Forum with NYPD Commissioner: William Bratton


By: Rebecca Felczak, 2016-2017 Work First Fellow


On July 13th, 2016, the Work First Fellows attended a Manhattan Institute event with NYPD Commissioner, William Bratton. Through his career as a police officer, the LAPD Commissioner, and now the NYPD Commissioner, he has learned many important aspects of effective policing. The following are some of the principles that he shared with us.


The core foundation needed for a successful and effective police force is trust; both creating trust where it is currently nonexistent and building upon preexisting trust. Trust allows the police force and their respective communities to truly “see” each other, understand each other’s needs, and learn why those needs exist and differ between communities and cities. This fundamental trust and understanding can be built through the goals of policing.


The three goals of policing, as outlined by Commissioner Bratton, will allow for the safest communities with the greatest amount of social stability.  Primarily, policing requires partnership between the city, its police department, the law and the community.  Through communication, understanding, and a collective work effort, law enforcement works together with the community to create the safest environment possible. The next element of policing is identifying the specific priorities and problems of each city. Every city differs in their respective needs, beyond general safety and security, and once that is understood, the most effective policies and techniques can be applied.


The last goal of policing is to know how much pressure and force to apply to the situation as a remedy, while recognizing crime and disorder prevention are first and foremost police priority and responsibility. Commissioner Bratton compared this to applying medicine to an illness; every individual responds to medicine differently, so that medicine must be applied with precision and care. Police units need to respond legally, respectfully, and compassionately to every situation to avoid eroding trust. In order for this to work, relentless follow-up and care for the community is needed. Responding and following-up to every situation with respect and compassion has become increasingly important and highlighted in the media with the rapid spread information on a national and global scale through social media.


Beyond creating partnership and trust between the community and police, there is the issue of terror. Counterterrorism units are responsible for preventing terror groups from inspiring, enabling, and directing individuals across the world in being a part of their group or cause. This relates directly back to the “see something, say something” campaigns the NYPD has been promoting.  With the fundamental groundwork of trust leading to police notifications of suspicious activity and concerns by the community, the police are able to follow-up on those calls and better protect their communities. The stronger the relationship and trust between the community and law enforcement, the safer and better protected each community will be. Trust and communication between law enforcement and the community followed by prompt police action and response will lead to the greatest safety against terror around the world and at home, as well as the highest quality of life and protection in each community.


NYPD Commissioner Bratton is a strong advocate of dealing with all situations, whether we like them or not, within the bounds of the law–no exceptions.  By creating and building upon trust between communities and police, law enforcement will be able to safely and effectively protect their communities.