William Bratton, whose leadership of the New York Police Department made him one of the nation's best-known police commanders, has stepped down from the team monitoring the LAPD because he is considering entering the race to become Los Angeles' next chief.
In an interview, Bratton said he would make up his mind this week about whether to apply for the Los Angeles Police Department's top job, but he already has sounded out some city leaders.
Mayor James K. Hahn is interested in his candidacy, according to City Hall sources, and some City Council members are expressing enthusiasm for Bratton even before he has applied.
Bratton, who described the LAPD as a department "in crisis," said he wanted to consult his family before deciding whether to seek the job.
At 54, Bratton is married and has one son. They live in New York, but he has traveled frequently to Los Angeles in recent months in connection with his role as part of the LAPD monitoring team.
If he got the job, Bratton would become the first person ever to head the police departments of the nation's two largest cities.
His tenure as NYPD commissioner was marked by historic declines in homicides and other serious felonies, as well as by complaints from civil libertarians about the NYPD's stepped-up emphasis on low-level crimes and by political tensions with then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Bratton said he was considering the LAPD job because he was intrigued by the challenge of overhauling the department, which has confronted allegations of brutality and corruption in recent years and is under a federal court order that governs many aspects of its management and operation.
City officials estimate that the Rampart scandal alone--with its charges of evidence planting, perjury, improper shootings and drug dealing, among other things--eventually will cost taxpayers $125 million in legal judgments and settlements.
"I think anyone would argue that the LAPD is the most urgent, most challenging and, most importantly, doable turnaround policing opportunity in America today," Bratton said.
"I look for organizations in crisis and in need of cultural change. I'm a professional turnaround man. That's what I do."
The prospect of a Bratton candidacy already has irritated some members of the LAPD's top brass, who complain that the brash New Yorker is using his access on the monitoring team to solicit support for his possible bid. Those concerns helped prompt Bratton's withdrawal from the team.
Some supporters say Bratton's strong personality is just what the LAPD needs, and some believe his reputation for cracking down on low-level crimes would appeal to conservatives, including those who are flirting with the idea of San Fernando Valley secession.
"His reputation precedes him," said Councilman Eric Garcetti. "He's an A-list candidate. Much of what he did in New York was pioneer work in policing. A world-class city like Los Angeles would definitely welcome his candidacy."
As New York City police commissioner from 1994 to 1996, Bratton gained recognition as New York's crime rate plummeted.
During his two years as head of the NYPD, the number of serious felonies in New York fell by 33% and the murder rate was cut in half. Although scholars continue to debate the reasons for that drop, many credit the NYPD and Bratton with a significant role.
Bratton resigned as New York City police commissioner in April 1996 to take a job as head of the New York City division of Boston-based First Security Services Corp.
Crime levels in New York had dropped to their lowest level in 30 years at the time, and there was speculation that Giuliani had forced Bratton out because Bratton was getting credit for the drop. Bratton insisted that he had left voluntarily.
Bratton--who also served as head of Boston's police department and as the head of New York's transit police before that agency merged with the NYPD--helped develop a computerized database of crime statistics to help officers target hot spots more quickly.
That system, known as COMPSTAT, was at the center of the NYPD's approach to attacking crime under Bratton. It also captured the attention of Los Angeles officials, who copied it and now use something like it at the LAPD.
Along the way, Bratton became a nationally recognized policing leader, and his celebrity helped put him at odds with Giuliani.
After Bratton left New York, the former commissioner went to work as a consultant, advising police departments on how to fight crime.
As a member of Kroll Associates, Bratton has traveled around the world meeting with police chiefs and government leaders.
Most recently, he was in Lima, Peru, where last year alone there were more than 12,000 robberies and 800 murders in the central city area.
Between his foreign jobs, Bratton has worked with the team monitoring the LAPD's progress in making dozens of reforms outlined in a federal consent decree.