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NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton: ‘We Are Not a Racist Organization’

New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, left, speaks as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, watches during a news conference.

By Tom HaysNEW YORK — The city’s top law enforcement official went on a media blitz to deny that the chokehold death of a black suspect shows that police are singling out minorities in a crackdown on minor offenses and to insist that Mayor Bill de Blasio is “very pro-cop.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he wanted to counter “some of the misimpressions and some of the momentum that’s been gained by self-serving interests” since the videotaped death last month of Eric Garner. Bratton also spoke to CNN, CBS and local television affiliates.

The mayor said tensions that arose after Garner’s July 17 death must be part of the city’s past as it moves toward unity.

“This has to be a turning point moment,” de Blasio said. “We can’t let any moment that leaves us so sad and pained be an end point. It has to be an opening of a door to something better.”

That, de Blasio said, includes a plan already underway to retrain the New York Police Department on how best to work more closely with the community.

The amateur video showing officers struggling to arrest Garner on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island and a subsequent medical examiner finding that a chokehold, barred under police policy, contributed to his death have raised questions about the NYPD’s “broken windows” strategy — the idea that fighting smaller crimes like drinking in public discourages more dangerous behavior.

Bratton responded that there are more misdemeanor arrests in minority neighborhoods because more officers are assigned there in response to higher crime rates.

“Are there more minorities impacted by enforcement? Yes. I’m not denying that,” he said. “But it’s not an intentional focus on minorities. It’s a focus on behavior.”
He added: “We are not a racist organization — not at all.”

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