Bratton: Police Made Worst Moments of Black History Possible

Ross Barkan, New York Observer, February 24, 2015

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, addressing a predominately African-American audience at a Black History Month breakfast this morning, said some of the worst moments in black history would not have happened without the regrettable actions of police officers.

“Many of the worst parts of black history would have been impossible without police, too,” Mr. Bratton said at the Greater Allen AME Church in Southeast Queens. “Slavery, our country’s original sin, sat on a foundation codified by laws enforced by police, by slave-catchers. ”

Mr. Bratton explained that Peter Stuyvesant, one of the original Dutch colonists of Manhattan, created a police force and encouraged a system of slavery. “Since then, the stories of police and black citizens have been intertwined again and again,” he said.

The police commissioner, who has been trying to mend a rift between City Hall and rank-and-file officers after anti-police brutality protests roiled the city last year, pointed to the police shooting of a Manhattan black teen in the 1960s as another example of law enforcement’s occasionally corrosive role in American race relations.

“An NYPD lieutenant shot and killed a 15-year-old African-American boy in Yorkville. The killing ignited six nights of riots in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant and half a decade of urban unrest in cities across the country,” Mr. Bratton said.

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