Photograph by Michael Kelley
And so, in the city of Los Angeles, crime went down.
"In the last year, we've seen a police department that has come back into the streets," proclaimed Police Chief William J. Bratton. "It's been ten tough years. Now they're back seeking the stature they had in the '70s and '80s. Next year, I'm confident it will be back."
And the people applauded.
That is, the several dozen folks who turned out one recent evening at the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood for a town hall meeting with the chief. He has been holding these meetings throughout the city to hammer home his messages about making L.A. safe and how he'll need more money to do it—much more—trying to stir up some civic emotion. But this night, anyway; the smartly uniformed officers roaming the room seemed to outnumber the citizens.
Welcome, Chief Bratton.
After 16 months, Bratton is still getting the feel for his new job. The LAPD is his sixth department. A native of Boston, he headed the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police, the Boston Metropolitan District Commission Police, the New York City Transit Police, the Boston PD, and the NYPD. He is 56. In none of his previous top jobs did he stay longer than three and three-quarter years. "My claim to fame is fining departments," he told me in 1997 when he was considering applying for the LAPD chief's job that ultimately went to Bernard Parks. "You guys are a very big challenge out there."
Bratton figured he knew the department well. He had applied for the chief's job following the departure of Daryl Gates in 1992—only to pull out when he realized the LAPD, on the heels of Rodney King and the riots, was looking for an African American chief. In 1997, he thought again about applying but did not. More recently he was appointed as one of the monitors to oversee the LAPD's progress in complying with a federal consent decree mandating reform. Even so, the new chief was in for a bumpy landing. He has complained repeatedly that a force of 9,300 sworn officers is shockingly inadequate to protect a city of 3.8 million people spread across 469 square miles. But the LAPD has always been undersized—lean and mean, they like to say—so why did Bratton act as if this were news to him?
Sitting at the large conference table in his office downtown on the sixth floor of Parker Center, the LAPD's headquarters, he says, "Until you actually live in Los Angeles, move around and get a sense of how big this place is, you don't fully appreciate how small the department is. Normally you talk about New York having four cops for every one we have here on a per capita basis, but based on square miles New York has six times as many So as you drill down it gets worse and worse."
As a result, he says, "the LAPD functions like a fire department. You run from fire to fire and you suppress them. But the ability to sustain that suppression becomes very difficult because you have to move on to the next incident."
That, as Bratton would learn, was only the beginning.
In a way, the Chief is like the city he has come to rescue—nuanced and hard to decipher. He is not a physically imposing man—medium height, fit, sallow complexion, his face revealing little. Unlike some people of power who can make a room come alive simply by entering it, Bratton seems to slip in unnoticed. A reporter can spend an hour with him and come away with all questions fully answered—indeed, he never seems caught off-guard, or to hesitate, or to pause to collect his thoughts—yet record no memorable gestures or anecdotes, or feel any sense of connection with him. Charm and humor are rarely on public display, although one senior officer notes, "Every once in a while he comes up with a good one-liner." It is only when he stands before his officers or a large group that Bratton's commanding presence resonates. "He reminds me of Patton," one friend says.
The department Bratton inherited was, by most accounts, a rudder less ship. Hollywood captain Mike Downing, a 22-year veteran of the LAPD, says, "For the last decade, we operated according to CCP—Control, Contain, and Punish. The idea was to control the thoughts and opinions of the cops, contain them from practicing the art of policing, and punish them not only for malicious acts but for minor mistakes—mental errors." Under the leadership of Willie Williams and then Parks, officers complained they felt frustrated not only by the street violence they were unable to quell but, worse, by the puppet-like strings that stymied them from within the department. Many felt lost. "It was like having two substitute teachers, Detective Jeff Godown says. Morale was so bad that the department bled 900 cops to retirement and other jobs in 2000 and 2001, and few new recruits could be dredged up.
