NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton is facing a firestorm of criticism for comments he made to The Guardian, in which he argued that the preponderance of criminal records among black men makes it difficult to hire them as police officers.
Bratton stated, “We have a significant population gap among African-American males because so many of them have spent time in jail and, as such, we can’t hire them,” according to the article, titled, “NYPD chief Bratton says hiring black officers is difficult: ‘So many have spent time in jail.’”
After the article was published on Tuesday, Bratton furiously demanded a retraction, saying the story “was a total misrepresentation of the original story,” referring to another story about the NYPD also released by The Guardian on Tuesday. He asserted, “The original interview was done by one reporter and then they had a second reporter who took the first reporter’s story and totally misrepresented it in the second article.”
But Bratton then commented that non-white candidates for the police force were ineligible for the force because of their criminal past. He said, “That’s well known. It’s an unfortunate fact that in the male black population, a very significant percentage of them, more so than whites or other minority candidates, because of convictions, prison records, are never going to be hired by a police department. That’s a reality. That’s not a byproduct of stop-and-frisk … 15 to 20% of black males have some type of criminal history and that’s an issue of great concern in the black community.”
Black leaders went ballistic. Rochelle Bilal, vice chairwoman of the National Black Police Association, said, “There are plenty of African-Americans who haven’t been to jail. It does seem a little insensitive to say that you can’t recruit because most of us are in jail. Where does he get that?”
Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which won its case against the NYPD for its stop-and-frisk policy, echoed, “It’s definitely within the purview of the NYPD to fix this problem … Bratton has to deal with it and not throw up his hands and say, ‘We’re giving it the old college try.’ The NYPD needs as much aggressiveness in trying to find good qualified black candidates as it puts into trying to exclude them through stop-and-frisk and broken-windows policing.”
Letitia James, New York City’s public advocate, added, “This is a teachable moment that affirms that broken windows policing destroys lives and opportunities. We need to enact policies that promote diversity for our police force and city as a whole.”
Britton dismissed his critics, simply stating, “These are facts and I always deal with facts.” The Guardian reported that Bratton partly blamed the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy for its difficulty in hiring blacks, but Bratton responded that although the NYPD would not consider applicants with felony convictions, summonses caused by stop-and-frisk incidents are not a factor when the NYPD considers applicants, a point ignored by the Guardian. He concluded, “The issue of trying to hire blacks is a national issue. Every police department in America is having a hard time hiring blacks.”
About 15% of the NYPD’s 34,631 cops are black. According to the United States Census Bureau, blacks comprise 25.5% of the city’s population. The NYPD reported that in calendar year 2014, 7,227 misdemeanor criminal mischief arrests were made; 37.8% of arrestees were black.