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Newsman Tapped for LAPD Post in Security

Chief Bratton asks his former N.Y. spokesman to help L.A. develop a counter-terrorism plan.

December 12, 2002|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Chief William J. Bratton has asked John Miller, co-host of the "20/20" newsmagazine on ABC, to join the Los Angeles Police Department as his special assistant, with responsibilities that would include homeland security.

Miller, 44, would advise Bratton on issues involving counter-terrorism as part of an expanded homeland security bureau being considered by the department, Bratton said in a telephone interview from Israel, where he delivered a speech and met with police officials.

"I am very interested in hiring John Miller to the position of special assistant to the chief," Bratton said.

Miller, who co-wrote a book on the government response to security challenges after Sept. 11 last year, said he is interested.

"It's a very exciting possibility and we are still talking," he said.

ABC executives had said that Miller was considering leaving to become a press aide to Bratton. Bratton said Wednesday that Miller would not handle press relations.

The exact duties of the position have not been established. Bratton has proposed three new positions of assistant to the chief, which have yet to be created by the City Council.

No decision has been made on whether Miller would serve in an advisory or supervisory position.

If the position is created and Miller accepts it, he would report directly to Bratton, said a source familiar with the negotiations.

Should he accept the job, Miller would take a substantial pay cut as he did in 1993, when he left ABC to work for Bratton, then head of the New York City Police Department. As Bratton's top press advisor for two years, Miller took a $500,000 cut in annual salary.

Los Angeles officials appear to endorse Bratton's efforts to bring change to his department.

Matt Middlebrook, deputy mayor for policy and communications, said Mayor James K. Hahn was strongly inclined to support personnel decisions by the chief that would help reduce crime .

"The mayor set very clear goals for Chief Bratton and that is that he wants to reduce crime and improve public safety in the city of Los Angeles," Middlebrook said. "If this [appointment] helps him achieve the goals that the mayor laid out, we're all for it."

Questions May Surface

David Dotson, a former assistant LAPD chief, said he sees nothing wrong with bringing in outsiders to manage aspects of the department. He added, however, that there may be valid questions should Miller be placed in charge of homeland security or anti-terrorism.

"There's nothing magic about having a sworn person in management at the department, and I welcome Bratton's courage to bring in an outside person," Dotson said. "But the question remains, is Miller qualified?"

Bratton said Miller has extensive qualifications, describing him as an intimate confidant and advisor of more than 10 years "who understands how I operate."

Miller, who interviewed Osama bin Laden and co-wrote a best-selling book on terrorism, has extensive knowledge of the subject as well as a wealth of sources, Bratton said.

Miller's job dealing with the press at the NYPD was "the least of his skills," according to Bratton, who said that Miller played a key advisory role in the department's overall reorganization and the formulation of overall crime strategies attacking guns, drugs and youth violence in the city.

Miller has conducted media training at the NYPD academy and the FBI's National Executive Institute.

Los Angeles' readiness to fight terror was questioned earlier this year in a 50-page report by Councilman Jack Weiss. The report called for the recruitment of a national counter-terrorism expert, in addition to a new city director of homeland security.

Expansion Urged

The report also called for doubling the LAPD's anti-terrorism division by adding 30 officers dedicated to full-time surveillance and to providing added analytical and intelligence capabilities.

Department officials said the homeland security bureau would get a much higher profile under the new chief, but that the details of the office, how much it would grow by and which units would report to it, were still being discussed.

"It's critical to consolidate and expand our counter-terrorism and intelligence capabilities," Weiss said. "Chief Bratton's responsiveness to this issue is a breath of fresh air in a city that still has a long way to go to be prepared."

Known for his stylish ways, Miller rose to prominence as a reporter at New York's NBC affiliate, interviewing the likes of organized crime chieftain John Gotti.

Miller is perhaps best known for his May 1998 interview with Bin Laden, which occurred two months before the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Miller is an Emmy winner who has spent five years at ABC.

He and two other veteran reporters have a best-selling book on terrorism: "The Cell Inside the 9/11 Plot and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It."

The book recounts Miller's face-to-face meeting with Bin Laden and examines how the intelligence community was not able to stop 9/11.


Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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