There was also the persistent stench from the Rampart scandal, which erupted in 1999, when Officer Rafael Perez, seeking leniency for stealing cocaine from an evidence locker, told authorities of Rampart officers trafficking in narcotics, framing and beating civilians, and other corrupt practices. Distrustful that the full story would ever emerge, the Justice Department stepped in and sued the LAPD for engaging in a pattern or practice of excessive force, false arrests, and unreasonable searches and seizures. The city denied the allegations but, rather than face costly litigation, entered into a civil rights consent decree. With the feds eyeballing his every step, and several hundred officers involved in rejiggering policies and procedures, Bratton has until this June to satisfy 140 provisions. (At last report he had complied with 62.)
And oh yeah. Two months after he was sworn in, Los Angeles was crowned the murder capital of the country for 2002, with 658 homicides.
Few on the force knew much about Bratton except that he was the New York guy who in 27 months almost magically made crime disappear from the nation's largest and most violent city. He was brash, cocky, and smart, a man who liked to see his name in print—to the fury of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who thought only his name should appear in print and who required all policing strategies to be announced through city hall.
Having endured that, dealing with Mayor James Hahn and his laid-back Paradise on the Pacific probably seemed to Bratton like early retirement. But L.A. can be deceptive. Few outsiders have ever succeeded in negotiating the city's subtle political machinations. "We chew people up and spit 'em out, and we don't like outsiders in this town," says former city councilman and now assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas. "I've seen so many get hurt—in education, the Department of Water and Power, the MTA, and finally in the police department."
This feature was originally published in the March 2004 issue of Los Angeles magazine
Bratton may not have been schooled in the finer points of L.A. culture, but he was practiced at pulling a police department out of the mud. Weeks before he was sworn in, he dispatched a pair of consultants—Bob Wasserman and John Linder, the same men he had used in Boston and New York—to size up the LAPD, develop priorities, and devise a plan of action. Next came George Kelling, coauthor of the 1982 "Broken Windows" theory of policing (clean up little things first, arrest the small-timers, the big fish will follow), who would zero in on L.A.'s version of broken windows: abandoned cars, sofas left on sidewalks, graffiti. In time more consultants and colleagues would troop in. This was highly unusual and considered quite suspect in the closed world of the LAPD. To pay for them Bratton tapped the Police Foundation, a nonprofit entity that solicits private donations. He also hired an outside media professional to oversee the LAPD's dealings with reporters, a job that historically had gone to a sergeant or lieutenant who was brought in from the streets and rarely media-savvy. In addition, the command staff was asked to submit resumes, identify the department's biggest problems, and offer ideas—preferably outside the box—on how to solve them.
The problems were more severe than Bratton imagined. "During the last two years of Chief Parks's term the department was extraordinarily dis-incentivized," Bratton says. "Morale was down. Cops weren't making arrests. This was compounded by the Fact that organizationally the department wasn't where the crime was." Meaning most detectives worked 9-to-5 weekday hours, and most crimes occurred at night or on weekends. Narcotics officers were not part of the teams assigned to gang activity even though gangs and narcotics go hand in hand. And unaccountably, the city's most crime-ridden neighborhoods did not have enough cops, while more peaceful neighborhoods had too many.
Adding to the department's sluggishness was its technology, or lack of it. Police cars were equipped with eight-year-old computers. "They look good, but they're very slow, very antiquated, and very limited in their usefulness," Bratton says. "I'm always reminded of the movie The Dirty Dozen. Donald Sutherland is inspecting the troops, and they're all spit and polish. He leans over to the general and says, 'They look good, but can they right?'"
Bratton barely had time to unpack before that bloody weekend in November 2002—his first weekend on the job—when there were II homicides, followed two weekends later by II more. He began to question what he had gotten himself into. The gang problem was out of control, and one of the tools he had always relied on to help fight crime—the media—was, well, AWOL. "If we hadn't raised the issue, I'm not sure the media would have understood how many murders we had over those weekends," he says. "TV doesn't cover murders on the weekend. The L.A.. Times, the Daily News don't have their main reporters working on weekends. They rely on us for press releases. New York is so tabloid driven, the papers keep attention focused on crime Here you have the odd thing of attempting to attract attention."
