William J. Bratton will not remain the commissioner of the New York Police Department past next year, he said in an interview with The New York Times, providing his most definitive comments to date on his future at the helm of the nation’s largest police force.
His comments threw a wild card into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2017 re-election campaign at a time when other Democrats are considering a run against him. Mr. Bratton was the mayor’s most consequential appointment at the start of his administration and has been among his most powerful and consistent defenders.
Mr. Bratton, among the nation’s best-known police figures, also left open the possibility that he could leave even sooner.
“I have the luxury of going when I want to go,” Mr. Bratton said in the interview on Thursday in the conference room beside his 14th-floor office at Police Headquarters. “I’m not going to be here in the second term. That’s the reality of it.”
The statements went further than Mr. Bratton had a year ago when he told an interviewer from City and State that he would not last through Mr. de Blasio’s second term, if the mayor was re-elected.
Asked to clarify his comments on Thursday, Mr. Bratton leaned forward on the table and repeated them. “I just said what I meant,” he said. “Life is full of challenges and I’m still young enough to basically have additional challenges. And when I think I’ve got things where I want them to be, then that’s basically the time to move on.”
Mr. Bratton, 68, said he had already created a “line of succession” at the Police Department and “a strong team, so that the city is not dependent on just one person.” While not naming his possible successor, he spoke about the leadership of James P. O’Neill, the chief of department and its highest uniformed member.
When Mr. Bratton leaves, Mr. de Blasio will be confronted with a difficult political choice: elevate a New York police leader he is familiar with, and who appears to have been groomed by Mr. Bratton, or look outside of the department. He is likely to face pressure to name a black or Hispanic commissioner, after having passed over two such candidates in favor of Mr. Bratton. (Mr. O’Neill is white.)
The news appeared to catch City Hall off guard.
“As long as I’m mayor, I welcome him to continue being police commissioner,” said Mr. de Blasio, with Mr. Bratton to his right and Chief O’Neill at his left, at a previously scheduled news conference on Monday to tout new safety equipment for police officers. “That’s all we have to say about it.”
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SOURCE: NY Times, J. David Goodman and Al Baker