Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton waded into the contentious U.S. presidential campaign Thursday, recording an automated telephone message on behalf of Democrat Barack Obama.
The message challenged Republican John McCain's "record on policing issues and extolled Obama's," Bratton said in an interview. It comes, he said, in response to a telephone message recently made by former Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani in support of McCain and critical of Obama's law enforcement bona fides.
A spokesperson for Obama declined to comment. According to Bratton, the campaign held off from making fast use of it, opting not to send it out to potential voters on Thursday. It was unclear when, or in which states, the campaign planned to use the recording.
Describing himself as "an independent," Bratton said he decided to assist Obama because "Democrats are much more supportive on policing issues. Republicans are just not good on local policing."
Bratton, one of the nation's leading law enforcement figures, is widely credited for his success in dramatically reducing crime rates in Los Angeles and New York, where he led the Police Department for two years in the mid-1990s. The tit for tat with Giuliani is steeped in ill-will between the two: Giuliani, mayor in New York when Bratton was police commissioner, clashed with Bratton over credit for the falling crime rate. Bratton eventually resigned his post.
The recording is the first time Bratton has lent his considerable reputation to Obama's campaign. The police chief was widely seen as a firm supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during her unsuccessful bid for her party's nomination. The recording is bound to refuel incessant rumors that Bratton is looking to land the top spot at the FBI or Homeland Security in a Democratic administration.
Bratton has staunchly dismissed the idea, saying he is committed to finishing his second term as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in 2012. He reiterated that Thursday, saying, "I wouldn't be able to get anything done in Washington. I can have more impact nationally on police issues from Los Angeles."
Bratton is the first LAPD chief in recent history with a national profile big enough to be used by a presidential candidate, and his decision to do so was a departure for the city's top cop. Past chiefs have maintained a neutral public stance on political matters. Bratton said he is not identified in the recording as Los Angeles' chief in order to steer clear of any ethics violations.