NYT: Bill Bratton Explains His Ideas of Good Policing

THE PROFESSION A Memoir of Community, Race, and the Arc of Policing in America By Bill Bratton and Peter Knobler On Dec. 20, 2014, two New York City police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, were assassinated while they sat in their squad car in Brooklyn. Police Commissioner William Bratton, then 67 years old and in his second tour in the job, flew back from a holiday in Boston and raced to the scene.

His behavior then and in the succeeding days was a lesson in moderation. He delivered a moving speech to the families of the deceased that called for tolerance on all sides. He denounced the angry police officers who turned their back on the mayor at a public meeting. Then he forcefully refused to discipline the rebellious officers. “To take action against those cops, to go punitive,” he said, “would have been counterproductive.” It was classic Bratton. Over a 50-year career in which he has headed three big-city police departments, he has walked a political and ideological tightrope that has maintained his credibility on all sides. “There are parts of any argument,” he insists in his new book, “The Profession,” “where both sides can be right.”


Succeeding as a centrist in public life these days can be an almost impossible task. But centrism in law enforcement may be the most delicate challenge of all. Bratton’s ability to practice it was a startling phenomenon. Some may call it disingenuousness, or even duplicity. But some would use another word for it. The word is brilliance.

“The Profession” is a sometimes dense but consistently engaging account, expanding on his earlier memoir, “Turnaround.” Like that book, also co-written with Peter Knobler, it is a remarkably candid account of one man’s journey, but it is also a veritable encyclopedia of police tactics and culture.


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