Speaking to a predominately Black crowd on Tuesday, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton blamed police officers for “many of the worst parts of Black history,” reports DNA Info.
The remarks came during a Black History Month breakfast in Queens, New York. Bratton, who has helped reduce the frequency of “stop and frisk” violations by police and has generally supported Black Lives Matter protestors in recent months, said that the disproportionate targeting of Black people by police officers is undeniable and has been plaguing our society since the days of slavery.
“Slavery, our country’s original sin, sat on a foundation codified by laws and enforced by police, by slave catchers,” Bratton said.
He specifically pointed to Dutch settler Peter Stuyvesant, who came to New Amsterdam in 1664 and promptly formed a police department to help ensure the longevity of slavery.
“Since then, the stories of police and Black citizens have intertwined again and again,” he said. “The unequal nature of that relationship cannot and must not be denied.”
Despite his open frustrations with the relationship between police and their communities, he lauded the NYPD for its declining use of force against citizens.
His speech prompted some backlash from people who feel that he isn’t using his position to achieve as much change as he could.
“Unless he takes action to end the abusive ‘broken windows’ and other unequal policing that only targets certain communities with aggression and enforcement, and holds officers accountable when they brutalize and unjustly kill in communities of color, he, too, will be judged poorly by history,” Priscilla Gonzalez of Communities United for Police said to The Huffington Post.
Bratton has acknowledged that his work is nowhere close to finished, but during his speech, he issued a call for community support.
“We cannot change the past, but working together, we can change the future,” he said.