Wall Street Journal
April 2, 2014


NYPD Commissioner Bratton: No Offense Meant to Kelly

He Defends Remarks He Made That Morale Was 'Awful' Under Raymond Kelly

Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street Journal  

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton speaks during the annual NYPD Pre-Passover briefing Tuesday.


Police Commissioner William Bratton on Wednesday defended remarks he made about the "awful" morale of the New York Police Department under his predecessor, saying the comments were "not meant as a shot" at Raymond Kelly.

Since taking office on Jan. 1, Mr. Bratton has commended Mr. Kelly and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg for helping reduce crime and defend the city against terrorism, but has criticized the impact that the use of stop and frisk had on the relationship between the NYPD and the community.

Twice during an interview Sunday on ABC-7, Mr. Bratton said morale in the department that he took over was "awful."

"For whatever reasons, a variety of reasons, despite their successes at reducing crime, keeping this city safe from terrorism, morale in this organization was awful," he said

On Wednesday, Mr. Bratton sought to clarify his remarks, accusing the media of trying to "stir up something that is not actually happening."

"I think it's quite clear…we have a difference of opinion about the stop, question and frisk effectiveness and procedures," he said.

The police commissioner said his understanding of morale in the NYPD was formed from conversations with officers, talks with union officials and focus groups that the department conducted in January and February.

"That was not meant as a shot at Ray," he said. "Basically, it was a fact as I understand it and that's something I need to understand as I move the organization forward."

Mr. Bratton said he hasn't spoken with Mr. Kelly since his earlier comments, but the two have run into each other a number of times over the past few months, including at restaurants and at a book release party for Ariana Huffington, editor in chief of the Huffington Post.

Each time, he said the conversation has been cordial: The two greet each other, shake hands and chat briefly.

"I don't think either he or I feel that there's anything personal here," Mr. Bratton.

But Mr. Bratton's earlier remarks drew rebukes from Mr. Kelly's former spokesman, Paul Browne, and Mr. Kelly's older brother, Donald Kelly, who called into a radio show on Tuesday to offer a defense in which he called Mr. Bratton's comments a "cheap shot."

Mr. Kelly on Wednesday declined to comment on the back and forth. He issued a statement calling his brother's comments "unfortunate."

Patrick Lynch, president of the union that represents NYPD officers, issued a statement saying that Mr. Bratton was "absolutely correct when he said that morale of the police force is awful."

"Morale is bad, in part, because of the heavy-handed way that past management dealt with our members from within the department," Mr. Lynch said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called Mr. Bratton's remarks an "absolutely factual statement."

"The stop-and-frisk policy was broken and it created, in many neighborhoods, a rift between police and community, and it also made the job of the average police officer more difficult," Mr. de Blasio said during an unrelated news conference.

—Michael Howard Saul contributed to this article.

Write to Pervaiz Shallwani at pervaiz.shallwani@wsj.com