In the winter of 1990, William Bratton, then New York City’s chief of transit police, had officers escort hundreds of homeless people out of subway tunnels and bus them to shelters, the Los Angeles Times reports. Later, he used the same tactics on the streets as the city’s police commissioner. Mary Brosnahan Sullivan of New York’s Coalition for the Homeless, contended that “None of this ever helped one homeless person [permanently] get off the streets, out of the subway or into a new home.”
Now Los Angeles police chief, Bratton wants to use the New York model where the largest concentration of Los Angeles County’s estimated 91,000 homeless crowd into several blocks of downtown Los Angeles. Bratton told the Times that might never be possible to apply this approach in Los Angeles, where the police force, the homeless population, and services are vastly different. “I don’t have here anywhere near the resources I had in New York, where police were a significant factor in changing the face of homelessness,” Bratton said. “And the face of homelessness in New York was one of incredible fear of the violence and disorder of that population.” The Times reviews Bratton’s record in dealing with the homeless in New York City and assesses its applicability to Los Angeles.