By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Staff Writer
Clutching his badge, William Bratton paused in his comments and appeared to be holding back tears. The Los Angeles Police Department’s chief announced Wednesday that he will leave the department he took over nearly seven years ago to take a job with a private global security and police advisory company.
“When you love what you do, when you love the people you get to do it with, when you love where you do it, there is never a good time to leave, but there is a right time,’’ the 61-year-old Bratton begin his comments during a press conference at Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office. “For me, personally and professionally at this time, it is the right time.’’
Bratton revealed that he will return to New York–where he was formerly the head of the NYPD–to work for Altegrity, the security agency led by Michael Cherkasky. Bratton said the goal of the firm will be to modernize and bring professionalism to police and security agencies in post-conflict nations and emerging democracies, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Cherkasky was also the official in charge of verifying the LAPD’s compliance with a recently lifted federal consent decree.
Bratton added that this is a personal opportunity to return to New York and be nearer to his aging father, and to remain within the realm of his chosen profession.
Bratton will leave the LAPD with a far more positive profile than it had upon his arrival, having been rocked by recent scandals and facing crime rates that he said were simply unacceptable. His resignation comes amid crime figures that have dropped dramatically and shortly after the department was released from the consent decree. Recent department statistics show homicides are down 54 percent under Bratton’s watch, with overall crime seeing a 38 percent drop.
Calling L.A. at the time of his arrival “A very troubled organization, in what was arguably a very troubled city,” Bratton said he and then-Mayor James Hahn committed to reduce crime, fear and disorder in the city.
Alluding to the corruption and criticism of mismanagement that had tarnished the LAPD badge through the 1980s and 90s, Villaraigosa praised Bratton for leading the department through positive reform resulting in renewed trust and respect.
“With Chief Bratton at the helm, the Los Angeles Police Department transformed itself into a beacon of progress and professionalism, into a department seen as a partner, not an adversary,” Villaraigosa said, “No longer bound by the misdeeds of the past, no longer a roadblock to building a more tolerant and inclusive city and no longer in need of federal oversight.”
Rose Ochi served on the Police Commission when Bratton was hired and praised the chief. She is currently executive director of the California Forensic Science Institute at Cal State L.A.
“One of the things he understood very clearly was that we wanted an inclusive department from the top all the way down,” said Ochi. “I feel as a result people like (Deputy Chief) Terry Hara have had an opportunity to hold key leadership roles. I haven’t had any conversations with the mayor or police commission, they would look very favorably at an internal candidate and he is definitely part of the top brass.”
Ochi said the news did not surprise her after hearing earlier that Bratton had put his home up for sale.
“When the city is facing financial difficult times, he knows that it’s going to ultimately mean cuts are going to affect the department, so it’s a good time for him to leave. He sought to restore the confidence in the department and the morale of the officers and he has lowered crime,” Ochi said.
Bratton also took pride in the LAPD’s efforts to curb tension between ethnic groups, in a city that has too often been the flashpoint of racial unrest.
“I believe we have turned a corner in that issue in that this is a city that is proud of its racial diversity,” he said.
“It’s a city where people do work together and it is my belief that the Los Angeles Police Department has played a significant role in bringing that about.”
He added that the LAPD is now staffed with a majority of minorites.
“We look like–and we are–the Los Angeles community,” Bratton proclaimed.
The search now begins for Bratton’s successor, a process that could take several months. The chief, the mayor and L.A. Police Commission president John Mack all expressed hope that the new chief would be chosen from within the current personnel. Villaraigosa said that all qualified applicants will be given equal consideration.
“In the new LAPD, everyone can apply, with the qualifications, experience, leadership, talent and commitment to the values to perform,” Villaraigosa said, adding that applicants will be considered without regard to race, ethnicity, sex or national origin.
There were no possible candidates mentioned at the press conference.
Deputy Chief Hara, who is the commanding officer for Operations West Bureau, is one of several minority officials who could be a possible replacement for Bratton. Hara is the highest-ranking Asian American officer in the history of the LAPD.
—additional reporting by Gwen Muranaka