Examination of Witness (Questions 1-15)|
BILL BRATTON CBE
30 NOVEMBER 2010
Q1 Chair: Mr Bratton,
thank you very much for coming today to give evidence to this
Select Committee. We are conducting a wide-ranging inquiry into
policing and the issues that are confronting the public as a result
of the Government's very ambitious and challenging agenda, so
some of our questions are going to be asking for comparisons between
America and the United Kingdom. If you can't answer them, we perfectly
We are very interested in what you have done in your
distinguished career, both in New York and in Los Angeles. Perhaps
I could start with a question about the "broken windows"
model. Some academics have cast doubt on whether or not this is
an effective way of dealing with policing. What are your views
Bill Bratton: The
"broken windows" theory advanced by George Kelling and
Jim Wilsonactually 30 years ago this year; it's the 30th
anniversary of ithas been a strategy and a concept that
I have embraced throughout my policing career in 40 years, in
every police organisation I have worked in. It is not an end-all
in and of itself, and I think that's some of the debate among
academics in which it is believed that some are asserting that
the turnaround in New York City specifically was a direct result
of "broken windows". "Broken windows" was
one of eight strategies that were employed in New York City to
make that city the safest large city in the United States.
I think it is an essential component of any set of
police initiatives anywhere in the world to address what I believe
are the issues of concern by members of the public anywhere in
the world about public safety. There is serious crime, but there
are also the crimes, the violations, that people experience every
day in their neighbourhoods, on their way to work, or in their
work environment. That's what "broken windows" seeks
to addressthose issues that are seemingly minor create
fear, create disorder and, if left unaddressed, ultimately result
in significantly more crime and more serious crime.
Q2 Chair: Indeed.
There is a debate at the moment, obviously because of the current
economic climate that will result in the numbers of police officers
in a local area being reduced. Do you think there is any correlation
between the numbers of officers in a particular area and the level
Bill Bratton: As
a police chief for many, many years, I would always like to have
more police, but the reality is it is not just numbers but, more
importantly, what you do with them. More is fine, but if they're
just standing around or if they're not focused on issues of concern
to the public, then those numbers are not ultimately going to
achieve what you would hope to achieve, which is improve public
safety and reduce crime. So by way of comparison, if you will,
in New York City I had 38,000 police officers to work with during
the two years I served as commissioner there. That size force
allowed a very rapid turnaround when that force was focused on
serious crime, through use of our CompStat processes, but at the
same time focusing also on the "broken windows" or,
as you refer to it in your country, "antisocial behaviour".
I strongly believe that you need to focus on both at the same
time. One might receive more of a priority at given times than
another on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis, because some
neighbourhoods are fortunate not to have serious crime but are
very concerned about behaviour.
So, I had 38,000 police officers in New York City.
In Los Angeles I had 9,000. Los Angeles: 500 square miles, worst
gang problem in America, 4 million residents. New York: 38,000
police officers, 300 square miles, 8 million residents, a drug
crime problem. To have the equivalent of what I had in New York
City in Los Angeles, I would need 18,000 police officers, I only
had 9,000 but, over a seven-year period, every year crime went
down in Los Angeles; every year the public perception of police
and their effectiveness improved with that dual focus of crime
and social disorder enforcement. Reinforcing the adage: it's not
so much the numbers but how you use them, how you inspire them,
how you direct them and what their priorities are.
Chair: Indeed. I am sure
that we will have further questions on that issue, because the
cutting of red tape and the focusing of police officers on core
tasks is, of course, extremely important, whether it's the United
States or it's in the United Kingdom.