On top of this, Bratton was struck by the city's laid-back attitude toward crime. "The problems of South Los Angeles are seen as happening there and nowhere else," he notes. By contrast, "in New York, where the monied people live was where the crime was occurring—the Upper East Side," Bratton recalls. "They were face-to-face with it. The monied set in Los Angeles can spend their whole lives and never encounter it up in Brentwood."
So here he was—an Outsider—with a force that was too small, deployed in the wrong places, demoralized, and under-equipped, in a city that didn't much care. Not only would Bratton need to rally his troops, he had to shake the town—and the town criers-awake. He was energized, "There were enough new challenges to excite me, because it's not deja vu all over again," he says.
The son of a longshoreman who worked the Boston docks, Bratton grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Dorchester. He competed to get into one of the nation's most prestigious public schools, Boston Latin, and did, only to flunk out in the eighth grade, incapable, he says, of grasping basic Latin. Years later he dropped out of Boston State College after one semester, unable to pay the tuition. He enlisted in the army and served in Vietnam.
But his dream was to be a Boston cop. In 1970, at age 23, he joined the department. By acing his promotional exams, taking bold leadership roles, delegating power, and never missing a chance to bring himself to the attention of his higher-ups—or the media—he rose to second in command in only ten years. Then he blundered. In a Boston magazine profile, Bratton stated that his goal was to become the commissioner. "I was too brash, too arrogant," he wrote in his autobiography, Turnaround. "No one in the history of the department had ever said that out loud." He was promoted-or demoted—in a lateral transfer. His rise through the Boston PD was over.
Within a year he was hired to run the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police. Three years later he took over the Metro Police. Less than four years after that he was seeking the top job at the New York City Transit Police, all the while plotting to snare the Big One: commissioner of the NYPD. After less than two years at Transit, however, he returned to the Boston PD to take the number two job—the one he'd held 12 years before. Only this time he saw a clear path to the top. But after becoming commissioner in March 1993, he was gone eight months later to the NYPD. By 1996, he was out of there, too.
Bratton's decision to apply for the L.A. job shocked his wife, Rikki Klieman, the well-known Court TV anchorperson. They had been married a little more than three years, he for the fourth time, she for the third, and she thought their New York life was idyllic. They had an apartment in the city and a weekend house in the Hamptons. A former top criminal defense attorney in Boston, Klieman appeared on TV rive nights a week and taught at Columbia Law School. She was as career-driven as her husband, with an ego to match. (She even used the same coauthor, Peter Knobler, to write her memoir.) They were, she says, "a very public couple." Since April 1996, when Bratton left as commissioner of the NYPD, he had been working as a consultant, advising countries on public safety and, after September 11, counterterrorism. "But he was not fulfilled," Klieman says. After toying with the idea of running for mayor in 2001, Bratton worked hard for liberal candidate Mark Green, whom most expected to be New York's next mayor. Green would then reappoint Bratton as police commissioner. But it was the dark horse, Michael Bloomberg, who won. In the meantime, there had been the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. "Bill felt powerless," Klieman recalls. "He changes lives, he saves lives—that's what he does. He's a change agent. And he was not in any position to help in a meaningful way."
Bratton began visiting L.A. as a member of the Justice Department's consent decree monitoring board. The risk consulting company he worked for, Kroll Associates, had won the contract to be the federal monitor, and he was put on the board as "subject matter expert." After one trip, he arrived home on July 12, 2002, and told Klieman he was considering applying for the chief's job. "I had a tantrum for 48 hours like I was eight," she says. "Then I got past it. The time was right for him. He missed the feeling that he made a difference. I think it's his destiny to be here."
