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Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton to step down

August 5, 2009 |  8:59 am

Bratton William J. Bratton is expected to announce plans to resign as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department today to take over as head of a private security firm, sources have told The Times.

Bratton is expected to announce his decision at a noon press conference today. He did not return several calls seeking comment. 

The decision by Bratton, who has dramatically reshaped the LAPD and pushed down crime rates since taking over in 2002, took the city’s political and police leadership by surprise. 

As Bratton flew back to Los Angeles from a personal trip to New York Tuesday night, aides to his boss, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said Villaraigosa knew nothing of the planned departure. 

Likewise, members of the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD, as well as the deputy and assistant chiefs whom Bratton entrusts with the day-to-day operations of the department, were caught off-guard when asked about Bratton’s imminent resignation. 

Bratton, 61, leaves with more than three years remaining in his second term. In Los Angeles, he cemented his reputation as one of the country’s leading law enforcement minds.

 As he did during a short stint as head of the New York City Police Department, Bratton implemented a crime-fighting strategy in L.A. built around an obsessive focus on crime data and a computer mapping system that is used to identify specific areas of the city that require more policing. 

That approach, along with a management style that placed considerable authority in the hands of his field commanders, has produced results: Crime rates have fallen steadily each year since Bratton’s takeover.

In a Los Angeles Times poll earlier this year, respondents expressed strong support for both the department and its chief. Almost eight in 10 registered voters said they either "strongly approve" or "somewhat approve" of police performance today.

It remains to be seen whether the changes made over the last 6 1/2 years have taken deep enough root to outlast the man who oversaw them. In recent interviews with The Times, Bratton has said that he believed the department was prepared for his departure. "If I left tomorrow," he said in December, "this would continue after I'm gone."

Bratton has long brushed aside frequent rumors about him leaving the LAPD for other jobs. British tabloids have often breathlessly announced he was a front-runner to take over Scotland Yard. And during the recent presidential campaign, he was seen as a strong candidate for a top federal law enforcement job, such as at the Department of Homeland Security. When asked by The Times last month whether his decision to place his Los Feliz home on the market was a portent of some brewing decision to leave, he said he had no such plans.

Regardless, the termination of the consent decree last month seemed to signal a major turning point for Bratton and his outlook on his tenure at the LAPD. With the department now free of what he believed was the heavy stigma of federal oversight, there appeared to be little new for Bratton to focus his energies on.

"I never want to go and just maintain something," he said in an interview late last year. "I want to be able to fix something."

-- Joel Rubin


Bratton lists his Los Feliz home at $1,875,000

Photo credits: Top, Al Seib / Los Angeles Times; bottom,  Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times