William Bratton’s return as New York Police Commissioner after stints leading the Los Angeles and Boston police departments highlights a long-revolving door in U.S. policing in which some of the most coveted jobs often go to the most-traveled cops, says USA Today. Before being named Philadelphia commissioner, Charles Ramsey held the same posts in Chicago and Washington. Ramsey’s tenure in Philadelphia started after John Timoney, a former top deputy in New York, departed and later took the chief’s job in Miami. Garry McCarthy, the former chief in Newark, N.J., and deputy New York commissioner, who was appointed to Chicago’s top job in 2011.
The movement has become common as big-city mayors, whose own job security depends partly on a successful public safety operation, reach outside their own cities for candidates with track records at comparable departments. “These chief jobs — everywhere — are difficult, complicated and taxing,” said University of Pittsburgh law Prof. David Harris. “He or she has to be enough of a politician to work with the mayor, city council and the public. (Some) have to deal with (labor) unions … and have a strategy for maintaining public order and fighting crime that fits the particular city. That’s quite a skill set and not many have it all.” Bernard Melekian, the Justice Department’s former liaison to police, says the job requirements go beyond technical expertise’ to a delicate balancing act that must satisfy three major constituencies: “the rank and file officers, the local political leadership and the community at large. It is a job set on a three-legged stool. You pull one of the legs out, the whole thing is likely to fall.”