Six weeks after he took over as chief, Bratton was ready to make a key move. Deputy Chief Mike Hillmann, the commanding officer of the air support division, had been practicing helicopter maneuvers, and inside his flight suit he was drenched. He walked into his office, tossed aside his helmet, and was told that Bratton was on his way over. Hillmann, a veteran of 37 years, including stints in the tough Metro and SWAT units, was skeptical that an outsider could come in and do the job. "I went through that experience once before, and it was rive years of not moving the department forward, of lack of leadership," he says. "I didn't want to see that again."
When Bratton arrived, he told Hillmann he was going to double-promote him to deputy chief and make him the department's gang czar. It would be his charge to devise a strategy to quell the escalating street violence. Sixty percent of the city's violent crime, it is believed, is gang-related. There are 400 gangs, with 50,000 members in L.A., 100,000 in the county. The gang-focused CRASH units that operated out of the department's 18 divisions had been effective in keeping crime down, but some of the rough tactics they used had been controversial, if not illegal. When the Rampart scandal emerged in 1999, Parks shut down all CRASH units, and the Justice Department prohibited the use of plainclothes officers, unmarked cars, and informants. "It was like somebody opened the barn doors and the gang members all got away," Hillmann says.
Hillmann, 58, was the only white kid in the Hispanic neighborhood near Dodger Stadium where he grew up, and he witnessed his first gang homicide when he was 13. After Bratton's visit, he spent a month of sleepless nights shaping his strategy. By March 9, he was ready to put his new 520-person Gang Impact Team to work. His 18 units, one for every station, integrate gang and narcotics personnel, and each is under the purview of a lieutenant "whose job is gangs, nonstop, 24 hours a day." By mid November of last year, violent crime—assaults and homicides—was down 24 percent. "This is what keeps me young, I swear to God," Hillmann says.
As had been his practice in Boston and New York, Bratton surrounded himself with people he knew. Sharon Papa, whom he'd met when he was at New York Transit and she was working for transit in L.A., was promoted to assistant chief. From New York he brought in John Miller, a former TV crime reporter who had interrupted his career to work as Bratton's deputy chief of media relations at the NYPD; now Miller, known for his network of antiterrorism contacts, would serve as commanding officer of the newly created counterterrorism unit (since renamed Critical Incident Management Bureau). He promoted Jim McDonnell, whom he had known briefly at the Boston PD before McDonnell joined the LAPD in the early '80s, to first assistant chief. And he hired Louis Anemone—who had run his computerized crime-tracking program, Compstat, for the NYPD—to do the same here. He also reached out to the contentious police union, the Police Protective League, inviting president Bob Baker to join a senior officers' annual retreat. Baker is still glowing. "He empowers people to do their jobs," he says. "He's a good delegator. He's ... the Ronald Reagan of law enforcement."
In truth, it was Mayor Hahn who stepped in to hand the union its biggest lollipop: approval to work a three-day, 12-hour-a-day week, a major source of conflict between officers and Bernie Parks. Bratton did agree to two demands—seemingly trivial—that greatly gratified the union. He approved the use of flat badges, which plainclothes officers can fit more easily into their pocket, and he agreed to permit officers and detectives living outside L.A. County to drive their police cars home after work. In the past, if called out in the middle of the night, they would have to drive to their station houses to collect a car. Now they could get to a crime scene faster
Rather than videotaping messages to the troops, played at roll calls and often ignored, Bratton showed up in person (something Parks and Williams did not do) to introduce himself. Next he summoned his command staff. "He said, Here's the way it is," Hillman recalls. "These are my expectations. If you don't perform, you're out. If you don't want to work, it's probably time for you to do something else."
Finding himself on the elevator with the new chief, Dave Gascon, a deputy chief, said something to the effect of "I don't know if I should retire. If there were things I could do here, I'd stay." Hinting. Bratton said nothing. When the doors opened on six, Bratton stepped off and reportedly said, "Good luck with retirement," and walked away. Gascon retired.
"He brings an East Coast, no-holds-barred style," says one senior officer. "The West Coast has a little more finesse."
