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NYPD's Bratton confronts protesters at Council hearing

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton addresses

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton addresses the New York City Council at City Hall in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, May 21, 2015. Bratton called for additional police officers in his remarks. Photo Credit: James Carbone

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton traded barbs with anti-police-brutality hecklers who disrupted his City Council testimony Thursday before the sergeants-at-arms cleared the chamber of the public.

One by one, five protesters shouted, stood up or otherwise interrupted Bratton every few minutes as he delivered remarks on the $4.6 billion budget that the mayor is proposing for the NYPD.

The protesters directed their ire at a council plan he has supported to add 1,000 cops to the NYPD's head count of 35,000.

Bratton was more circumspect than he has been in recent months on whether he expects Mayor Bill de Blasio to fund additional cops; de Blasio's draft executive budget doesn't. Bratton has been saying for more than a year that the NYPD needs more officers -- at one point, he put that number above 1,000 and earlier this month said he needs at least 400 more to combat terrorism -- but Thursday he deflected council members' questions about how many cops he needed or what jobs he'd assign them if included in the budget.

Asked whether he stood by a past statement that he "expects" those cops from the mayor's budget, Bratton told reporters afterward: "I'm an optimist. My wife will tell you that. I'm optimistic about everything. So, we will see."

Testifying for close to three hours, Bratton provided a forceful defense of his "broken-windows" policing philosophy, the idea that combating petty crime can forestall major disorder. He says the strategy has saved lives, including minorities who make up many crime victims.

"These black and Hispanic lives matter: They matter to me, they matter to my staff, and they matter to my commanders and my cops," Bratton said. "To the NYPD, all lives matter -- including blue ones."

That remark set off one protester who shouted, "Don't use 'Black Lives Matter!' " a slogan of the nationwide anti-brutality movement.

"Eric Garner! Akai Gurley! Nicholas Heyward! Anthony Baez! No new cops! No new cops!" one protester shouted, advancing toward Bratton's table and reciting names of young black and Latino men killed over the years in confrontations with police. Officers quickly ejected him.

Yet another called him "racist" and added a pair of vulgarities.

"An example of what we're up against," Bratton said of the group.

Bratton dismissed the hecklers, several wearing clothing saying "Special Police Brutality Unit," as the "selfish few" who jeopardize the public's right to attend a hearing.

A similar scene, with the same group, Coalition to End Broken Windows, had unfolded the last time Bratton testified before the council, in March. Then as Thursday, the outbursts prompted the council to eject the public.

None was arrested, Bratton's spokesman said.


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