For William Bratton, who the Los Angeles Times calls “the most influential cop in America today,” crime statistics are everything. They are the hard evidence he has spent a career trying to amass: proof that he has the blueprint for fighting crime in urban America. The numbers have dropped long enough and far enough that Bratton could call it quits in Los Angeles, say “mission accomplished” and move on. Many city leaders have long been convinced that he is, in fact, on his way out. He is not someone who likes to coast. “I never want to go and just maintain something. I want to be able to fix something,” he said.
Although he says he enjoys life in L.A. and has learned to navigate the balkanized politics of the city, he remains the earnest, brusque East Coaster with the thick Boston accent he was when he arrived. His constant travel to attend conferences and give speeches is viewed as evidence that he’s looking for something new. “If I left tomorrow, this would continue after I’m gone,” he said. Bratton, 61, who has been L.A. chief longer than he held his three previous posts combined — insists he’s not going anywhere. Los Angeles is the place where he wants to prove that he can do more than just make crime numbers go down, where he can complete “the next phase of policing.”