Bratton, Who Shaped an Era in Policing, Tries to Navigate a Racial Divide



By Al Baker and J. David Goodman

July 25, 2016


After two New York City officers were shot dead in their patrol car in 2014, William J. Bratton, the police commissioner, drew on words of reconciliation spoken to him years before by a black Los Angeles activist known as Sweet Alice Harris. He turned to those words repeatedly this month after the killing of eight officers in Texas and Louisiana


“We need to find ways to see each other,” Mr. Bratton told national television audiences on two consecutive Sundays


This was a call for the police and minority communities, caught in a searing divide, to recognize each other’s humanity as certain events were repeating themselves: the killing of black men by officers in Baton Rouge, La., and Minnesota and the killing of officers days later by gunmen targeting the police in Dallas and Baton Rouge.


The conciliatory tone would have sounded at odds with Mr. Bratton’s public persona two decades ago, when he first served as New York’s police commissioner. With a Churchillian rallying cry, he unleashed officers to fight crime block by block.


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