Bill Bratton - the police chief they wanted for the Met
The ex-New York police commissioner's approach to law enforcement makes him the most sought-after officer on the planet
by Matthew d'Ancona
If the study of cities is a science, then Bill Bratton ought to be its Nobel laureate. As it is, the former chief of police of the Los Angeles Police Department, and police commissioner in New York and Boston, has a resumé unrivalled by any cop on the planet – perhaps in history.
When Bratton refers with reverence to Sir Robert Peel's Nine Principles of Policing – which he does, frequently – one struggles to think of a modern law-enforcement official who has done more to honour his memory. Indeed, two years ago, Bratton, 65, very nearly became commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police Force founded by Peel himself in 1829 – a tale to which we shall return.
Imagine Clint Eastwood running a sociology department – Dirty Harry meets Malcolm Bradbury's History Man – and you get a flavour of this remarkable public servant. Unashamed toughness mingles with astute social observation, a profound awareness of the context of law-breaking (not as an excuse, please note – “the cause of crime is people”), and the need to forge strong links with the right community leaders. It is no surprise, then, that civic and national leaders the world over – David Cameron and Boris Johnson among them – turn to him with such respect and with such justifiably high expectations; he was made a CBE in 2009.
To what extent, I ask him, is it possible to extract universally applicable lessons from different cities. Do the favelas of Rio really have much relevance to, say, the mean streets of Manchester, or the ganglands of Moscow? “Well, I think there's a lot of commonality,” he says. “Cities have always fascinated me, going back to my earliest college days [he attended University of Massachusetts Boston]. The course I took back then was called “Urban Geography” and ran for two semesters. I loved that course because, at that time, in the early 1970s in America, cities were being written off, cities were 'over', everybody was going to move to the suburbs and that was the future. The cities were left to the poor and the minorities. And we have clearly seen that is not the case. We now have these huge cities of 18 million, 24 million people in some of the emerging third world countries… Cities are not behind us, they are the future of the world.”
To emphasise his point about “commonality”, Bratton chooses a surprisingly soft-edged analogy. “It's like a Christmas tree – it looks the same in Britain as it does in America, but it's the way you decorate it! You know, local customs and tastes, but it's still basically years of community policing, democratic policing, Peel's Nine Principles of Policing. They're applicable over there and they're applicable over here.”
There is, he says, a direct and unambiguous link between civic order and national strength. “What applies everywhere is that the safer the city, the safer the environment, the stronger the country. You're never going to have absolute public safety; there always will be crime, always will be violent crime, but in [Britain and the US], the commonality we have, although we have different constitutions and laws, is that by and large we have public safety; particularly in our cities where there would be the most stress, the most tension between races, between class, economic tensions. One of the great strengths that we're able to show in cities like London, New York is that every day in [those two cities], eight million people go back and forth to work, are educated together and entertained together and we have a relatively minimal amount of violence in crime.”
But it was not always so. What has assured Bratton's place in the history of law enforcement – and the history of cities – is that he, along with a number of like-minded police chiefs, senior politicians and audacious public intellectuals, refused to accept the orthodox view of law and order as, essentially, a matter of containment. According to longstanding consensus, crime could be managed and perhaps held in check; but it could not be fought, or significantly reduced. The dystopian futures of science fiction – Blade Runner, Judge Dredd – envisaged anarchy barely kept at bay.
In this context, Bratton recalls Mario Cuomo, governor of New York, and a serious contender for the presidency at the time, being asked in 1989 what he proposed to do about law and order. “He made a comment to the effect of: 'Well, maybe this is as good as it gets.'” The following year was the worst year for crime in the history of the city. It was also the year Bratton first moved from Boston to New York to become chief of the Transit Police Department.
The new boss was acutely conscious that policing worldwide had lost its way. Robert Peel's first principle – “the basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder” – had been supplanted by a defensive acceptance that response was more important than preemption. What mattered, according to the orthodoxy of the Seventies and Eighties, was how quickly police answered calls. But Bratton thought this set the bar woefully low.
He became passionately interested in the work of James Q Wilson and George Kelling, especially the “broken windows” theory that they had unveiled in The Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1982. According to this thesis - popularised many years later by Malcolm Gladwell in his global best-seller, The Tipping Point - tolerance of petty vandalism sends a profoundly dangerous social signal, a green light to escalating criminality. But the flipside, embraced by Bratton and a handful of others, was that fixing broken windows quickly sends the opposite signal, a warning to criminals that they face opposition.