Q3 Mr Burley: Prior
to becoming an MP this year I was a councillor in a part of London
called Hammersmith and Fulham, where we tried to model our policing
on the "broken windows" theory through a zero tolerance
approach. I was just wondering whether you thought that that was
a model you could replicate anywhere in any city in this country
or elsewhere in the world, or whether there are some areasrural
areas for examplewhere that model isn't applicable and
Bill Bratton: First,
I would not advocate attempting zero tolerance anywhere in any
city, in any country in the world. It's not achievable. Zero tolerance,
which is often times attributed to me and my time in New York
City, is not something we practised, engaged in, supported or
endorsed, other than zero tolerance of police corruption. Zero
tolerance implies that you in fact can eliminate a problem, and
that's not reality. You're not going to totally eliminate crime
and even social disorder. You can reduce it significantly.
So I would stay away from use of the term. It sounds
great. Politically it's a great catchphrase. The term originated
here in England when Jack Straw, as Shadow Home Secretary, visited
me in New York in 1995, and by that time the impressive change
in New York City had begun to occur. He heard the term "zero
tolerance" when we were speaking about police corruption
but then applied it across the eight strategies that we were engaging
in in New York, including "broken windows", drugs, gangs,
crime, stolen cars and police corruption. So it was a term misappropriated
and misapplied. You seem to love it over here, because I have
the hardest time convincing you to stay away from it.
But on the issue that you talked aboutthe
focus on dealing with quality of life, as we refer to it in America,
antisocial behaviour as you refer to it hereI believe that
any police initiative that is conducted without taking into account
that issue is doomed to failure in the sense of convincing the
public that we are effective in dealing with crime. Because while
there is a lot of serious crime, the average citizen is often
times not going to be affected by it in the sense of being personally
victimised by it. Case in point: New York City. In the worst crime
era in the history of New York City there was 700,000 reported
major crimes in New York City, population 8 million. So you had
less than a one in 10 chance of being murdered, raped, robbed,
larceny, burglary, car theft. However, every day in every neighbourhood
of New York you were confronted with the social disorderthe
aggressive panhandling, the prostitution, the drug dealing, the
abandoned carsand, if left undeterred, if left unaddressed,
it would grow. Thus, the "broken windows" theory.
In a country that loves gardening, you fully
appreciate the idea if you don't weed a garden, that garden is
going to be destroyed; the weeds are going to overrun it. Similarly
for social disorder: if you don't deal with those minor crimes,
they're going to grow. What also grows is fear. What also grows
is flight. People are going to leave those neighbourhoods because
they don't feel safe. So any police strategyBill Bratton
speaking based on the American police experiencethat does
not simultaneously address serious crime in what the average person
experiences every day that's negative and creates fear in their
life is doomed to failure in the sense of the crime stats can
tell you crime is fallingwell, in fact, it may be fallingbut
if people don't feel better about their neighbourhood they're
just not going to believe it.
Q4 Mr Burley: One
of the things they did in New York, which enabled people to record
those things that affect their everyday quality of life that you
mentioned was the implementation of 311, a very easy to remember
number where you could record anything that you see on your way
to workantisocial behaviour, graffiti, broken windows.
We tried to do this in this country several years ago with a 101
number as an antisocial behaviour hotline, and the tagline was,
"When it's less urgent than 999 but still important".
That kind of kicked into the long grass and there were some pilots
and it was never rolled out nationally. Could you just give us
an idea of your thoughts about the impact that that number has
had in New York and the benefits that it could bring if we decided
to roll it out in this country?
Bill Bratton: In
New York Mayor Bloomberg would certainly argue, because he took
what had begun under Mayor Giuliani and then expanded it, it has
been a success. It's not just for the reporting of quality of
life issues, but for any absence of city services that a citizen
wants addressed. We implemented the 311 system in Los Angeles
shortly after I arrived there and the newly elected mayor. It
never quite achieved the same level of success as New York, in
that Mayor Bloomberg invested a lot of personal capital in driving
it, much the same as he has CompStatted the whole city. He also
used 311 as a means of supplying information to his City CompStat
system. New York probably has one of the more successful models
of its use.
