New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said earlier this week that, despite what one is hearing from GOP presidential candidates, a more prevalent terroristic threat to the Americans does not come from radicalized Muslims. No, he insisted, the bigger threat comes from “our own citizens.”
CNN’s Don Lemon interviewed NYPD Commissioner William Bratton Monday evening (March 28) in a segment on “CNN Tonight,” getting his take on the current hostile political rhetoric directed toward not only Muslims in general but also on American Muslims. After Lemon showed a clip of 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump saying that America wasn’t safe for Americans with regard to the immigrant influx, a reference to Muslim immigrants, Bratton was quick to point out that Americans were more likely to be threatened by a fellow American than a Muslim, radicalized or otherwise.
“America is a very safe place,” Bratton insisted, “particularly compared to the rest of the world. But we have our incidents, as we know. We’ve had more our share of mass killings — some committed by inspired terrorists — with the vast majority committed by American citizens living here who have access to firearms. Newtown [Connecticut school shootings] was an example of that. All of those young children killed by an American citizen is an example. So, a bigger threat at the moment is from our own citizens than from those abroad. That may change over time as the world gets less stable.”
According to research done by the New America Foundation released last June, despite radical Islamic players being indicted more frequently and receiving longer sentences, white right-wing terrorists were responsible for nearly twice the number of deaths of American citizens since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Time.com noted that the study found that, since 9/11, radical white extremists had accounted for 48 deaths in the US, while radical Islamists had killed 26 citizens.
But every time a terrorist attack involves Muslims, such as the San Bernardino shootings, the Paris attacks, and the more recent attacks in Brussels, Republican presidential candidates have called for oppressive measures against Muslims. Shortly following the San Bernardino incident in December, Donald Trump made the statement calling for the complete shutdown of America’s borders to all Muslims trying to enter the US. More recently, following the Brussels terrorist attacks, presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, called for policing of Muslim communities in the US before they become radicalized. Trump walked back his complete shutdown package but still wanted more stringent controls.
Bratton made national headlines when he publicly condemned Cruz’s remarks, noting that the New York Police Department employed over 900 Muslim police officers. Monday night, he pointed out that the NYPD had at one time actually patrolled Muslim neighborhoods and secretly spied on mosques, a program that the department was forced to abandoned after a lawsuit exposed the program. It was revealed that the program had produced not one actionable lead from the surveillance during its existence.
Bratton explained that bests results came from developing a good relationship with the Muslim community. He pointed out that about 800,000 Muslim live in New York City, which breaks down to about one out of every ten people. He said that many had come to the US to escape despotic political regimes, adding, “If that community is fearful of us, if they feel that we’re harassing them, then that community is not going to work with us.”
Commissioner Bratton told Lemon that the hyperbole and rhetoric targeting Muslims only made his job that much more difficult. “And talking about all of this churning of anti-Muslim sentiment,” he said, “not focusing on the radical Islamic among that billion plus population, but in general, it’s just highlighting that Muslims are somebody to be feared.”
He said that America was a country of assimilation, that creating fear is not what the nation is all about. But generating fear is what is being done.
What does he worry about? NYPD Commissioner Bratton said what he “[worried] about from [his] profession’s standpoint is getting caught in the middle with the anger that’s being turned up and the idea of turning one group against the other…”