William J. Bratton concluded his second term as New York City’s police commissioner Friday with a sun-dappled stroll through a cheering crowd of several hundred police officers and invited guests. Leaving the NYPD’s One Police Plaza headquarters with his wife Rikki Klieman, Bratton smiled, waved, shook hands and hugged his way across Police Plaza. Waiting at the end of the line were his successor, Chief of Department Jimmy O’Neill, and his boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio. With some final goodbyes Bratton and his wife mounted an antique fire engine for a short ride through the arch of the Municipal Building and onto Park Row.
Bratton leaves behind a re-energized New York City legacy, having led the NYPD through continued declines in crime over his 32 months in office, and stood as a central figure in the de Blasio administration’s public profile. He’s been an enormous political asset to the Mayor, both for his Department’s success in continuing to push crime rates down and for his essential public role as de Blasio’s prime voice on public safety. His polite Boston-accented bluntness has mostly been welcomed by the public, giving his “progressive” boss room to operate amidst a determined chorus of “hellholers”; critics who from de Blasio’s election declared that the City is destined to become a crime ridden hellhole with de Blasio in charge. Preventing that from actually occurring and fighting the creation of a public perception that it’s occurring are both vital and Bratton largely succeeded on both. He certainly has critics though, and a small but vocal group stationed themselves near the end of Bratton’s walk.
His successor Jimmy O’Neill is, so far in his career at least, not nearly as large a public personality and doesn’t display any evidence of a craving of the spotlight. The large post-Bratton vacuum will be filled, but whether it’s by Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner O’Neill or critics is, of course, to be determined.