Bratton has faced comparisons between his tenure and that of Kelly's, as well as the perception that violent crime -- because of a spike in homicides and shootings -- has increased. Some question whether a steep drop in stop-and-frisks has led to such increases. Bratton scoffs at the notion, although criminologists contradict him by noting that police stops do decrease crimes in certain hot spots.

"When are you going to get it?" Bratton responded sharply to a reporter recently. "Many less stops, we have much less crime, so stop trying to make a connection."

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