"I always speak my mind—it's just a matter of how you phrase it," says Bratton. "You put your money where your mouth is. I tell it like it is."
Indeed, Bratton's tendency to skip certain niceties and cut to the chase doesn't always play well here. Some, after listening to the chief, have come away alarmed. As he was speaking at a town hall meeting in South Los Angeles, someone stood up and demanded, "Why don't you control your cops?" To which Bratton retorted, "Why don't you control your kids?" Many applauded his anti-gang bravado, but one African American politician was incensed, saying, "His tendency to mouth off is problematic. He's intemperate when he shoots from the hip, saying something like 'You all have a nasty little habit here in Los Angeles of shooting guns in the air without regard to how the bullets come down.' Or when constituents were pushing up on him about controlling the police officers who run the risk, and often do violate the rights of some people, and he fires back, 'No, you should control your kids.' It's just not what one expects from a manager, okay?"
A polished speaker, Bratton has learned the art of crafting and delivering his messages to make sure they are clearly understood. But like a politician, he can sound too rehearsed. The Reverend Dr. Richard Byrd, who chairs an organization that provides after-school tutoring through the No Child Left Behind initiative, was pleased that Bratton attended one of its meetings. "I don't remember another chief making an effort to get out there," Byrd says. "But I felt he gave us the standard fare. I didn't leave with a feeling he had truly answered our questions. He had his speech down pat. He pledged to us an increase in law enforcement, and we were looking for an increase in sensitivity."
There is also the matter of his hair-trigger temper. Last summer the home of City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo was broken into. He called the police at Wilshire Division, the station closest to his home. The officers responded promptly. The next day Delgadillo happened to run into Bratton, and he told the chief what had happened. Bratton hit the roof. He hadn't been notified, and he was embarrassed. He sent for two of the responsible commanding officers—Code 2, meaning, "Drop everything and get the hell in here. Now!"
When the men arrived, one, George Ibarra, the commanding officer of Wilshire station, extended his hand to Bratton. Bratton said," I don't know why you want me to shake your hand when I'm gonna kick your ass." The second officer just stared at him. "I don't know what you're looking at," Bratton growled. "I ought to kick the shit out of you."
The two men left Parker Center shaken. "I'd never been called in like that before," Ibarra said when asked about the incident. "He was dearly upset. That's his style. He wants to get to the heart of the matter right away I'm the commanding officer of Wilshire, and the problem has to come to me. He's holding us accountable. We'd always talked about making us accountable at the captain-and-above level. Now it's actually happening."
Once the command officers understood that being made more accountable also meant they could be more creative in designing strategies, most jumped on board. "Instead of Control, Contain, Punish," says Downing, "we now have Create, Liberate, and Develop." But Bratton's insistence on accountability—holding officers responsible for the crime rates in their area—paired with his short temper continues to leave some on the force intimidated.
That temper was on public display at, of all places, his monthly press conference in November. Proudly, the chief announced that homicides were down 24 percent for the year, violent crime down 5 percent.
"To what do you attribute the drop in homicides?" a reporter asked.
Bratton's face reddened. "The street cops," he snapped. "They're back on the streets, working a lot harder and a lot better. It's not the economy," he went on, his voice rising. "The economy's gotten worse. Anyone wants to debate me, come on up."
IN HONOR OF Bratton's one-year anniversary, Councilman Tom LaBonge has invited him to address the city council at a "Special Session on Crime." It's the first time he has appeared in council chambers since May, when he asked for an additional $30 million to hire 320 more cops. By an 11-3 vote, the council turned this down (as well as other items in the mayor's budget). Some saw this as a slap in the face of the mayor, with Bratton an unwitting victim. Council member Jan Perry, who voted for the increase, later commented, "Oftentimes elected officials become far too vested in their egos. It's our job to keep the needs of constituents first and stop trying to teach the opposition lessons in power."