Bratton returned to his native Boston in 1992 to become Superintendent in Chief and then Police Commissioner. But the gravitational pull of New York was irresistible and in 1994 he was appointed police chief by Mayor Rudy Giuliani: in 27 months, crime fell by 33 per cent, and the murder rate was cut in half. “Zero tolerance” became a reality, the “broken windows” theory was put into practice, 5,000 new officers were deployed, and the city's policing techniques were updated spectacularly with the CompStat system of crime tracking.
“I do a lot of research before I go into a city in terms of looking [at] who are the leaders, the voice of the press, good and bad. And you deal with all of them, and you eat with all of them, and then you start building your coalitions. You're able to neutralise the bad by expanding on your collaboration and your coalition… I can't tell you the number of crises I got through in LA without demonstrations in the street, because before the crises I had built relationships that we could call upon in the crises. It's hard work, it means a lot of meetings in church basements, it's a lot of hours, but it's an investment as a police leader much the same as a politician.”
In New York, he had grown used to pilgrimages by policymakers eager to find out whether the Bratton formula could be exported. “In 1995, Jack Straw, the shadow home secretary, comes to New York [and says]: 'We're having all our crime problems in London.' And all of a sudden New York, which was the crime capital of the world in 1990, now it's churning them [solutions] out.” Straw, and others like him, grasped the value of “the political leadership that Rudy Giuliani brought, the ability to create a belief in the citizens of New York that something must be done about crime, and then the practitioner-leadership I brought.”
His initial purpose in Los Angeles, where he was chief of police from 2002 to 2009, was to prove that he himself could be exported – at least from the East Coast to the other side of America. “I went to Los Angeles to show that New York was not a fluke, it was not a one-time thing. And indeed in LA, I had even more success, although it took me longer because I had a much smaller police department and a much more entrenched hostility between the police and the minority communities in particular.
“But LA, to me, was a more successful venture than New York because not only did we get crime down, not only did we [get] crime down dealing with the issue of gangs – which was the emerging problem in terms of high levels of violence – but we also improved race relations using the police.”
In 2011, Bratton came close to exporting himself on a much more extravagant scale – a scale that would have astonished the rookie Boston cop in 1970. David Cameron, convinced that he had found the man who could shake up British policing, floated the idea of appointing him Met Commissioner. Bratton was up for it. But Theresa May, the Home Secretary, insisted that the new Commissioner had to be British-born – a ruling that tipped the scales away from audacity and back towards the safe option. One wonders whether the police would have had quite such a wretched year in 2012 – crowned by the alleged framing of a Cabinet minister, Andrew Mitchell – if Bratton had been at the helm, keeping a lid on the Police Federation and injecting a sense of excitement into the election of police commissioners. If a Canadian can be Governor of the Bank of England, why can't a Bostonian take charge of the bobbies?
“I'm somebody that doesn't dwell on the past,” says Bratton. “I always find a ray of sunshine, if you will. If nothing else, I think I can safely claim I'm the only American who's ever been considered to head the Met. So that's an accomplishment in itself, and it's gratifying to have been thought of by people in another country, in another government, that I would have the capability to take on what I believe is the most significant policing challenge in the world. Because you have the duality of responsibility in the Met, in that the head of the Met currently is responsible not only for the policing of London, but the national counter-terrorism responsibility; so it's a unique position in a democracy.”
Meanwhile, in New York, a mayoral election is looming, and there is talk of an extraordinary comeback for Bratton – a second shot at the city's top policing job. “If it were to be offered again, then I would be strongly tempted to take it. I'm flattered that, you know, 16 years later, they're still comfortable with the idea of my coming back. I think I should have another go in the public sector.” Count on it: we have not heard the last of William Joseph Bratton.
This is an edited version of an interview published in the forthcoming edition of 'TLQ', the magazine app for thought leaders. www.tlqmedia.com
Ohio blocking driver's licenses for some immigrants to U.S., more clarity is needed
CLEVELAND: Driver's licenses for some young immigrants who came to the United States illegally are being blocked by Ohio Department of Public Safety officials' questioning whether a new federal program gives those immigrants temporary legal status.
Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices apparently are reaching different conclusions about the status of the young immigrants because they are not getting guidance from the Department of Public Safety that oversees the BMV office, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
State officials say they are not certain about whether the language of the federal program does confer legal status.
The federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established last year by the Obama administration gives immigrants who came here illegally as children two years of legal status. That status allowing them to get work permits and Social Security numbers is renewable every two years.
Government figures show that more than 150,000 young people nationwide had been approved for the program as of January, but some states have been issuing driver's licenses to those in the program and others have not.
Carol Apaestegui and Jose Mendez, who live in northeast Ohio, came to the United States as immigrants when they were children and have been accepted in the new federal program. But Mendez was denied a license in Parma, while officials in Cleveland issued a license to Apaestegui, the newspaper reported.
Mendez, 20, was born in Mexico and lives in Cleveland. He said he was refused a driver's license at the BMV office in Parma last month.
“A woman at the bureau told me, ‘You're not even supposed to be in this country,”' said Mendez who works shining shoes.
But Apaestegui, 24, received a license from a BMV office in Cuyahoga Falls in December.
“I just showed them the documents I had and that was it,” said Apaestegui, who was born in Peru and lives in Stow.
Joe Andrews, spokesman for Ohio's Department of Public Safety, which oversees the BMV, said the department's lawyers are studying the federal program to determine whether it “coincides” with Ohio law.
Andrews said Friday that the federal language is unclear and the department has not yet issued any guidance to BMV offices.
Cleveland immigration lawyer David Leopold said the department is wrong and officials are ignoring the law.
“The State of Ohio needs to look at the law and look at the guidance established by Homeland Security,” he said.
A petition signed by more than 200 people — including Leopold — has urged Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the registrar of Ohio's BMV to direct all of Ohio's license bureaus to issue licenses to those who qualify under the federal program.
A DeWine spokesman said Friday that DeWine's role would only be to advise the Department of Public Safety on the issue. A message seeking additional comment was left at the attorney general's office Saturday.
Volunteers spruce up H.B. neighborhood
by DEEPA BHARATH
HUNTINGTON BEACH – For Oscar Rodriguez, a freshman at Cal State Long Beach, every trip to the Oak View neighborhood feels like a homecoming.
On Saturday morning, the shy young man took the microphone before hundreds of volunteers assembled at Oak View Elementary School. These were employees from several top corporations, including Pimco, Disneyland and Bank of America, who had come together to help spruce up the school, park and basketball court.
Rodriguez talked about his biggest passion – the kids of his neighborhood.
"I grew up here," he said. "When I was in fourth grade, my dad started a soccer team because he wanted to keep me out of trouble. Now, that one team has grown to 50 and has become the Oak View Soccer League, helping many kids stay on track."
Rodriguez told the volunteers that he was there because he wanted to give back to his community as a mentor, counselor and big brother.
Together, the nearly 350 volunteers from the local corporations and about 150 community members painted murals, dug up the dirt to plant trees, painted the faded markings on the basketball court, and painted outer walls and window frames.
This is the first time ever that so many corporations and community groups have come together to help one neighborhood, said Iosefa Alofaituli, executive director of the Oak View Renewal Partnership, which started in 2007.
The Oak View neighborhood, bordered by Warner and Slater avenues, Gothard Street and Beach Boulevard, is spread over one square mile. The Oak View Renewal Partnership estimates that at least one-third of the residents in this neighborhood are below the poverty line.
The city has been working for more than two decades to pay special attention to this area affected by gangs and drugs by putting in community policing operations and after-school programs. Alofaituli said the community has struggled over the past couple of years with budget cuts, but that things are looking up again with more corporations and nonprofits renewing their interest.
"This event is a big boost for us," he said. "You can see how happy the members of this community are. They are here with paint rollers in hand to show volunteers that they are invested in this neighborhood. We have many different entities working together. This is special and it's a unique model we have here."
Daniel McQuaid, chief executive at OneOC, an organization that serves as a consultant for nonprofits, said the key to success for nonprofits is to come together.
"One group or one corporation can only do so much," he said. "The secret to success is really when we bond together and act together."
McQuaid is hopeful that Saturday's event served as an "introduction to the community" for these volunteers. He hopes they will continue to remain engaged in Oak View.
Huntington Beach City Councilman Jim Katapodis said he hoped Saturday's event will show the community that a lot of people on the outside genuinely care about them.
"It is important that they feel that they are Huntington Beach residents too, and that they are not forgotten," he said.
Mother and son volunteers Armida and John Bernal were helping plant trees in the park.
"Any time my company calls for volunteers, I'm there and I take my children along," she said. "It makes you feel so good inside when you give back to your community."
