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APNewsBreak: Bratton in talks for UK police job

SHARE APNewsBreak: Bratton in talks for UK police job

NEW YORK — William Bratton, who as head of police departments in New York, Boston and Los Angeles gained fame by driving down crime with innovation and bravado, is in talks with the British to become an adviser on calming the violence there, he told The Associated Press on Friday.

Bratton said he received a phone call Friday from Prime Minister David Cameron asking him whether he would consider becoming a consultant for British police. He said he thanked Cameron for the opportunity and will continue speaking with British officials to formalize an agreement.

"This is a prime minister who has a clear idea of what he wants to do," Bratton told the AP in a phone interview. "He sees this crisis as a way to bring change. The police force there can be a catalyst for that. I'm very optimistic."

Bratton, 63, left the Los Angeles police in 2009 and is now chairman of Kroll, a Manhattan-based private security firm.

More than 1,700 people have been arrested after a week of violence in London and other British cities that was triggered by a fatal police shooting under disputed circumstances. Police have been overwhelmed and outmaneuvered by mobile gangs of rioters, and the unrest has stirred fears of heightened racial tensions.

Cameron told lamwakers Thursday that he would look to cities like Boston for inspiration, and he mentioned Bratton as a person who could help offer advice.

Bratton had said in a statement Thursday that he would be "pleased and honored" to provide services and counsel in any capacity, adding that he loves London and has worked with British police for nearly 20 years. On Friday, Bratton said he had met Cameron on past visits to Britain and that he was told in advance that the prime minister planned to mention him in his remarks.

During their conversation, "He thanked me for my willingness to work for them, and I thanked him for the opportunity," Bratton said.

Bratton said he believes British police need to focus on quelling racial tensions by collaborating more with community leaders and civil rights groups. He also said social media sites can be a useful tool for law enforcement trying to monitor gang activities.

"The idea is to get ahead of the violence rather than just react to it," he said.

Another part of the potential long-term solution for London's Metropolitan Police, widely known as Scotland Yard, is to become more racially diverse, Bratton said.

"Part of the issue going forward is how to make policing more attractive to a changing population," he said.

Los Angeles and New York have benefited from police forces that "reflect the ethnic makeup of the cities," he said.

Over the past two decades, Bratton has gained a reputation as a bold reformer who refocused police departments in cities struggling with spikes in gang and other violence.

When Bratton stepped in as Boston's police commissioner in 1991, the city was still being rocked by the violence that gripped many U.S. cities in the late 1980s as potent and addictive crack cocaine flooded urban neighborhoods. The ensuing gang turf wars forced a dramatic spike in the city's murder rate, hitting a high of 153 people in 1990.

One of the steps Bratton took to curb the violence was to deliver a list of about 400 of the city's gang and drug kingpins to then-Mayor Raymond Flynn, who had appointed him police chief.

Flynn said Bratton wanted direct indictments for as many as possible, sweeping some of the city's most violent criminals off the street for up to a decade.

"That's what he was good at; he was able to get those ringleaders off the streets," Flynn said.

Bratton and his team didn't stop there, Flynn said. They also set about rebuilding ties with the community, spending more time patrolling on foot and meeting face-to-face with neighborhood residents and less time in police cruisers.

"It cost us overtime and walking beats, but they would pick up information," Flynn said. "People may not call the police department, but they would stop the police on the street and tell them something."

The work began to pay off. Throughout the decade, Boston's murder rate steadily fell to 35 in 1998. Soon top political figures, including former President Bill Clinton, hailed the "Boston Miracle" with a good portion of the credit going to Bratton.

Although the city's murder rate has fluctuated since then, local leaders credit the legacy of community policing with helping keep the city relatively safe.

"When police are out in the neighborhood on an ongoing basis, there's a trust relationship that's built up," said Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, whose district includes Jamaica Plain, one of the city's most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. "It's a strong model."

In 1993, then-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani recruited Bratton to help him pursue his administration's law-and-order agenda. The Massachusetts native set the tone for his tenure by telling New Yorkers police would "fight for every street."

Bratton soon won admirers on Wall Street by applying corporate management techniques to big-city policing: A new set of chiefs "re-engineered" the department to thwart lesser crimes before they evolved into anything worse. Patterns were tracked by computer. Patrols were deployed based on where and when criminals were most active. Commanders were judged on the statistical results.

In his first two years with the New York Police Department, reports of serious crime dropped 27 percent, matching levels not seen since the 1960s. Homicides alone fell nearly 40 percent.

But Bratton resigned in 1996 amid persistent rumors that Giuliani was fed up with all the media attention the commissioner was getting.

In Los Angeles, Bratton again displayed a politician's deft touch with the city's diverse communities while showing his computer-enhanced formula for knocking down crime rates was portable: When Bratton left the West Coast in 2009 after seven years on the job, crime in the nation's second-largest city had dropped to levels not seen since the 1950s.

He became chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in 2002, when the agency was struggling to recover from a corruption scandal, under federal oversight and saddled with a tarnished image from the 1991 videotaped attack on Rodney King, a black motorist whose beating by four white police officers led to a riot after the officers were acquitted in a criminal trial.

Bratton left widely credited with ushering in an era of safer streets and improved relations between police and the people they protect.

Civil rights attorney Connie Rice says she considers Bratton a transformative figure in the history of the LAPD.

"When he came in, LAPD was under federal control, which had never happened before. The morale couldn't have been lower. ... I thought the force was going to disintegrate," Rice said.

Bratton rebuilt trust between commanders and officers, and people and the police, she said.

"He has a racial-justice vision that is married to effective law enforcement," Rice said. "He knows how to carry out both."

Associated Press writers Steve LeBlanc in Boston and Michael Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.