But it was Bratton who needed to bone up on power politics. In New York he had only to please or cajole the mayor. Here, he was dealing with 15 city council members who controlled the city's purse strings. "Bill's first mistake was not realizing he had to deal with a city council in addition to a mayor," says Daryl Gates. "You need to know you have eight votes before you bring a matter before the council. You need ten votes to override a veto and six solid votes to sustain one."
Bratton took the defeat personally. Speaking on the radio show AirTalk with Larry Mantle, he derided the council, saying, "Let them start attending some of the funerals of the victims of crime. Let them start attending some of the scenes of crime as I do every night in this city." Which naturally made matters worse. He also held a press conference in front of Parker Center and called the council members "missing in action." In his 48-hour media blitz, he disparaged the council in print, on TV, and on the radio, and then he told them he wouldn't be able to reduce crime as he had promised. Council president Alex Padilla called the remarks "offensive and insulting."
Although Bratton quickly issued an e-mail apology to each council member, LaBonge says, "I think it cost him a step or two."
By late October, however, either the anger had subsided or tongues had been swathed in velvet. As LaBonge's meeting on crime wore on, it became clear this was a kiss-and-make-up session—or perhaps a wasted session, given that the media were elsewhere, covering the devastating wildfires. In any event, each council person grabbed the mike to heap praise on the LAPD and the job Bratton was doing. Bratton, sounding uncustomarily humble, said, "We will work with what we have. I will tell you what we can use." Then he added, "This year when we come back, we'll knock on the door instead of using a battering ram."
Bratton was being disingenuous. Only weeks before, he had told his command staff, "I know how we're going to deal with the city council. We're going to ignore them."
Later, when asked if he planned to ignore the city council, Bratton smoothly replied, "No, not to ignore them. But to as great a degree as possible not to have to go to them for anything. The less you have to go across the street the better off we'll all be."
Given that state and city deficits now make it unlikely he will get additional funding—no matter what—for the next two years, Bratton would not have much need to "go across the street" anyway But that he would say it at all struck some as another example of his intemperate nature. Or his ability to politic. "I'll also be working very hard to improve relationships and build some trust," he added, "so that when the time comes to go and ask for something, we're operating from a basis of trust."
Connie Rice is a lawyer who spent most of her career with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund suing the LAPD and has been appointed by Brat-ton to head a nine-lawyer blue-ribbon panel to review the Rampart investigation. She thinks Bratton still doesn't get it. "He doesn't understand the politics of L.A.," she says. "They're under the radar, but they're lethal. You have to understand that Ron Deaton [legislative liaison to the city council] runs the city and the subtle behind-the-scenes machinery that runs the government. The chief is not elected, but his is the most powerful political office in the county. Every politician from the turn of the last century has had to depend on LAPD to keep things under control. LAPD will sink a politician if the politician doesn't do what LAPD wants. They simply withdraw the services, the crime rate goes up, the politician is out. There's no other police department in the country that's as lethal. The chief of police has more power than the mayor."
Well, not quite, since the mayor can fire the chief of police. No matter. Power is what Bratton craves. "My whole career had been about making it to the top," he wrote in his autobiography
He appears as driven as always. In L.A. his workdays often stretch to 17 hours, and his evenings typically consist of dinner with such law enforcement friends as Gerald Chaleff, a former president of the Police Commission whom Bratton put in charge of compliance with the consent decree, and consultant John Linder. Bratton is also learning the value of connections to Hollywood moguls, who are a source of donations to the Police Foundation. One filmmaker even created a four-minute, in-house spot to be played at roll call, designed to instill pride in the LAPD.
Always, it seems, he is intense and focused. LaBonge, asked if he found the chief charming or humorous off the job, commented, "He remembers things we talked about six months ago. He likes Griffith Park. I judge a man by what he likes in a community. He and his wife loved the merry-go-round in Griffith Park."
