What Bill Bratton Learned in Boston, New York (The First Time), and LA

Friday, December 06, 2013

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton with Mayor Bill de Blasio (Spencer Platt/Getty)

Three reporters who covered Bill Bratton in three different cities compare notes: Frank Zimring, professor of Law at the University of California-Berkeley and author of The City that Became Safe, discusses Bratton's first stint as commissioner in New York. Then, Boston Globe columnist, Kevin Cullen, gives his take on Bratton in Boston. And KPCC reporter Frank Stoltze discusses Bratton's record leading the Los Angeles police department.

What Bill Bratton Learned in Each City

  • Boston: Play the PR Game The Boston Globe's Kevin Cullen says that Bratton learned early that "if you don’t have the media and the public on your side you aren’t going to succeed." He came up quickly in the BPD and was almost “too ambitious by half. It wasn’t surprising that he had to go to New York to succeed at the highest levels.”
  • Boston: Make Friends With Wonks Cullen says Bratton "had no problem rubbing elbows with academics." Police departments can shun think-tank-types but Bratton sought out Harvard professors and other academics using statistics to research crime prevention. Frank Zimring says this continued in New York, where many of the "broken windows" ideas came from outside the police force.
  • NYC: Consolidate Information Frank Zimring says that the famous CompStat program was about using statistics to set crime-reduction goals, but it was also a way of consolidating power. Under CompStat, central managers were able to keep a close eye on what was going on at the precinct level. Bratton brought this model to Los Angeles, says Frank Stoltze of KPCC.
  • LA: Police = Democracy In Los Angeles, Stoltze says Bratton was genuinely convinced that that the LAPD wasn't just a crime-prevention unit, but a “primary force for social change” that could actively repair race relations. The police are the face of government for many citizens, and as such can help strengthen democratic systems, Bratton believes.


Kevin Cullen, Frank Stoltze and Frank Zimring

Comments [9]

Mr. Zimring must've been having some trouble with his phone. It was a little painful to listen to him and Brian was gracious in assisting him. I sympathize with Mr. Zimring -- CA is 3 hours earlier.

But what was all that beeping? Was he recording it? Or was his chin bumping into the buttons on his cell phone?

To quote Ted Cruz: "We just don't know."


Dec. 06 2013 12:05 PM
Gette Levy from NYC

The fact that there is no data about Bill Bratton's (the soon to be Police Commissioner of NYC) history of addressing sexual assaults/crimes is pathetic! Let's cover a major issue here! Sexual assault and harassment plagues our city (and my life and the lives of the people I care for). When I tried to file a police report for my own sexual assault this past year I was dismissed by two separate precincts! I've known so many women who can not live their life without encountering it, fearing it, surviving it. Where are the stats for that? Where is the media attention for that? No where! PATHETIC!

Dec. 06 2013 11:49 AM
Paul Epstein from Manhattan

Jack Maple is the name Frank Zimring was reaching for. He was the guy with a GED, not a college degree (though the high school he didn't finish was Brooklyn Tech) who had a brilliant mind for police strategy and helped Bratton lead first crime reduction in the transit system and later at NYPD. Maple is credited as the mastermind of Compstat and its use to hold police commanders and precinct captains accountable to reduce crime throughout the city. About 2000 or 2001, he advised newly elected Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (now Maryland Governor) to use a Compstat approach for all major city services, leading to "Citistat" which was largely successful at improving Baltimore municipal services and outcomes.

Dec. 06 2013 10:53 AM
Nick from UWS

This Zimring has no listening at all. Completely mesmerized by the sound of his own voice.

Dec. 06 2013 10:46 AM
Alice L Knopf from NYC

I have heard next to nothing about how well Commissioner Kelly protected NY from terrorist attacks nor have I heard anything about what Commissioner Bratton's expertise is in this department.

Dec. 06 2013 10:40 AM
RJ from prospect hts

I'd also like to hear some interviews with *community* leaders who had to interact with Bratton in these various cities.

Dec. 06 2013 10:38 AM
rezel from nyc

is bringing back bratton a move to rehabilitate dinkins ?

Dec. 06 2013 10:38 AM
RJ from prospect hts

Some questions about Bratton:
1) what was he doing about white collar crime when he was chasing squeegee men? i.e., stores following black people around?
2) How will he change his beloved "compstat" into a system that doesn't lead to quotas, a la the Shoemaker case? The downgrading of types of crime to improve the stats?
3) how is he going to work on rehabilitating low-level, young criminals rather than shipping them upstate to keep NYC stats down?

Dec. 06 2013 10:33 AM
antonio from baySide

Do the guests have any insight of what the plan is today. We gotta keep our cured meat and custom fedora hat shoppes secure! Really, it's a different NYC than the one I grew up in...

Dec. 06 2013 10:30 AM

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