I can't speak to your issue in the sense of why it
didn't catch on. My sense, in the short time I've been here, is
that the term that you use, "antisocial behaviour",
has a broader context in your country than the term "quality
of life, broken windows" in my country. When we refer to
"quality of life" in the United States, the average
person thinks of the idea of the minor crime or violation. I think
there is some bleeding in your country into more serious crime,
or what we would think of as more serious crime, connected with
antisocial behaviouragain, it's just a sense I have. I
don't know what the actual definition of antisocial behaviour
is in the law.
Chair: I call Alun Michael.
I should tell you, Mr Bratton, that Mr Michael is a former Police
Minister for the British Government.
Q5 Alun Michael:
When I visited New York, the thing that impressed me most was
the way that local commanders were being held to account for the
effectiveness of their policing and their reduction of crime within
their area. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit more about
the way that was achieved, because very often the devil is in
the detail. It sounds easy, but use of CompStat and things like
that was a part of that, wasn't it?
Bill Bratton: The
overall direction of police that we changed in New York City in
1994 began first with the vision that something could be done
about crime. That was a turnaround, because in the '70s and '80s
it was felt the best we could do was respond to what was occurring,
attempt to address it and hopefully, by addressing it effectively,
it would be reduced. In the '90s we were much more forceful. In
some respects, it's very similar to what your Government appears
to be engaged in with this new initiativethe idea, the
belief, that police can do something much more directly about
crime by focusing on it in a different way; that we can focus
on preventing it rather than measuring our success on the process
of responding to it. So when I talk about the process of responding:
we measured response time, we measured arrest rates, we measured
clearance ratesit was all a process and they were all after
the fact. What changed in American policing, particularly in New
York in a leadership role, was that we accepted responsibilitywe,
the policethat we could do something about crime, about
the cause of crime, which is human behaviour.
Q6 Alun Michael:
So who would be responsible at what level? This was at the precinct
Bill Bratton: Well,
it began first with me as police commissioner and, by my accepting
responsibility, I now devolved lower into the organisation that
same responsibility. But also I empowered: a lot of the power
I had as police commissioner, where I was directing and controlling
and my predecessors were directing and controlling in a very hierarchal
and bureaucratic organisation, we pushed further down into the
organisation to an appropriate level where there would be adequate
resources, adequate intelligence and adequate authority to effect
change. In the NYPD, with 75 precincts, that was the precinct
level: the captain in command of 300 officers, on average, policing
a three square mile area. What we gave that captain was the authority
to determine how he was going to assign his or her officers, uniform,
bicycles, walking, anti-crime, narcoticswhatever the issues
were in his neighbourhood.
Q7 Alun Michael:
So it depended on his analysis of the problems in his area and,
therefore, matching resources to problems?
Bill Bratton: That's
correct. We, at the department level, had identified the eight
areas of concern in the city. They were drugs, youth crime, gunsall
interrelatedauto theft, domestic violence, police corruption,
traffic issues, and "broken windows" quality of life
offences, which were the lynchpin. At the same time, in 75 precincts,
some precincts did not have a serious crime problem. Other precincts
were like the 75 in East New York, called the "killing fields",
which had 144 murders in one year. So to try and police this very
diverse city with a monolithic set of strategies would not work.
We gave our broad strategies but then the police precinct commander
was free to refine them to his issues. He would then be measured
through the CompStat processI love cops, I'll give them
power, but I understand that you have to control what you give
away, so you hold them accountable. Precinct commanders were expected
to report through the CompStat process what was happening in their
area and what they were doing to address it.
A lot was said about the fact that I replaced 75%
of the precinct commanders in the first year. Many thought that
I was replacing people who were not achieving success. No. Many
of them were being rewarded for their success and promoted up,
so the turnover was as much promotion up as basically taking people
who were in a round slot but were a square peg and moving them
The idea was transparency and inclusion and decentralisation.
