Bratton: NYPD Will Devote “Intensive Focus” to Traffic Violence

At a press conference this afternoon for the ceremonial swearing in of Bill Bratton as police commissioner, Mayor Bill de Blasio took the microphone to express his administration’s commitment to its Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities within ten years. Bratton followed up with more remarks about how the department will prioritize street safety, saying NYPD will have an “intensive focus on traffic issues.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton talk about their commitment to traffic safety. Photo: NYC Mayor's Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton discussed their commitment to traffic safety this afternoon. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

The difference between Ray Kelly’s message of complacency couldn’t have been more stark.

Today’s remarks come a day after incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg stopped on her way to de Blasio’s inauguration to speak with parents who lost children to traffic violence.

De Blasio said this afternoon that Trottenberg and Bratton will become “fast friends” as the administration pursues Vision Zero, its goal of eliminating traffic deaths within ten years.

Midway through the event this afternoon, de Blasio, unprompted by any reporter, jumped in to discuss traffic safety. Here are de Blasio’s comments, in full:

I just wanted to add one point. I really appreciate the fact that the commissioner is focused on some of the challenges we face when it comes to pedestrian fatalities and traffic fatalities. He’s a big believer in the vision in the direction that we’re going to take this city in, the Vision Zero concept. Gave a really fantastic speech just days before we made the final selection, I think it was at NYU, on that very topic.

And I had the honor of naming our new transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, a few days ago, and I can tell you that Commissioner Trottenberg and Commissioner Bratton are going to become fast friends as they focus on –

“She already lassoed me to the ground last night,” Bratton interjected, to a smile from de Blasio, who continued:

See? She’s a forceful leader. And so there’s going to be a real focus on taking on that challenge. It’s not crime, necessarily. Some end up being considered criminal incidents, but others are not. But it is a huge public safety problem and an area where we’re going to focus a lot of energy.

Bratton then took the podium:

Mr. Mayor, just looking at the reports this morning, that we’ve had at the beginning of the year two homicides and we’ve also had two traffic fatalities. Last year, I think the figures were pretty close. I haven’t seen the end-of-year figures of the number of people whose lives are lost in traffic-related incidents. A life lost is a life lost. A family grieves. So that intensive focus on traffic issues is going to be one of the areas the mayor’s asked us to prioritize.

At the November traffic safety forum de Blasio referenced, Bratton told the audience, “More can be done in this critical area. The time for this issue has come.”

Before the press conference, de Blasio and Bratton addressed NYPD brass during the commissioner’s swearing-in ceremony, outlining their policing philosophy and priorities. Traffic safety did not come up during these speeches. De Blasio instead focused on the continued reduction of other violent crime, terrorism, and reforming stop-and-frisk. Bratton emphasized his intent to improve neighborhood-level policing and repair the agency’s relationships with communities.

During the press conference, Bratton spoke about the department’s transparency with the public and the press, mentioning the real-time crime monitoring center developed by Kelly. ”This is a phenomenal operation, and something I will open up to all of you,” he told the press. ”I am a great believer in transparency, accessibility.”

TrafficStat meetings, where the department regularly coordinates its traffic enforcement priorities, have been closed to the public during Kelly’s tenure. Advocates have also called for better public data from NYPD about crashes, enforcement, and investigations, which the agency has either resisted or implemented piecemeal.

One early decision Bratton will have to make about traffic safety is the appointment of a new transportation division chief. James Tuller, who served as transportation chief under Kelly since 2009, left the NYPD in November to lead Puerto Rico’s police force.