Police Commissioner Bill Bratton walked back some words on Wednesday morning after he was asked about a recent sit-down between him and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Speaking at a Crain’s New York Business breakfast event, Bratton took a question about the August roundtable in City Hall when he sat on one side of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sharpton.
"We live in very interesting times," Bratton responded with a grin and to applause from the audience largely made up by the business community.
"The reality is over time he he has emerged as a very significant leader and voice for people who feel that they don't have a voice and they've been disenfranchised," he said before running down highlights of the city's safety record.
"I'll shake hands with the devil if necessary to keep this city calm, safe and secure," Bratton said to murmurs. "I will meet with whoever is necessary to hear their perspective, their viewpoints."
Both men were a part of the roundtable to discuss police and community relations in the aftermath of the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner while in NYPD custody. The 43-year-old was seen being put in what appears to be a chokehold moments before dying from what the medical examiner's office ruled to be homicide.
After the forum, Bratton tried to clarify his statement.
"I've met with Mr. Sharpton frequently over the last 20 years, and we continue to meet," he said, "so that reference of meeting with the devil was not an implication of that term being applied to him."
In response, Sharpton told reporters that Bratton had called after the event to warn him about the comments and that he was not referring to the civil rights leader as a devil.
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