Those were the three things. Indeed, your Government is talking
about much more transparency in the new policing plan. It's talking
about inclusion and it's talking about decentralisation. Having
lived that experience in New York, while what is being proposed
here is personalised certainly to your country, your laws, your
issues, it has many similarities to what we did in New York and
later in LA with great success: the decentralisation, the pushing
down from the, in your case chief constable, in my case police
commissioner, to the area level commander and then him pushing
down further into the precinct level, where constables and police
officers could bring their ideas into the mix about what to do
in their particular patch.
Transparency: in CompStat, much as we're sitting
here, everybody is hearing what worked, what didn't work"Geez,
in my precinct I have the same problem; maybe I'll try what you're
doing." Then, lastly, the idea of inclusion: everybody is
in the game together, the sharing. Policing is a very exclusive
profession. The idea of not sharing information and not telling
the person next to you their coat's on fire. It basically reduces
the force multiplication impact of everybody being engaged. It
starts at the top with leadershipleadership that's willing
to be creative but leadership that's allowing creativity further
down into the organisation.
Q8 Alun Michael:
Can I just ask one other question, which is about the question
of public confidence and so on, because I understand the methodology
of that and it depends on the proper analysis of what is going
on and all the rest of it. On public confidence, we saw, for instance
in my own city, and we had evidence in the Committee, of a 40%
reduction in the number of victims of violent offences measured
by how many people go to the accident and emergency unit; on the
other hand, people don't take that too seriously and don't feel
any safer in the city. You managed very effectively to get across
what you were managing to achieve within the police force. Have
you any lessons for us there?
Bill Bratton: This
goes back to the earlier comment about dealing with quality of
life, antisocial behaviour at the same time that you're dealing
with the serious crime. You can report all the reductions you
want30%, 40%, 50%in the press, but if that person,
as they step out their front door is slipping on a condom from
the prostitute who used the front door the night before, and the
abandoned car they'd been calling about for three weeks is still
sitting there and each day there are more broken windows and tyres
disappearing, then what the public in general is hearing about
isn't their reality. In your society, particularly here in London
and probably in some of your major cities where the news is tabloid
driven, they are also then reading about the most sensational
case that just occurred.
The change in New York City and then in LA was
the transparency of our crime stats, because we were publishing
them all the time, reporting them all the time. It wasn't a couple
of times a year. Indeed, in Los Angeles we put the crime stats
up on our website and eventually the Los Angeles Times
asked for access to our records that fed the website. When the
LA Times looked at that, they found some deficiencies and
worked with us to correct the deficiencies. In Los Angeles now,
the crime stats that are put out everyday, the Los Angeles
Times is putting out the same crime stats, so they're validating
the crime stats. But what is also changing is the focus on the
quality of life issues in the neighbourhoods. So that's why I
say you can have the most efficient police force in the world
dealing with serious crime but if they're not, at the same time,
addressing, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, what's creating fear
you're not going to win. You're not going to win public sentiment
Chair: Thank you, Mr Bratton.
Q9 Steve McCabe:
Mr Bratton, our Government is planning to adopt the American model
of elected police and crime commissioners and elected city mayors.
You have quite a lot of experience of elected police commissioners
working alongside elected mayors and career police chiefs. What
can we learn from the American experience and what should we look
Bill Bratton: What
I would suggest is create your own experience; don't try to learn
from usseriously. It's been referenced in the several days
I've been here that part of the Government plan is modelled after
the American police system of political control of the police.
There are 17,000 police departments in the United States in which
the police chiefs of those departments either report to a mayor,
a city manager or a board of council members17,000. There
is no generic American police system, other than the police chief
is usually appointed by and reports to a political person or entity.
But in New York City, as the police commissioner, I was a civilian
who reported directly to the mayor. As police commissioner I had
total responsibility for policy development, operations in the
department, discipline. In Los Angeles, the second largest city
in the United States, I was the police chief. I was responsible
for the operations and discipline of the department but I reported
to a civilian board of commissioners appointed by the mayor who
were responsible for the policy and oversight of the police department
and had an inspector general to evaluate the performance of the
police department. We both reported to the elected mayor.
