What Former NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s Column Omitted About Racist Broken Windows Policing

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["Speaking Truth To Empower"]
Former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton
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Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton still trying to defend bigoted "Broken Windows" policing...

On Sunday, former New York City Commissioner Bill Bratton wrote an op-ed expressing frustration that the racially-applied “Broken Windows” policing policy, which he championed, is falling out of favor.

In a New York Daily News column, Mr. Bratton laments that “One of the foundations of New York City’s public safety renaissance is falling out of favor in some quarters.” Since, Bratton was an early proponent of promoting this discredited policing policy, it’s no surprise he’s trying to preserve it as somehow being relevant to fighting crime.

Bratton is clearly upset “Broken Windows” is now being seen for what it is: a bigoted broken police policy that has been used exclusively to further criminalize Black communities.

Bratton’s column was responding to an important May 26 column by Professor Dan O’Brien partly entitled “Break the Broken Windows spell.” Professor O’Brien is an associate professor at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University.

In that column, Professor Dan O’Brien stated “My colleagues and I recently published a study that evaluated the entirety of this work. We confirmed that, indeed, Broken Windows theory is inaccurate and that we as a nation need to move away from the policing strategies that it inspired.” Professor O’Brien also said bluntly “Broken Windows’ policing is based on a theory that turns out to be untrue. It does not lower crime.” No doubt, these assertions angered Bratton into writing his unconvincing column.

In his Sunday op-ed, Bratton made many incongruous statements. Let’s examine a few.

Early in his column, he gave lip-service about “a belief that police could work with the communities they serve to prevent crime and disorder.” He then insinuates community involvement led to an acceptance of the “criminological theory that came to be called “Broken Windows.” Here Mr. Bratton is being disingenuous on several fronts.

Why is he pretending police policymakers “work with the communities” where Black people live “to prevent crime?” Can Mr. Bratton show us where Black communities were asked about how they feel regarding the use of “Broken Windows,” before it was put into effect? Bratton acts as if Blacks were informed—and more importantly agreed—with the administering of this policy. This in an important point because in Black and Brown communities policing policy is not decided by us—as it is in White communities. In Black communities, policing policies are decided by White outsiders who loathe Black people.

The other thing Bratton is doing here is acting as if there is no difference between Black and White communities. That is one of the main reasons why his column is so duplicitous. He thinks by never addressing the race question, which Professor O’Brien does, he can just pretend that Blacks and Whites live in the same communities.

Bratton, like most Whites who decry crime in Black neighborhoods, never addressed the link between crime and poverty. Professor O’Brien talked about those who have “failed to account for critical variables, like socioeconomic status. We know that disorder, crime and poverty are inextricably correlated, and good science needs to disentangle these relationships, not ignore them.”

This is exactly correct. However, that would be too inconvenient for those who like to characterize Blacks as genetically criminally inclined. Many have a vested interest in continuing that racist narrative, so they refuse to speak on the relationship between the high levels of Black poverty, unemployment, homelessness, etc.

If people like Bratton, and the other political phonies who cry about the crime in Black communities, really cared they would be tackling the serious issue of economic insecurity. Why is there never any focus on the financial health of our communities?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Black unemployment rate stands at 6.2 percent—which is no doubt higher given the fact many Blacks have given up long ago on getting jobs through the Department of Labor. White unemployment stands at 3.3 percent. High Black unemployment is not an accident it is a political punishment that is inflicted on Black America, because of institutional racism. But these hypocrites, who proclaim they are trying to curb crime in the Black community, always pretend Black poverty and unemployment have nothing to do with racism.

The “Broken Windows” policing theory was first introduced by Dr. George Kelling in a 1982 Atlantic Magazine article, which was co-written with James Q. Wilson. These two White sociologists argued larger crimes can be discouraged by cracking down hard on small crimes. Interestingly, those who pushed this policing posture decided Black neighborhoods would be where they would institute these practices. Why didn’t it dawn on these people that to fix Black communities it would take an economic investment, just like it does to fix a real broken window?

Bratton, first as the head of the New York City Transit Authority, then later as police commissioner, focused on crackdowns of so-called “quality-of-life” issues like: public drinking, public urination, squeegee men, etc. According to Dr. Kelling, Wilson, and Bratton cracking down on these small crimes are supposed to stop big crimes.

The idea that small crimes left unchecked will naturally lead to big crimes was a flawed one from the beginning. This is especially so when considering some of the idiotic things that are now labelled on the books as “crimes.” For example, are these brilliant minds really telling us someone who has gotten away with say public urination would eventually become a robber, rapist, or murderer?

In his column, Bratton tries to defend this nonsense by saying “serious criminals committed petty crimes, too. As it turns out, muggers don’t pay the fare.” So, because “serious criminals committed petty crimes,” we’re supposed to believe that fare beaters will become muggers?

Not surprisingly, Bratton nowhere in his column addresses the racist application of “Broken Windows,” as Professor Obrien does. Indeed, Professor O’Brien noted there is evidence that ‘’Broken Windows” leads to “racial profiling and creates antagonistic relationships with communities.” Obrien added that these “antagonistic relationships with communities… feels to many people on the receiving end like low-level harassment.”

But while Bratton’s column ignores the racial application of “Broken Windows,” he says this “Starting in the 1960s, everywhere in America, crime began rising. It continued to climb through the 1970s, and accelerated in the 1980s, particularly in our nation’s great cities, where the introduction of crack cocaine precipitated stunning amounts of violence.”

Yeah, blame the crack cocaine for the violence, but not political policies that ruin the lives of people. Somehow, people like Bratton fail to see, or refuse to see, that drug abuse has everything to do with the desperation people feel about the quality of their lives. The current concern about the opioid crisis—because it is taking White lives—is the latest example of this. But locking up dealers who sell these drugs won’t solve this drug problem, anymore than it did during the so-called “War on Drugs,” which was really a war on Black America.

Now, Bratton, and others, claim “Broken Windows” policing drove down crime in the 90’s but have no hard evidence to prove their claims. Moreover, numerous studies have found that crime dropped, across the board in America, during the time that Bratton cites—including in many places where “Broken Windows” was not being used.

In the final analysis, we must state what most African-Americans already know: “Broken Windows” policing is a policy that further criminalizes Blacks. Most so-called low-level crimes would disappear if the poverty in Black communities was addressed. However, this runs contrary to the will of those who have been criminalizing the Black community—and profiting from it, as we’ve seen from the Ferguson example.

Mr. Bratton has been instrumental is this continued criminalization of Black America. He is now fighting to preserve this prejudicial racially-applied “Broken Windows” policing theory because it is part of his dubious legacy.

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