New Yorkers can count themselves lucky that one of the few pieces of advice Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t take from his closest advisor—as he calls his wife, Chirlane McCray, whom he met as a fellow staffer in the failed administration of Mayor David Dinkins—was her insistence that he not appoint William J. Bratton police commissioner. She evidently guessed that the consummately skillful Bratton would find a way to fulfill the mayor’s chief campaign promise—to cut radically the number of police stop-and-frisks of those who look like they might have evil-doing in mind—while nevertheless keeping enough pressure on likely malefactors to keep pushing down the city’s violent crime rate.
Feeling that she “didn’t belong” as the only black girl in a New England high school and later at Wellesley, McCray exudes racial grievance. She evidently believes, like Michelle Obama, that despite over a half-century’s dramatic effort to stigmatize and eradicate racism, America is still reflexively racist at heart. What else, in her view, can explain the disproportionate numbers of black Americans in prison or stopped and questioned by cops? And the six-foot-five white mayor clearly shares her grievance, telling the press how he has cautioned his mixed-race children about interacting with policemen—with the clear implication that cops are racists looking for any possible excuse to harass black people.
Left out of this worldview is the fact that blacks commit crimes disproportionately: nationally, blacks—only 12 percent of the population—commit murder at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. In New York, African-Americans, 23 percent of the population, commit 75 percent of the city’s shootings, 70 percent of its robberies, and two thirds of all its violent crimes put together. But the rate at which black New Yorkers got stopped and frisked in the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, de Blasio’s predecessor, was lower than the rate at which victims and witnesses identified perpetrators as black. The disproportion in stops, in other words, runs in favor of blacks, not against them.
Also left out of de Blasio-style racial grievance is that the overwhelming majority of victims of these crimes are black. And here is a debt that black New Yorkers especially owe to Bratton. During his first tour of duty as NYPD commissioner, he instituted a computerized crime-mapping system, in order to put cops where crime tended to happen, at the times it occurred. Bratton’s computer was color-blind: a crime was a crime, regardless of the race of the victim or perpetrator. So, by contrast with the old, lackadaisical, truly racist ethic of policing—namely, as long as crime stays in the ghetto, ignore it—Bratton’s policing revolution treated blacks as full citizens, deserving of the fundamental protection that is society’s first duty. That revolution not only saved thousands and thousands of black lives, which now really did matter to the NYPD, but it also allowed civil society to come back to life in the inner city. Kids could play in the street, neighbors could socialize on the sidewalk, and people didn’t have to put their kids to bed in the bathtub to shield them from the danger of stray bullets.