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Bratton On Kelly's Crime Stat Allegations: He's 'Engaging In Politics'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Police Commissioner Bill Bratton on Wednesday accused his predecessor, Ray Kelly, of "engaging in politics" by alleging the NYPD is manipulating statistics on shootings.

As CBS2's Tony Aiello reported, Kelly has taken issue with statistics showing record low levels of crime in the second year of Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration.

And while NYPD commissioners usually keep a low media profile on a day when a member of the service is buried, Bratton still appeared on a cable news program hours before the funeral of Detective Joseph Lemm – who was killed in an Afghanistan suicide attack.

The appearance seemed to indicate a determination to push back against Kelly.

"As you know, the first casualty of politics is usually the truth," Bratton said on MSNBC. "Mr. Kelly is selling a book. New York Post is reporting he's thinking of running for mayor. I stand by my crime statistics because they are factual."

Bratton repeated his claim that Kelly might be motivated by a push to sell his memoir.

"He is engaging in politics, and as you know, the first casualty of politics is usually the truth. Mr. Kelly is selling a book. The New York Post is reporting he's thinking of running for mayor," Bratton said. "I stand by my crime statistics because they are factual, they are the truth."

The NYPD family feud made the front page of both the New York Post and the New York Daily News Wednesday.

In both an interview recorded Monday for the AM 970 radio show "Reaching Out with Gregory Floyd" and a statement and an interview on Tuesday, Kelly claimed there was some redefinition within the NYPD regarding shootings.

Kelly, who led the NYPD for 12 years under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said he had been told about changes in the way shootings are calculated by current NYPD officers.

"Where you have graze wounds on people, they're not considered shooting victims," Kelly said in a Tuesday night interview. "If there's a shooting and glass strikes someone, that's not considered to be a victim – which is always the way it was in the past."

Kelly added in his written statement: "Further, wounds sustained by a victim who refuses to cooperate with a police investigation have been recorded as self-inflicted. All in an effort to reduce the reported number of shootings."

"He talks about he has a source within the Police Department. Well, man up. Provide the source," the current commissioner said.

Bratton said there is no reason for an investigation, but added that if there were an independent review of the statistics he would be "very comfortable with it."
Bratton pointed also to crime statistics briefings he began in 2014.

"Every month, I stand before the media in New York -- the toughest media in the world -- and we talk about our crime statistics -- every month," Bratton said. "In his 12 years, that never happened."

Bratton said there is no reason for an investigation, but added that if there were an independent review of the statistics he would be "very comfortable with it."

On Tuesday, Bratton said Kelly's remarks denigrate the work of officers who are helping to drive down gun violence in the city. Kelly, however, disputed that.

"Rather, it reveals an administration willing to distort the reality of what they face on the street," the statement said.

The NYPD said in a release that as of Dec. 28, the city has seen an increase in 15 homicides compared with last year, and gun-related homicides are up 22 percent – or by a total of 40.

But the department said the increase represents "the normal ebbs and flows of crime trends in what is a period of historically low numbers."

Bratton said he will announce next week that New York City had its safest crime year since the 1960s.

The department also categorically denied Kelly's claims about changes in how shooting statistics are tallied. The department said people who suffer graze wounds are still classified as shooting victims as they always have been.

The NYPD also said Kelly was correct that wounds from flying glass caused by gunfire are not recorded as shootings – but they never were.

"The injury must be from the bullet," the department release said. "That is the same policy that existed under Mr. Kelly."

The department took particular issue with Kelly's claim that shootings where the victim does not cooperate with police are classified as "self-inflicted."

"The reasons can range from fear of reprisal to concealing their own criminal activity. This is nothing new. Not cooperating with police does not equate to a determination that a wound is self-inflicted and it never has," the NYPD release said. "Only when additional evidence is developed in a shooting investigation such as witness statements, video, Shotspotter, physical evidence, would the shooting incident be deemed self-inflicted."

The department said there was one specific incident in the 71st Precinct in Brooklyn where a shooting victim was uncooperative. In that case, security camera video revealed that he happened to have shot himself accidentally, the department said.

"Up until that moment, the case was carried on the books as a shooting incident," the NYPD said.

The department said the methods for how shootings have not changed at any point since Kelly left his post. The only kinds of shootings that are not counted in crime statistics are:

• Police-involved shooting, if justified
• Self-inflicted gunshots
• Justified shootings, such as when a licensed gun owner shoots an armed robber
• Shootings that are pending justification
• Graze wounds with no blood.

But in the radio interview, Kelly said regardless of what statistics might say, New Yorkers tell him they feel the city is more dangerous.

"Perception is reality in many instances, so the city feels unsafe in many people's minds, and unsafe in many neighborhoods in people's minds," Kelly said.

Some New Yorkers defended Bratton.

"Anywhere you go, there's crime," Earl Johnon of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, told CBS2's Janelle Burrell. "I think he's (Kelly) just running his mouth. Should keep quiet. The guy's (Bratton) doing a good job."

"For such a big city, we do a really good job, and it's really safe," said Rose Mathis.

Others, however, say they have their suspicions.

"In my neighborhood, there's always violence everywhere," said Yolanda Ross, of the Bronx.

Bratton and Kelly have been rivals for years, but a subtext to this clash of the commissioners is speculation that Kelly may challenge Mayor de Blasio in 2017. There are reports that billionaire John Catsimatidis – who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican mayoral nomination in 2013 – is willing to help bankroll Kelly if he runs.

Kelly is noncommittal when asked about his future.

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