Bill Bratton’s Water Carrying for Bill de Blasio Backfires

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
New York, NY

One would think a seasoned operator like New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton would know better than to risk carrying water for New York’s uber-liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio for New York Magazine. But that appears to be just what he did here recently, and some of his words will very likely come back to haunt him.

Does this sound like the de Blasio we’re seeing today?

All the phony controversies, Bratton insists, misrepresent de Blasio: “This guy’s heart is in the right place. He likes cops. He appreciates what they do.” Six days earlier, two officers were attacked and injured during a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge. Did the mayor visit them in the hospital? Bratton’s temperature and volume rises. “Anytime a cop’s injured, he calls me to get their number. He’s come to the hospital with me. Let’s stop the bullshit.”

And the magazine’s contrasting Bratton with de Blasio doesn’t exactly do him any favors, either. Bratton comes off as the now one-percenter, breathing in rarefied air, happy to shill for de Blasio, who comes off looking like your average hard-working Joe and man of the people. In short, Bratton looks to have been trying to do his boss a perhaps undeserved solid, for which he got played by a decidedly liberal media outlet.

When Bratton was a young beat cop in Boston, he policed civil-rights and antiwar demonstrations in which de Blasio could have easily been a protester. (“No, I would have noticed him, he’s so tall,” Bratton says with a laugh.) These days, Bratton spends his off-duty time with one-percenters who he says disdain the mayor; de Blasio’s downtime is more likely to be spent sweating in souvenir T-shirts at the Park Slope Y.

The piece sets Bratton up, then shifts to today.

Less than 24 hours later, the city was aflame, at least emotionally, and Bratton’s eyes were brimming with tears. Two cops sitting in a patrol car in Brooklyn had been shot and killed by a gunman who then shot himself. Rumors were swirling that the killer’s Instagram postings said he was motivated by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. As de Blasio and Bratton entered a press conference at Woodhull Medical Center that night, moments after meeting with the heartbroken families of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, cops lining the hallway turned their backs on the mayor and his commissioner in a stunning act of disrespect. An hour later, the ugliness escalated, with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president, Pat Lynch, roaring that de Blasio’s lenient treatment of demonstrators was to blame. “There’s blood on many hands tonight,” he said, standing on a hospital ramp just after the ambulances carrying the bodies of Liu and Ramos pulled away. “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.”

If anything, what this suggests is that Bratton may be better off out of the spotlight. This time, it caught him spilling a bucket of water he was carrying for de Blasio all over himself.

But both men are deeply ambitious, and two years ago they found themselves with overlapping needs. Bratton, even after more than six successful years as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, yearned for a second shot in New York, a chance to erase the bad ending of his first tour at One Police Plaza, where Giuliani chased out Bratton for stealing the spotlight. De Blasio, the lefty long shot, saw in Bratton not just a proven crime-fighter but a man who could cover for him with the city’s Establishment. And both wanted to show they could bridge the divide between cops and minority New Yorkers.