Saturday, September 3, 2011

FT has lunch with Bill Bratton

In the case of the British police, he thinks reform needs to incorporate several strands. First, he believes that police forces need plenty of bodies: in LA, for example, he campaigned successfully to hire another 1,000 police, in the face of severe political opposition. Second, he is strongly committed to the so-called Compstat technique of policing, which he helped develop. This involves using intensive data collection and intelligence to track detailed movements of groups in small neighbourhoods, and then follow up repeatedly, with so-called “predictive policing”.

But, contrary to his “supercop” tag, he also believes in community involvement: the police need to be constantly visible and accessible, and create community pride through small steps. This last policy is often referred as the “broken windows” policy, referring to the idea, put forward in the early 1980s by social scientists James Q Wilson and George L Kelling, that you must address minor offences on the street in order to build morale and uphold a sense of order. Or as he says, the police must “address the little things as well as the big things”; cutting the murder rate will not have impact if residents still see graffiti and prostitutes.

“American and British policing to this day tends to be very exclusive and exclusionary, but my style of policing has always been very inclusive – I bring a lot of people together from different backgrounds, who might not always want to work together. Being a successful police chief today is like being in a circus: a centre-ring with lions, tigers and bears – you have these animals which would normally kill each other, but through your control and influence they perform. A successful police chief has to work with the good, bad and ugly.” he explains. ...

Instead, he talks about poverty and social responsibility. “Policing and society in both your country and mine in the 1960s and 1970s excused a way of behaviour and created entitlement programmes around the idea that crime was caused by racism, poverty, demographics and so on.

“But as a policeman I always had a different perspective. Crime can be influenced by poverty but it’s always caused by human behaviour ... Police are charged with controlling that behaviour. It is crucial to maintain social order,” he argues. Similarly, he does not want to blame the gang culture just on economics; what is also going on is the “distintegration of the family ... Humans are social animals, they want to belong to something.”

Bill Bratton says he can lead police out of 'crisis' despite budget cuts
Bratton said US police chiefs had shown their British counterparts the way, securing large falls in crime despite facing falling budgets. In LA, where he stepped down as police chief in 2009, despite high unemployment and a 15% budget cut, crime is down by 10%.

Bratton said: "You can run around saying, 'The sky is falling in, the sky is falling in,' or you actually do something about it. You have to play the hand you're dealt. I've always dealt initially with budget cuts.

"Out of crisis come opportunities. If you want to speed up the process of change, nothing does it better than a good old crisis."

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