It will be a "painful process" to heal the rifts between the police and the community as well as between police and Mayor Bill de Blasio, says New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, but he said he believes the city will get there.
"We will make it here, but it's going to be difficult. It's going to require a lot of hard work, a lot less rhetoric and a lot more dialogue," Bratton said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Bratton says he sees some similarities between the current protests going on in New York City and the ones he saw in his early years of policing when the anti-war movement and the civil rights movements were big.
He stressed "common ground" in dealing with the demonstrations so they don't turn into "police riots." He said it is important to allow breathing room so people can demonstrate and vent their frustrations, adding that police are "showing remarkable restraint in the face of great provocation."
Demonstrators have been on the streets for weeks following grand jury decisions around Thanksgiving not to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York.
But Bratton said the issue isn't just about policing.
"We are the tip of the iceberg," Bratton said. "This is about the continuing poverty rates, the continuing growing disparity between the wealthy and poor. It's still about unemployment issues. There's so many national issues that have to be addressed that it isn't just policing."
The widow of Eric Garner, who died during the arrest in Staten Island, told "Meet the Press" previously that she now tells her son in college to be careful to avoid confrontations with police.
Bratton said that is a valid fear.
"I interact quite frequently with African-Americans from all classes, from the rich to the poor. There's not a single one that has not expressed this concern that their perception is the reality that we have to deal with," Bratton told "Meet the Press."
But he said people not involved in policing also don't understand what the job is like, and he wants to get that dialogue going between community and police.
Appearing later on CBS' "Face the Nation," Bratton stressed the recognition of the "the anger and the hatred and the violence directed against police officers." More than 100 officers are killed in the line of duty nationwide, every year, he said.
Another rift, that between police and the mayor, will continue for some time yet, Bratton predicted. Police officers again turned their backs to de Blasio when he showed up Saturday for the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, who was killed in the line of duty by a man vowing revenge in social media for Garner's death.
Police union leaders say they feel thrown under the bus by de Blasio, whom they accuse of siding with the protesters. Bratton said union issues are also at play in those statements.
Healing, he said, will be "a painful process. ... But the process that has to be engaged in, my mayor, myself, we are committed to engaging in it."
Bratton admitted on "Face the Nation" that morale in his department is low, but said that de Blasio is totally supportive of the department. The mayor has put hundreds of millions of dollars outside the budget toward the NYPD, much of it devoted to officer training, Bratton said.
"By the end of 2015 we will be the most advanced police department in America, in terms of technology," he said.
Sandy Fitzgerald contributed to this report.
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