Over his three-plus decades running police departments in Boston, New York City and Los Angeles, Bill Bratton branded himself as America’s top cop. At the time, that was generally a good thing: He won accolades for overseeing big-city police departments during a historic decline in crime throughout the U.S., ushering in changes that reshaped how the job is done and confronting the LAPD’s history of racism and abuse a decade after the Rodney King beating. Throughout, he was an improbable blend of progressive reformer and ideologue, someone who didn’t hesitate to call out the failures of the profession and individual cops while also insisting that aggressive, data-driven policing would lower crime and improve race relations.
Today, of course, things are more complicated and fraught. Since the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop, American policing has become as polarizing as politics at large. With his new book, “The Profession,” Bratton weighs in with what he freely admits is his large ego and loud voice. With assistance from co-author Peter Knobler, he revisits his career with an eye toward explaining and defending his approach. And he attempts to wrestle with the current moment, arguing that Floyd’s killing has set policing back decades while sticking to his long-held, but now highly controversial, belief that a civil society depends on robust enforcement.
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