Even at home in Los Feliz Bratton remains focused. Last winter, for his wife's birthday he took her to Maui for a week, but in the middle of the vacation he returned to L.A. for 24 hours to attend a policeman's funeral. Does he have an off switch? "For the most part," Klieman says, "his switch is on. We go to a movie almost every Sunday So there's two hours when his mind is otherwise occupied. He's also a prolific reader. But he loves this job. A day with 32 crises for him is a day worth living."
On a rainy afternoon Captain Walter Schick and Detective Godown are setting up a conference room on the second floor of the L.A. Mart for the weekly Compstat meeting. The computerized crime-tracking system, developed under Bratton in New York, puts pressure on commanders to identify crime patterns in their areas—then stop them. Each week one of L.A.'s four geographic bureaus is in the spotlight. Today it is Central Bureau. More than 100 men and women file into the room. Those who will be reporting sit along U-shaped tables positioned before three large screens. Rows of seats are filled by support people who might be called on to speak. Three-ring notebooks, two inches thick with mind-numbing statistics, are distributed. "It looks like a Senate hearing," one narcotics officer deadpans.
Bratton slips into the room and takes his place at the table to the right of Anemone and Assistant Chief McDonnell. Playing good cop (McDonnell), bad cop (Anemone), the two grill officers from the five Central Bureau divisions as maps of their territories, with colored dots signifying crimes, flash on the big screens. It can be a grueling—What are you doing about that string of robberies? Did you try this? Why aren't you doing that?—sort of thing. On and on until McDonnell and Anemone are satisfied.
"Some commanding officers cram the night before," Schick says. But on this day all are prepared, and no one—as has happened in the past—is shredded. Bratton asks just one question, but his presence is felt. Although Parks instituted a form of Compstat, "I only saw him at one meeting in five years," Godown says. "He gave the impression he didn't care. Bratton hasn't missed one. Everybody's pretty charged up. There's a willingness to do a job." In the dumps for years, morale finally seems to be on the rise.
And crime went down. After Bratton reassigned cops to crime-prone areas, started detectives working nights and weekends, and made uniformed officers more noticeable in gang territories, crime fell 5 percent. Homicides, which had risen 51 percent in the three years before he arrived, dropped 22 percent to 506 in 2003. At the same time, citizen complaints against the LAPD rose 4.5 percent, which, in Bratton's mind, only proved his guys were on the job.
Despite this promising start, Bratton faces at least one major hurdle: getting the city energized—or unnerved—enough to spring for more police. The more police on the streets, history has shown, the less crime. With no immediate budget increases in sight, Bratton's only hope is to push for a revenue-raising referendum to be placed on the November ballot.
"The people have to understand there's a limit to how much more we can do," he says over the phone. "By doing more with what we have, I can make a stronger argument—give us more, and this is what I can get for you. Last year we had a 22 percent reduction in homicides. This year crime will be down more dramatically, but we'll reach a point where there ain't no more. You can make this city relatively safe, but to make it safe you need more cops than we have, and this city is gonna have to decide, does it want to get serious about reducing crime? We're starting to see an increase in West Los Angeles with house break-ins, which scares the hell out of people. There's the potential, despite our best efforts, for this to spread."
Asked if there's such a thing as an acceptable murder rate, Bratton says no. "It's like the limbo. You don't know how low you can go till you try."
After 16 months, it appears Bratton is acclimating to life in L.A. "The paradox here is that the engine that drives the city is the entertainment world. There's no more cutthroat, in-your-face group than that. Those people are not polite to each other. The irony is the rest of the society here is very focused on congeniality and not getting in each other's face. What's the old adage? In New York, they stab you in your chest. Here, they stab you in your back."
Given his short attention span—or the speediness with which he accomplished his goals in the East—some wonder if he will leave before his five-year term is up. Bratton says he intends to stay, and Klieman, who has signed on as a legal analyst for Court TV and The Today Show, is emphatic. "I will tell you, there's not a chance in Christendom that he is leaving here without at least one term," she says. "I changed my whole life. When I hear he's only gonna be here two years, I go out of my head. I want to say, 'Forget about him. I'm gonna tell you about me.'"