On the September 1 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, New York Police Department (NYPD) commissioner Bill Bratton corrected several mistaken claims previously forwarded by host Joe Scarborough -- namely, that the city's homeless population has suddenly increased and that police are being told to avoid engaging with the homeless. Bratton told Scarborough that the city has helped lower the number of homeless people sheltering in bus and train stations, and corrected his incorrect claim that police were “told to back off” the practice of detaining homeless New Yorkers and forcibly relocating them to shelters. Bratton said officers have simply been told to “police constitutionally” and pointed out that while police and other government agencies can offer services to the homeless, they cannot compel their compliance if they have not broken any law:
SCARBOROUGH: What we have heard, what other people around this set have heard, with contacts in the police department, is that the police have been told to back off on taking homeless people to shelters. Can you tell us if that's true, or not?
BRATTON: Not at all, in our transit system we have reduced the homeless population very significantly, in the subways, because of our outreach efforts working with many of the homeless outreach groups that focused on that issue. Just the opposite, what I want my officers to do is police constitutionally. I don't want them breaking the law.
BRATTON: We have, over the last several weeks, been basically breaking up the encampments where they-- literally the homeless will seek to set up an encampment. And, of the 50 that we most-recently broke up, we spoke to about a hundred (some odd) individuals within those encampments. Only 10 of them accepted services. This is a service-resistant population who provided reasons [they] prefer to be on the street.
SCARBOROUGH: What do you do if they resist?
BRATTON: If they resist, there is really nothing that you can do.... The laws, the tools that we have to work with them, are really not adequate for the issues we're facing.