Bill Bratton pitches himself as the safe-streets commissioner

Bratton. (Policy Exchange via Flickr)
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"I have a long career in the area of transportation, beginning in the sixth grade, when I began what might be argued my police career by serving as a traffic safety monitor ... after school in Boston," said former and possibly future NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton.

"Not a single student was hit in my intersection," said Bratton, speaking to a receptive gathering of transportation advocates this morning at the Puck Building during a forum hosted by Transportation Alternatives and NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation.

Bratton is one of three known candidates that Bill de Blasio is reportedly considering for police commissioner.

The mayor-elect has also publicly embraced a Swedish traffic plan called "Vision Zero" that aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities, and this morning Bratton pitched himself, at least implicitly, as the guy who can make that plan a reality.

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Not only did he talk about his grade school years in Boston, and not only, as a rookie cop, did he have to manage traffic on Thanksgiving day—"You don't have the worst jaywalkers and the worst drivers. Boston still has that claim to fame"—but for seven years he was police commissioner in Los Angeles.

"That is a city that focuses incredible energy on the issue of traffic, sometimes successfully, oftentimes not, and on the issue of pedestrian safety," he said. "It is an extraordinarily controlled environment."

"In Los Angeles, a city that has more than its share of gang-related crime, the one thing you don't do in that town is jaywalk," he said, by way of example. "Because their enforcement efforts over the years have emphasized that if you jaywalk, one, there's a good chance that the law enforcement community will in fact cite you, but also that there is incredible disdain on the part of their fellow walkers and operators of vehicles."

His takeaway seemed to be that driving culture is variable city to city and therefore, it can be changed.

All that's needed is more focus, more resources and more technology.

By technology, he means, "red light cameras, speed cameras, various types of technology that allow you to identify where are you having emerging problems with increasing speed instead of decreasing, increasing numbers of accidents."

Like crime, which has fallen more than anyone back in the '90s ever anticipated it would, Bratton argued traffic fatalities can keep going down too.

Whether or not Bratton will have the opportunity to put those ideas into action will depend entirely on de Blasio.

In a scrum with reporters before the forum, Bratton said that he's having "no informal conversations with anybody" at the de Blasio campaign right now regarding the police commissionership.

"I haven't been asked yet, I'm not applying for the job," he went on. "If asked I'll certainly consider it."