The city’s top cop says he would shake hands with Satan himself if it would help keep New York safe.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton made the fiery comment on Wednesday, as he tried to deflect criticism directed at him and Mayor de Blasio for having the Rev. Al Sharpton participate in a roundtable discussion at City Hall last month in the wake of Eric Garner’s chokehold death.
“I’ll shake hands with the devil if necessary to keep this city calm, safe, and secure,” Bratton said at a Crain’s New York Business breakfast in Manhattan. “I will meet with whoever is necessary to hear their perspective, their viewpoints.”
It didn’t take long for Bratton to dial it back, explaining to reporters that he wasn’t comparing Sharpton to the devil.
“I’ve met with Mr. Sharpton frequently over the last 20 years and I’ll continue to meet with him,” Bratton said. “So that reference of meeting with the devil was not an implication of that term being applied to him.”
Sharpton appeared to take the comment in stride.
“All I’m interested in is policy, and I’ll wear horns to the next meeting if it will straighten out the policy,” Sharpton told the Daily News.
Bratton called Sharpton shortly after the breakfast.
“We’re all adults, and I’m ready to move on,” said Sharpton, who sat next to de Blasio and two seats from Bratton at the City Hall roundtable on police tactics last month.
Sharpton said his primary concern was the July 17 death of Garner, who was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island when he died in the clutches of a police chokehold. The medical examiner’s office said the cause of death was the chokehold and ruled it a homicide. No one has been charged.
Since the death of 43-year-old Garner, critics have called on the NYPD to abandon “broken windows” policing — cracking down on minor offenses to prevent more serious crime.
Also on Wednesday, Bratton took heat from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for comments he made at the breakfast about the need to increase the number of cops on the force. He and de Blasio rejected a City Council proposal in April to hire 1,000 officers.
The police commissioner now supports hiring additional cops, but suggested the Council proposal wasn’t well thought out.
“You don’t just pick numbers out of a hat, you don’t just spend money without understanding the implications of where that money is coming from and how it’s going to be applied,” he said.
Mark-Viverito shot back that the Council did its own thorough review before arriving at the number.