Former NYPD commissioner slams 'indiscriminate rhetorical attacks' on police, rising crime

Bratton warned of the 'withering effect on morale' attacking the police can create

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Bill Bratton, former commissioner of the New York Police Department and former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, penned an opinion article railing against the "defund the police" movement and calling on cities to crack down on surging violent crime.

"No one wants authoritarian law-enforcement agencies that violate civil rights or oppress minority communities," Bratton wrote for The Atlantic on Wednesday. "Neither does anyone want high rates of crime, especially violent crime."

Bratton explained that citizens should "hammer police" when it comes to "abuse of force" and "misconduct" but warned that "indiscriminate rhetorical attacks on police as violence and racist has a "withering effect on morale."

"When the chorus of criticism grows too intense, you will see officers falling into lassitude, neglecting the mission, walking away from the profession," Bratton wrote. "This is a path to neither successful law enforcement nor good relations between police and neighborhoods."

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New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton speaks at a press conference 

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton speaks at a press conference  (Getty Images)

Bratton outlined his belief that police reform starts with earning the trust of two different groups, the local community and the police force. Bratton wrote that he was able to do both during his time in law enforcement. 

Bratton said he told his NYPD officers in 2014 to focus on the quality of arrests rather than the quantity while also refraining from fostering a "sense of officers as an occupying army." Bratton explained that at the same time, he was aware of how low police morale and cynicism can be "dangerous" if it's entrenched in the department. 

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Violent crime is surging nationwide in major cities, including in New York City and Los Angeles, where Bratton led police departments.

Bill Bratton served as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, chief of the New York City Transit Police, and commissioner of the Boston Police Department and the New York City Police Department (in both 1994 and 2014). 

Bill Bratton served as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, chief of the New York City Transit Police, and commissioner of the Boston Police Department and the New York City Police Department (in both 1994 and 2014).  (James Higgins/Penguin Random House)

Bratton acknowledged in his article that violent crime is "on the rise" and argued that the answer to solving it "lies in the sort of policing that has served New York, and other cities, well in the past but that we lost sight of amid the turmoil of the past few years."

That policing, Bratton says, involves targeting criminal behavior in problem locations and identifying career offenders.

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Bratton took aim at progressive district attorneys in cities like Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco where violent criminals are routinely released back onto the streets in a move billed as "criminal justice reform" to remedy mass incarceration. 

Bratton says those policies are "noble in spirit perhaps" but create an environment where the deterrent effect of arrests is diminished because "offenders know they will face no immediate consequences if apprehended."

Both Democratic lawmakers and members of the media have pushed the movement to defund police. 

Both Democratic lawmakers and members of the media have pushed the movement to defund police.  ((Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images))

"This is not a blow against mass incarceration; it’s a blow against controlling felony crime," Bratton wrote.

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"We can reverse the current crime trends, because we know what’s worked before—but we won’t succeed by defunding the police," Bratton concluded.