Bratton Believes in Collaborating With Campuses

Published: June 30, 2006

One could argue there is no other police official more recognizable or influential today than Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief William Bratton. In a career that started with the Boston Police Department in 1970, Bratton has a long list of achievements that have earned him the respect of colleagues, employees, officers, politicians and the public.

As commissioner of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in the mid-1990s, he introduced the CompStat system, which is still in use today and tracks crimes block by block, as well as quality of life and resource management. This approach, along with other tactics and the flooding of high-crime zones with officers, led to an impressive drop in crime in the Big Apple. During his 27-month tenure there, the number of felonies declined by 39 percent and the number of murders fell by 50 percent.

After his successful stint in New York, Bratton penned his memoir Turnaround: How America’s Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic. This book has been read by countless law enforcement professionals, including many campus police chiefs and security directors who credit it as being the inspiration to the successful transformations of their own departments.

In 2002, Bratton moved west to lead the troubled LAPD, which was and still is operating under a consent decree. For the past four years, he’s been aggressively reforming the department’s culture, policies and procedures, slowing chipping away at the agency’s low morale and tarnished reputation.

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But with nearly four million residents to protect and 465 square miles to patrol, the LAPD must delegate responsibility for schools, universities and hospitals to other specially trained agencies like the Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) or the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Police Department. In this exclusive interview, Bratton tells Campus Safety just how he and the LAPD collaborate with campus law enforcement agencies throughout the city of Los Angeles to keep residents, students, patients, employees and visitors safe.

What is your department’s involvement with schools and universities?

Bratton: We have a very sensitive involvement, particularly with the two largest: UCLA and the University of Southern California (USC). With USC we have an extraordinarily close relationship. They are in a higher crime area than UCLA, so they’ve got greater concerns about crime issues impacting the student body and instructors.

We empower those campus police with broader authority to patrol city streets and not just school property. That’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Basically, we’re comfortable that they’re professional organizations and that we can give them access to city streets.

Have you developed any strategies for dealing with hospitals or health centers?

Bratton: By and large our relationships with campus institutional hospitals and private security have improved over the past few years. There’s more of a recognition that we’re better off if we work together rather than apart, so there’s been a lot of movement to improve the coordination, cooperation, training and, in some instances, the sharing of intelligence. That’s a good trend — a good change.

We have 19 policing areas, so what goes on within the confines, that’s pretty much left to the various area captains in terms of the relationships and coordination with those various institutions. Like with UCLA and USC where we have pretty good working relationships with their police counterparts, in Hollenbeck [an area in East Los Angeles] where a lot of the hospitals are located, it’s the same thing.

In general, what would you say campuses could do better?

Bratton: Universities and colleges must understand that the campus police force is a necessity. Many universities think of security as a cost and that they’re not getting any benefit from it.

But it only takes one rape, one case, one homicide and that campus becomes much less viable in terms of attracting students. The investment [in security] pays off. USC, for example, is one of the largest property owners and the largest employer in the city of Los Angeles, but if the campus develops a reputation for being unsafe, it will have a hard time attracting not only students, but professors as well as workers.

Having a first-class police or security entity is pretty important. I’ve had a lot of experience with campus police, and my consultant has done studies with Brown University, New York University and a number of others, and my closest friend is now the No. 2 person at another university. I’ve got a lot of appreciation and experience with these people, interacting with them.

What would you say are the biggest challenges facing campus police departments?

Bratton: The biggest challenge is resources — the same as public policing — institutions that don’t want to spend the money.

Another challenge is supporting equipment training. Brown University asked me to do a study as to whether or not its officers should be armed. We recommended that they be armed, and the president went along with that. They’re in the process of arming their officers.

But this is an issue that unfortunately is in a lot of urban police campuses. Their officers need to be armed — that’s the reality of the neighborhood. USC and UCLA, for example, have two levels: armed and unarmed agents. It’s up to each individual institution.

Overall, what effect did 9/11 have on law enforcement?

Bratton: If there’s any good that came out of 9/11, it is that we’re getting better at intelligence gathering and sharing. We now appreciate that there are 40,000 federal agents, 700,000 public police officers and 2.5 million private security officers. We’d be crazy not to take advantage of that level of personnel.

Public policing in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s was more focused on responding to crime. The difference now is that public policing is coming back to prevention. If I can ever make a significant contribution, it’s the idea that police can make a difference in controlling crime to such an extent that we can reduce it. If appropriately resourced, we could be a very strong force for the prevention of crime instead of spending so much time responding to it.

Scott Goldfine is editor-in-chief of Campus Safety (CS) magazine and can be reached at Robin Hattersley Gray is executive editor of CS and can be reached at

For the complete version of this article, please refer to the July/August 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine.

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Strategy & Planning Series
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Strategy & Planning Series