Bratton shifts on NYPD headcount

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NYPD. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Back in June, Bill Bratton said he thought the NYPD's 34,500-person police force was "too small," and that the department's aggressive use of stop-and-frisk was an "unintended consequence" of the depleted ranks.

Today, after being formally announced as the city's next police commissioner, Bratton said he was "comfortable" with the current headcount, and that stop-and-frisk could be curbed without adding officers.

"I'm comfortable that the force I'm being given is adequate at this time to deal with the issues as I understand them," Bratton told reporters at a press conference in Red Hook.

Bratton presented a united front with his new boss, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, and his revised opinion brings him more in line with de Blasio's position during the Democratic primary, when the mayor-elect distinguished himself from rivals by saying the current force was already large enough to "maintain" the city's low crime rate.

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But Bratton's new evalution was a significant departure from his assessment this summer.

“I actually think that the force is now too small,” Bratton said in June, at a breakfast in Manhattan hosted by the Manhattan Institute. Bratton faulted Mayor Michael Bloomberg for shrinking the size of the NYPD from about 40,000 officers, when Bloomberg took office in January of 2002. With the added responsibility of fighting terrorism here, the smaller NYPD force was spread too thin to keep experience officers assigned to local beats, Bratton said.

Bratton said the reduced ranks forced the current commissioner, Ray Kelly, to flood high-crime areas with new recruits, often without effective oversight from superiors, as part of Kelly's Operation Impact.

“And so what we began to see happening was huge numbers of stop-and-frisk in those high-crime areas, minority neighborhoods by recently trained” recruits, said Bratton.

“So, the unintended consequence of Operation Impact is the stop-question-and-frisk controversy," Bratton added. "And that ultimately was created by a political decision to cut the size of the police force to try and meet budgetary needs with the justification that crime was down so dramatically, do we need as many cops?”

Today, Bratton was less bothered by that political decision, and, without offering too many specifics, he pledged to help reduce the use of stop-and-frisk without adding more officers.

When Capital asked him about the current size of the department, Bratton said,"Police chiefs always would like more cops."