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Chief Moonlighting as an Author

LAPD's Bratton, who has won praise for reducing crime, is writing books on management techniques and counterterrorism.

October 27, 2005|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

How good a job does Police Chief William J. Bratton think he's doing policing the streets of Los Angeles?

Good enough that the chief is at work on two books: one on management techniques, the other on counterterrorism.

Bratton has yet to provide specifics about the books, including their titles or when they would go to press. But he is not new to the world of publishing.

In 1998, he wrote about his experience reducing crime as head of the New York and Boston police departments in "The Turnaround: How America's Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic." That book, co-written with Peter Knobler, received critical praise and became a bestseller.

Bratton's night job as a writer caught some city officials by surprise Wednesday, though even critics said they couldn't wait to read the books.

"He has an uncanny way of putting his finger on the zeitgeist of law enforcement," said Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss, chairman of the council's public safety committee, who has sometimes clashed with the chief. "The progress he has made in L.A. is not the result of new resources but a new management philosophy."

Though Bratton isn't talking about details of the books, it's not hard to speculate about the story line. The chief has won much praise for reducing crime in Los Angeles since he took over the department three years ago. Both violent and property crimes have seen double-digit drops, though gang violence in some parts of city remains a major problem.

Bratton is quick to point out that the Los Angeles Police Department has achieved this success without increased funding. There are fewer officers today than when he started, and the chief has famously battled with City Hall over hiring additional police officers.

But it remains a question about how his books will take into account his own blunt style.

When the City Council in 2003 declined to allocate the money Bratton wanted for more officers, the chief warned that council members might be clearing the way for Osama bin Laden. Though Bratton later admitted that he overplayed his hand, the clashes left bruised feelings.

Bratton has received national attention for his work. A 2003 Harvard Business Review article praised his ability to quickly turn around an organization with few new resources.

And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been in Los Angeles this week to view the LAPD's computerized tracking system for crime trends. Some believe the system can be used for the fight on terrorism.

Those close to the chief said he was careful to work on his books during his off hours and has consulted with legal counsel to ensure that he does not run afoul of any policies.

Bratton isn't the only LAPD chief to take pen to paper.

Willie L. Williams, chief in the mid-1990s, wrote a book about community policing called "Taking Back Our Streets: Fighting Crime in America."

Williams' predecessor, Daryl F. Gates, penned the memoir "Chief; My Life in the L.A.P.D." in 1993. It was popular when it hit stores.

But Bratton should be aware: LAPD literary celebrity is fleeting. "Chief" now ranks 585,380 on the sales list. The book gets a customer ratio of five stars but can be purchased used for less than a buck.

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