It’s tough to hire blacks ‘because so many have spent time in jail’: NYPD commissioner sparks outrage

Hiring more black cops in New York City is hard to do because many have a criminal background.

That’s the message NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton sent in an interview published Tuesday by the British newspaper The Guardian.

“We have a significant population gap among African-American males because so many of them have spent time in jail and, as such, we can’t hire them,” Bratton said.

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The article had Bratton fuming and demanding an apology.

“The original interview was done by one reporter and then they had a second reporter who took the first reporter’s story and totally misrepresented it in the second article,” he told reporters.

But he doubled down on the original quote according to the New York Daily News.

“That’s well known. It’s an unfortunate fact that in the male black population, a very significant percentage of them, more so than whites or other minority candidates, because of convictions, prison records, are never going to be hired by a police department. That’s a reality. That’s not a byproduct of stop-and-frisk,” Bratton said.

He added that within black communities, some “15 to 20% of black males have some type of criminal history and that’s an issue of great concern in the black community.”

The Guardian did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio said he “is committed to a diverse police force, and he and the police commissioner are committed to recruiting officers that reflect New York City’s diversity.”

Even with the NYPD’s calls for a retraction, outrage started rolling in from black leaders and elected officials.

“There are plenty of African-Americans who haven’t been to jail. It does seem a little insensitive to say that you can’t recruit because most of us are in jail. Where does he get that?” said Rochelle Bilal, vice chairwoman of the National Black Police Association.

Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the law firm that successfully challenged the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk in federal court, said Bratton’s words defied logic.

“It’s definitely within the purview of the NYPD to fix this problem … Bratton has to deal with it and not throw up his hands and say, ‘We’re giving it the old college try.’ The NYPD needs as much aggressiveness in trying to find good qualified black candidates as it puts into trying to exclude them through stop-and-frisk and broken-windows policing,” said Warren.

The city’s public advocate, Letitia James, saw an opportunity to review policing policies.

“This is a teachable moment that affirms that broken windows policing destroys lives and opportunities,” James said in a statement. “We need to enact policies that promote diversity for our police force and city as a whole.”

Bratton hit back at his critics, saying he was just stating a well-known reality.

“These are facts and I always deal with facts,” he said.

The NYPD discarded candidates who had felony convictions, he said. But many of the summonses that result from stop-and-frisk incidents aren’t considered during the hiring process — the main point that was misconstrued by the Guardian, Bratton said.

“The issue of trying to hire blacks is a national issue. Every police department in America is having a hard time hiring blacks,” he said.

As angry as black leaders might be at the commissioner’s comments, facts are stubborn things. They cannot be changed just to appease someone’s sensibilities.

While activists have blamed the city’s controversial “stop and frisk” and “broken windows” policies for catching people committing crimes and thus giving them records, none have made the simple suggestion of just not committing crimes.

That would be too easy.


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