Why Can't We Just Get Along?

By Grove, Lloyd | Newsweek, January 16, 2012 | Go to article overview

Why Can't We Just Get Along?


Grove, Lloyd, Newsweek


Byline: Lloyd Grove

Bill Bratton quelled turf wars as 'America's Top Cop.' His new book explores why collaboration beats conflict.

When campus police at the University of California, Davis, pepper-sprayed peaceful student protesters at point-blank range during an Occupy Wall Street rally on Nov. 18, shocking video of the unprovoked attack prompted national outrage--and demands for the immediate dismissal of top UC officials. That's when Mark Yudof, the beleaguered president of the 10-campus state university system, turned to William J. Bratton, chairman of the Kroll private investigative and security firm, to lead the internal probe of the policing and PR disaster.

Bratton, 64, who likes to refer to himself as "America's Top Cop" (at least in the title of his 1998 autobiography), is an old hand at coping with disaster and, on occasion, turning it into triumph. The former commissioner of both the Boston and New York police departments, he had the dubious honor of presiding over a calamity much worse than pepper spray as chief of the LAPD on the night of May 1, 2007--and then trying to reassemble the fragments of a damaged department.

"I think of that as one of the most significant crises I ever faced, and certainly one of the most significant successes," Bratton tells Newsweek about the "May Day Melee" in downtown Los Angeles's MacArthur Park, where hundreds of cops went on a violent rampage against innocent demonstrators, who were touting citizenship for illegal immigrants, and members of the news media. "The night before, I'd had the last public hearing on my reappointment as police chief, and that had been a lovefest. The next day, literally, the world turned upside down."

Bratton, who still sounds like the Boston street cop he once was, devotes much of a chapter to the MacArthur Park melee in Collaborate or Perish! Reaching Across Boundaries in a Networked World, the new book he has coauthored with Harvard public policy administrator Zachary Tumin. "In the aftermath," Bratton says, "I refocused the department, and reaffirmed relationships with the minority communities, particularly the Latino and immigrant communities"--as well as demoted and reassigned several high-ranking cops who'd made bad decisions because of a failure to work together. …

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