Jack Shaw, founder of El Viento, a group that aims to hold hands with Oak View youth from elementary school through college, says he has found his relationship with the community gratifying. El Viento has helped five groups of students graduate from college.
Zaydia Garcia, the group's chief operating officer, says she is touched by the passion of those who have graduated from the program to return and serve their community.
"It's not like they've graduated and gone their separate ways," she said. "They want to come back and give back to these kids. To me, that is most gratifying – when what we started has come one full circle."
116 criminal aliens arrested by Tulsa-based ICE officers in 2012
TULSA, Okla. — As part of its public-safety mission, the local office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the arrest of 116 foreign nationals with criminal convictions during calendar year 2012.
The Tulsa-based ICE office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) was established in 2008 as part of an initiative to reduce the fugitive alien population in the United States, which later included previously removed aliens and removable aliens convicted of a crime. ERO's Fugitive Operations Team located in Tulsa is one of 104 such teams that prioritizes its resources to focus on aliens who pose a serious threat to national security or public safety, including members of transnational street gangs, child sex offenders, and aliens with prior convictions for violent crimes.
"Our ERO officers positively impact public safety of communities in Oklahoma and nationwide when we remove criminal aliens from the streets, and ultimately from the country," said Simona L. Flores, field office director of ERO Dallas. "This is a vital mission that we take very seriously." Flores oversees the state of Oklahoma and 128 counties in north Texas.
Of the 116 criminal aliens arrested in 2012 by the Tulsa-based ERO officers, 34 have convictions for violent crimes, such as: lewd molestation, rape, child abuse by injury, assault with a dangerous weapon, and attempted kidnapping. Because of their serious criminal histories and prior immigration arrest records, seven of those arrested were federally prosecuted for illegally re-entering the United States after being formally deported, which is a felony. Those seven have since been convicted and were sentenced to an average two-year term of imprisonment.
Fifteen women and 101 men were arrested in the Tulsa area during 2012. They were arrested in the following Oklahoma cities: Tulsa (44), Muskogee (12), Miami (8), Enid (7), Bartlesville (4), Ponca City (4), Blackwell (3), Heavener (3), Tahlequah (3), Broken Arrow (2), Claremore (2), Jenks (2), Newkirk (2), Owasso (2) Stilwell (2), Afton (1), Bixby (1), Claremore (1), Commerce (1), Cushing (1), Fairview (1), Glenpool (1), Hulbert (1), McAlester (1), Muldrow (1), Okemah (1), Peggs (1), Pryor (1), Sallisaw (1), Shady Point (1) and Tonkawa (1).
The nationalities of those arrested include: Mexico (102), Guatemala (2), Iran (2), USSR (2), Czech Republic (1), El Salvador (1), Federated States of Micronesia (1), Honduras (1), Kenya (1), Pakistan (1) South Korea (1) and Uganda (1).
Three of the worst offenders arrested by the Tulsa ERO officers include the following:
- A 41-year-old man from Mexico was arrested in October in Muskogee, Okla. His criminal history includes convictions for assault & battery with a dangerous weapon, altering a firearm serial number, domestic assault & battery in presence of a minor, and unlawfully possessing a controlled drug with intent to distribute. He was deported Dec. 1.
- A 44-year-old man from Mexico was arrested in February 2012 at a residence in Tahlequah, Okla. He had been deported twice. In the late 1980s, he began building an extensive history of arrests and or convictions to include second-degree murder, manslaughter, forgery, battery, aggravated assault, possessing methamphetamine, domestic battery, possessing cocaine, possessing drug paraphernalia, obstructing government operations, and possessing a false alien registration form. After being arrested by ERO Tulsa officers, he was prosecuted for illegally re-entering the United States and sentenced to four years in federal prison. He will again be deported after he completes his prison term.
- A 58-year-old man from Mexico was arrested in January 2012 at his home in Muldrow, Okla. He had conviction for first-degree manslaughter for shooting and killing a man. He was deported in March 2012.
Aliens who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who illegally re-enter the United States after being deported, are subject to immediate deportation after they complete any prison sentences awarded after their criminal convictions. The other aliens arrested by Tulsa's ERO officers in 2012 were entered into removal proceedings, or are currently pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.
The enforcement operations conducted by this Tulsa team are just one facet of the Department of Homeland Security's broader strategy to heighten the federal government's effectiveness at identifying and removing dangerous criminal aliens from the United States.