The February issue of Playboy, on sale starting today, has a long feature by Joe Domanick on LAPD chief William Bratton, or Supercop as the headline calls him. The piece, which is not available online, begins by sketching out the chief's pre-Los Angeles national profile — cover of Time in 1996, success in Boston and New York, the nights at Elaine's — and declares that today "he is not only the country's most famous police chief, he's also the most influential crime fighter in recent history." Domanick casts it partly in political terms:
It’s no wonder Bratton is rumored to be on the short list to head the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI in a Hillary Clinton administration. He’s so influential that his archnemesis, former New York City mayor and now Republican presidential hopeful Rudolph Giuliani—the man who fired him—twice made pilgrimages to L.A. last year in thinly veiled attempts to neutralize Bratton in the 2008 elections.
There’s little doubt Bratton will be a force in those elections, as the man who puts fighting crime at center stage. Crime may be low in Los Angeles and astoundingly low in New York City, but if you live in Detroit, where the murder rate is seven times that of New York’s, or in Newark, where the homicide rate is three times that of L.A.’s—or in a score of other cities across the nation—a “gathering storm” of
crime is brewing after a historic nationwide decline, says Bratton. That storm can be abated, he believes, through the management and deployment strategies and community-backed policing he has championed. “Cops matter,” he says simply.
Bratton's agenda, though, is described as fixing the racial issues behind crime.
By placing police and public safety at the forefront of the public consciousness, he hopes to achieve a complex goal: using the police to solve the problem of race in America. “If we don’t solve the race issue,” he says, “we’ll never solve the other issues. The police have traditionally been the flash point for so many of America’s racial problems.”
As for getting the job in L.A. after Mayor James Hahn decided to get rid of Bernard Parks, Bratton says L.A. was cool on him at first:
“The Los Angeles Times did a series of profiles on prospective chiefs,” says Bratton, “and nearly killed me with this very disparaging article about this slick Bratton guy from New York.” Then Rick Caruso, a wealthy local developer who was the Police Commission president at the time, “made it quite clear through intermediaries that I shouldn’t apply and wasn’t wanted because I was too brash.” Bratton, moreover, had studiously prepared for the job with the help of his new wife, trial lawyer and former Court TV anchor Rikki Klieman. “I put together a package of materials that was about this thick,” says Bratton, holding up his right thumb and index finger and spreading them wide, “including my plan for what I would do if selected chief. And people even took offense at that. ‘Imagine the gall of this guy coming here with all this stuff. Who does he think he is?’ That was the attitude. The mayor slid into my camp only after one of his top aides went to New York and met with former New York governor Mario Cuomo, Judge Milton Mollen, who headed an investigation into New York police corruption, and rank-and-file cops and came back appreciating what I’d done there.”
The story describes how Bratton won over Parks-backer John Mack, then of the Urban League, and brought many of the department's smartest critics inside. The chief says his politcal positions are very aligned with those of Hillary and Bill Clinton, but he has that long history with Rudy Giuliani and calls himself “a political independent. It’s nice to be on good terms with both the leading presidential candidates, because crime is coming back.”