Legacy of America's Top Cop

William Bratton's departure has prompted accolades from within and without Los Angeles.

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The departure of William Bratton has prompted an outpouring of praise unusual for a big-city chief of police. But Bratton, as top cop successively in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, became a hero to tough-on-crime advocates and police reformers alike. The most touching salutes have come from various quarters in Los Angeles, but liberal blogger Matt Yglesias and the conservative National Review had fond tributes as well.

How did Bratton do it?

  • He Listened to Cops and Communities Equally, say the editors of the Los Angeles Times. "Bratton had an unusual knack for understanding the histories and sensitivities, the needs and demands of Los Angeles communities. He could be refreshingly candid and colorful, calling people nitwits or knuckleheads, verbally skewering members of the City Council (but never the mayor), and he could at the same time court neighborhoods and defuse tensions."
  • Diversified the Police Force, says the Los Angeles Daily News. "Bratton embraced the call for change and quickly set about enacting a series of reforms, such as requiring financial disclosure by gang and narcotics officers, banning racial profiling and improving training. "
  • Delivered on His Promises, and Moved On says "Jack Dunphy," a pseudonymous LAPD officer writing at National Review Online. "Bratton’s primary goals as chief were to lower crime in Los Angeles and to extricate the department from the consent decree, both of which he accomplished. He leaves the LAPD in a far better condition than when he arrived, and for all my many criticisms of Bratton over the years, that fact simply cannot be ignored."
  • Treated Minor Crimes Seriously says James Q. Wilson, author of the "Broken Windows" theory. "Bratton had the instinct to worry about minor street offenses even without the data, because it seemed right."
  • A Mystery Worth Replicatingsays Matthew Yglesias. "One of the most important things in the world is trying to make public institutions work well, since the less-effective ones don’t just naturally go out of business the way corporations do. And yet unfortunately this isn’t something we know a great deal about."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.