Policy Breakfast with former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton

May 7, 2024

On Tuesday, May 7th, the French-American Foundation—United States was honored to host esteemed guest speaker William J. Bratton, former Police Commissioner of New York City and Los Angeles, for a Policy Breakfast at the New York City offices of Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

The morning commenced with opening remarks from Foundation President Caroline Naralasetty, followed by Chairman Edward C. Wallace who introduced Commissioner Bratton as “a hero of multiple generations.” Wallace praised Bratton’s pivotal role in enhancing the safety of New York City and Los Angeles during his tenures.

Commissioner Bratton opened his talk with a poignant quote from Mark Twain: “History does not repeat itself, but it [often] rhymes.” He used this to draw parallels between the challenges faced by New York City in the 1970s, the 1990s, and today. He reflected on his early career aspirations and experiences in a police force that he described as being in desperate need of reform and professionalization. When Bratton became Police Commissioner of New York City in the 1990s, during which crime in New York City was at an all-time high, he addressed overlooked issues such as graffiti and public disorderliness, which are often referred to as “victimless crimes” despite their profound impact on communities. In the mid-1990s, Bratton was able to reduce felony, murder, and theft rates while increasing public trust in the city’s police force. Bratton attributes his success rate to his mentality of going after crime with the belief that it could be prevented. Bratton discussed his adoption of the “broken windows” policing strategy, which focuses on addressing small crimes to prevent larger ones, and how this approach transformed New York City during his time as Commissioner.

He emphasized the recurring challenges faced by the NYPD, including deinstitutionalization, decriminalization, and depolicing, drawing historical parallels to his early days in law enforcement. Despite the daunting nature of these issues, Bratton expressed optimism about New York City’s capacity to overcome its current public safety challenges, referencing the city’s crime statistics to highlight past successes and the potential for future improvements.

The session concluded with a vibrant Q&A, where attendees engaged Commissioner Bratton on a variety of topics, including the breakdown in police morale, the intricate social factors contributing to crime, the impact of technology on policing, and the differences between policing in the U.S. and France.

We would like to thank Commissioner Bratton for sharing his invaluable insights and experiences. Special thanks also go to Edward C. Wallace and the team at Greenberg Traurig for their hospitality in hosting this enlightening Policy Breakfast.