How Bratton Brought Crime Down, Eased Police Race Relations In L.A.


The timing of “Blue,” Joe Domanick's dramatic account of the Los Angeles Police Department's recent fall and rise, is impeccable, Mark Horowitz writes in the New York Times. Deadly encounters between young black men and the urban police in Ferguson, Baltimore and Staten Island have resurrected the urgent issue of reform, and race is at the center of “Blue.” Domanick, a Los Angeles journalist and West Coast bureau chief of The Crime Report, was drawn to William Bratton because Bratton was willing to admit what other big-city police chiefs would not: “The flash point for racial tension in America's cities for decades, Bratton believed, had been the police — and if they were ever to get the consent of the poor people of color they were policing, they'd have to stop being part of the problem.”

This is largely a book about how bad things were in Los Angeles before Bratton got there to head the police department. Crime had been increasing at twice the national average. Between 1980 and 2000, there were 11,500 gang-related homicides in Los Angeles County. “L.A.'s gangs were not simply growing but metastasizing.” Horowitz says that Domanick “is steeped in his city's rich history, its fraught racial and ethnic conflicts and the complex demographics that befuddle so many outsiders.” With crime and officer-involved shootings both down Domanick comes to what Horowitz calls the politically incorrect conclusion that police reform must be part of the solution. “You have to start somewhere,” Domanick writes. Bratton's brief sojourn in Los Angeles suggests that not only is reform possible, but in treating the symptom, you may even be halfway to curing the problem.

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