In a 50-year career, Bill Bratton’s name has become shorthand for efforts to analyze law enforcement and find ways to reform it, make it more responsive to crime while protecting innocent lives.
As a high-profile leader at police departments in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, Mr. Bratton largely wrote the book, figuratively, on the analytics of police departments, helping to put concepts like the “broken windows theory” of policing in the civilian vernacular.
In his latest book, “The Profession: A Memoir of Community, Race, and the Arc of Policing in America,” published in June by the Penguin Press, he and co-author Peter Knobler take a step back to look at the current climate of “police reform” and reexamine some of his core beliefs — and how they’ve been misconstrued and misapplied in many departments.
At 10 a.m. on Sunday, July 4, Mr. Bratton will be in conversation with Rabbi Marc Schneier at a breakfast at The Hampton Synagogue, discussing his new book, with a signing to follow, sponsored by The Red Jacket in Westhampton Beach. Admission is free, but registration is required; for details, call 631-288-0534, extension 10.
Now 73, and with his trademark Boston accent still unaffected by his postings on both coasts — and more than 20 years living at least part of the time on the South Fork, first in Quogue and full-time in Hampton Bays since 2009 — Mr. Bratton took time away from recording the audiobook, in his distinctive voice, at a studio in Sag Harbor to discuss his observations on police reform in 2021, including at the departments in his backyard.
Q: This book, the subtitle mentions “the arc of policing.” Really, it’s part of “The Profession,” right? The idea of evolving and reforming is just part of the profession of policing?
Exactly — that policing, like every other profession, is always reforming. You don’t want the profession to stand still — you don’t want medicine to stand still. And so I talk a lot about what the profession was like when I came in in 1970 as a young cop in Boston. Over the next 50 years, I think, along with a lot of other colleagues, we really were continuing trying to reform the profession to make it better.
I think we had a lot of successes. Some of the frustration at the moment is that those successes aren’t acknowledged. Some were more successful than others — the reduction of crime, serious reduction of crime. Some improvement in race relations, but as we’ve seen that was not as substantive as we certainly would have liked.
But it’s like in that old Broadway play, “Glengarry Glen Ross” — all the salesmen, “always be selling,” ABS. Well, policing is ABR: “always be reforming.” You just can’t stand still.
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