May 5, 2014

Bratton: Cop Morale Starting to Perk Up; Raises Would Help


Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said last week that morale in his department is on the rise—and the reasons it had been down went beyond the stop-and-frisk furor.

During an April 29 appearance on WNYC-radio’s Leonard Lopate Show, he cited a recent article in this newspaper on the subject, then added, “If you listen to my various unions, the sense is that morale is on the upswing. There’s a general belief that there was low morale both in the uniformed and in the civilian ranks of the department.”

Multiple factors caused the problem, he said.

‘Pushed Too Hard’

“The uniformed cops quite clearly felt they were being pushed too hard to generate the numbers, low crime-activity levels,” he said. This was most likely a reference to quotas set by precinct commanders and higher-level bosses for stop-question-and-frisk incidents.

Critics who said the NYPD was over-aggressive with stop-and-frisks said that officers forced to meet such quotas would make stops that were not legally justified, straining police-community relations.

Reined in Practice

A Federal Judge declared last summer that the way the department ran its stop-and-frisk program was unconstitutional. Shortly after her ruling, the City Council passed laws over then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto that were aimed at reining in the practice. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was Public Advocate at the time, supported both the decision and the new laws.

Mr. Bratton gave a second reason for low morale. “I think there was a general concern [by] civilian and uniformed members about the lack of contracts over a number of years, the same thing every city employee is concerned about at this time.”

Long Time Since Raise

Contracts with the five police unions and the 147 other unions representing city workers expired three or more years ago. Mr. Bloomberg was uninterested in negotiating contracts during his third term unless unions essentially funded their members’ wage increases through productivity changes. Rather than push the issue, they waited for Mr. de Blasio, who is considered friendlier toward labor, to take office.

However, Mr. de Blasio has sent signals saying the city can’t afford generous settlements, particularly because of the retroactive-pay obligations the city would incur. 

The Sergeants’ Benevolent Association, the only law-enforcement union to publicly address the status of negotiations, has called the city’s offer “insulting.”

One reason morale is rising, Mr. Bratton said, is that the department is allowing officers to participate in management decisions.

“I think at this moment there’s a sense of being asked to be included in the organization of the department, which we are doing,” he said. “They are participating in our re-engineering efforts.”

Change Clears the Air

Further, he said, “ofttimes just a change in the leadership creates a positive effect.” He said his predecessor, Raymond W. Kelly, “there’s no denying it, did a great job during his 12 years of reducing crime in the city, continuing what had begun in the 1990s,” when, incidentally, Mr. Bratton served his first term as Police Commissioner under Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

But, he said of Mr. Kelly’s crime reductions, “it was how it was done that was generating both frustration in the department and resentment in the community.” He was referring to an over-emphasis on stop-and-frisk.