Bill Bratton is believed to be the frontrunner for New York City police commissioner under Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images
As rumors swirl that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will make his pick for New York City's top cop Wednesday morning, former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton's name is front and center.
Al O'Leary, spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the police officers union, worked under Bratton when he ran the New York City Transit Police Department.
O'Leary described Bratton as a "very innovative thinker."
"He's got a laser focus on accomplishing things and he'll implement an idea and then evaluate it constantly, and the minute it doesn't appear to be doing the job he'll look for another idea," O'Leary said. "He doesn't get married to one specific tactic or strategy or thought."
O'Leary recalled his days under Bratton as some of the best in his law enforcement career.
"My days with Bill at the transit police, I don't think I've ever worked harder or felt better at any other job I've had," he said. "You really had to put out the effort, but you always felt he appreciated what you did and gave you the freedom to do your job. As long as you were accomplishing the goals, he treated you well and took care of you."
"He's an incredibly effective manager, a very nice man and very approachable, easy to work with," O'Leary added.
Sgt. Ed Mullins, the head of the sergeants union assigned to the 67th precinct, has been on the force for 32 years. He said Bratton revolutionized the department.
"Everything changed under Bratton, and for the better," Mullins recalled.
Bratton, he said, would regularly "engage uniformed cops on the street," asking for ideas and input.
"He inspired people to work, that was the difference," Mullins recalled. "Bratton managed from the bottom-up, he didn't manage from the top-down. So what occurred in the field had value to him.
"The anticipation of him coming to the NYPD has actually boosted morale," Mullins added.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who at one point had a somewhat contentious relationship with Bratton, had nothing but nice things to say about the man at the 13th annual Thanksgiving Parade Breakfast, hosted by the National Law Enforcement and Firefighters Children’s Foundation just last week.
"He's an exceptional law enforcement leader, so I can see why he'd be considered," Giuliani said.
Pointing to media frustration with the amount of time de Blasio has taken in coming to his decision, Giuliani recalled the difficulty of making a pick for police commissioner.
"The mayor has a lot of things he has to consider, having gone through this choice," the former mayor said. "On the outside, it always looks easy. On the inside, it's very tough.
"But if you're asking me would Bill Bratton make an excellent police commissioner — absolutely," he added. "He already was an excellent police commissioner. And since the time he left here, he's grown more; he's become even more of a law enforcement professional."
But Giuliani spoke highly of current Chief of Department Philip Banks III as well, framing Banks as the fresher choice.
"He's a terrific candidate," he said. "So you have a choice between someone that's somewhat newer and has a whole group of new ideas like Chief Banks, who's an excellent choice, or someone like Bill Bratton who's been through New York, Los Angeles, Boston."
"It depends on what you want," he added. "It depends on whether you want to try someone new, someone with a lot of different ideas and theories."
De Blasio has positioned himself as almost the polar opposite of Giuliani, who backed his opponent, Joe Lhota, in the mayoral race. Some of the NYPD's most high-profile instances of police brutality occurred under Giuliani's administration, including the brutal torture of Abner Louima in a Brooklyn police station in 1997.