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New York City Police Veteran Nominated to Run Los Angeles Police Department - 2002-10-04

The former New York police commissioner has been selected as chief of police in Los Angeles. If approved by the city council, William Bratton will take the helm of a department tarnished by scandal in a city that faces a rising crime rate.

Mr. Bratton served in top police posts in both Boston and New York, but he is no stranger to the Los Angeles Police Department. He helped monitor a federal court consent decree that is implementing reforms after a scandal involving officers of an elite anti-gang unit. In New York, he was credited with bringing down the crime rate dramatically.

Mr. Bratton has spent 32 years in law enforcement. He was selected over a veteran of the Los Angeles force who now serves as police chief in the nearby city of Oxnard, and over the commissioner of the Philadelphia department.

As Mayor Jim Hahn introduced Mr. Bratton to the city Thursday morning, the mayor outlined what he calls their joint priorities.

"Reducing crime, improving morale and recruitment, implementing police reform, expanding community policing, and embracing civilian oversight," he said.

All those areas, the mayor said, need improvement.

Mr. Bratton had a sometimes rocky relationship with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Both were men who enjoyed the limelight. And Mayor Hahn had run-ins with his previous police chief, Bernard Parks. The mayor and police commission declined to appoint Mr. Parks to a second five-year term. But the mayor says the chief-designate has his full confidence as a man who can turn the Los Angeles police department around.

Mr. Bratton promised to address the problem of low morale. "I care about cops," he said. "I understand them. I understand the good and the bad and the ugly. And I will work very hard to meet their needs so that their needs, when met, will meet the needs of the citizens of this city."

Mr. Bratton says he believes in putting police on the street to deal with problems before they arise, instead of just responding to emergency situations.

"Community policing is very simply partnership, problem solving, prevention," he said.

He says he will ask his officers to take the same approach and reach out to the public. "And when I meet with them over time, I'm going to encourage them to go back into the street, to go back into the church halls, to go back into [public] housing, to meet with people to find out what their concerns are, but then to work with them as partners in taking back those streets," he said.

Mr. Bratton's appointment must be approved by the Los Angeles city council. He is expected to win approval.

The new chief will inherit a department that is 1,000 officers short of full strength. Even at its full complement of 10,000 officers, it is just one-quarter the size of the New York force.

But Mr. Bratton notes the Los Angeles department once had a sterling reputation, celebrated on television as a model police force. He promised to clean the "tarnish" from the badge of its officers, which he called the most famous police badge in the world.