CNN's Don Lemon had some pointed questions for Bill Bratton Wednesday night, asking the NYPD commissioner if he believes African-American men are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.
"Do you think that people of color, especially men of color, black men, are targeted by police?" Lemon said.
Bratton rejected the accusation, suggesting that neighborhoods occupied by black and Hispanic people have higher crime rates and therefore need a greater police presence.
"Police go where the calls are," Bratton said. "The vast majority of those calls are in neighborhoods, where, unfortunately, we have higher rates of crime than in other neighborhoods. That's a reality. And that's a reality in most of America. Another reality is that those neighborhoods are often minority neighborhoods, black neighborhoods, hispanic neighborhoods."
"So the chance of police encountering individuals is more significant because we have more police in those areas," he continued. "You'd expect more police where there is more crime, where there is more disorder, where there is more need."
If the police are only responding where and when they're needed, why then is there such great mistrust between the public and law enforcement today, Lemon wondered.
"Where does the mistrust come from?" he asked. "Surely not all of it is just perception."
Bratton said the friction between the police and African Americans is "based on the history of our country," dating back to slavery and segregation. He explained that there is a "shared responsibility" between the police and the public to mend the rift.
Police reform has been a topic of heated debate in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, an unarmed black man choked to death by a white officer in Staten Island.
After a grand jury declined to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Garner in December, thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of New York City in protest.