There's an example of the two largest cities in America
where they have totally different political reporting relationships.
There is an idea that it's modelled after the American system,
but what is being proposed here is a much more generic system
where all 43 chief constables will report in 2012, as I understand
it, to an elected police commissioner. I understand the actual
language and the details of how that will work are being submitted
to Parliament today. So the idea of much more intimate political
influence and control in your country is new, certainly from a
national Home Office direction to now a regional direction. That's
where the comparison to America might be appropriate, but 43 versus
17,000? The comparison ends there. It's a much more intimate form
of control and a much more standardised form of control.
Q10 Steve McCabe:
How much do you think elected mayors and elected police commissioners
are influenced in the decisions they take by the way the media
Bill Bratton: Quite
influenced, much the same as police chiefs are also, to be quite
frank with you, in terms of we all seek to get good news stories,
good media. I've often times been accused too much of never meeting
a camera that I didn't like. The reality is that I don't have
a public relations budget, so to get my story out, I can't put
up billboards, I can't put out my own advertising, I have to use
the public media. So I have always been very accessible, very
transparent to the media.
I've always told my cops, "I'm going to tell
the story that you give me. Nobody can tell it better. I'm good
at telling it. You give me corruption and I'm going to talk about
corruption. You give me bad cops I'm going to talk about them.
But you give me success, you give me initiatives and I'll get
that story out." Fortunately that story is the more common
story than the negative. So the idea that the police chief or
a politician is going to play to the media, that's the way of
the world because that's how you get the story outparticularly,
I think, in your city where there must be 10 different papers
each day. In Los Angeles I only had to play to the LA Times.
The Daily News was there but that was more of a suburban
paper. In New York I had a deal with the New York Post; so
that's the equivalent like your Sun, I guess.
Steve McCabe: Thank you.
Chair: Mark Reckless?
Q11 Mark Reckless:
Mr Bratton: Mr
Reckless, that's an interesting name.
Chair: Only by name, not
Mark Reckless: We used
to have a Reckless town in New Jersey, but there was a Senator
Bullock from there who was so embarrassed by the name he changed
it to Crossings.
Bill Bratton: I
had two officers that worked for me in Boston, one was Officer
Law and the other was Officer Order. Law and Order both worked
together. It was many, many years ago and they were actually partnered
togetherLaw and Order.
Chair: Indeed. Order,
I think we can take this a long way. Mark Reckless?
Q12 Mark Reckless:
In the UK we have a concept of operational independence for the
police. Now, we have sought to emphasise that in areas of individual
investigation or individual arrest it's quite proper that the
police should be entirely independent of politicians in exercising
their judgment, but in the wider area of strategy and setting
priorities for the police more broadly, we do think that is an
area where politicians can properly be involved. Do you think
that is a distinction we could sustain if we were to model our
policing on that basis?
Bill Bratton: If
I understand what is being proposed, it has three basic elements
in terms of the world of the chief constable changing. One, you
are proposing a police commissioner that in 2012 would now work
with and report to and, over time, that person would also be responsible
for selection and discharge of the chief constable.
Mark Reckless: Yes.
Bill Bratton: That
person, as elected official, would seek to bring the priorities
of the community in a more decentralised way than the Home Office
into the police department that polices that area. That's a new
concept for the chief constable certainly, where he was looking
up; he's now going to have to be looking directly across the reporting
Secondly, over the next several years there's going
to be a force reduction of approximately 20% in personnel in the
chief constable agency. So he's going to have to, in any event,
refocus his priorities because the resources are going to be less
to work with in some respects.
Thirdly, there will be the issue of promised operational
independence. A lot of the earmarking and restrictions that came
from the Home Office over the last number of yearsthat
burden in some respects, that restriction or limitation on how
resources could be assignedwould be lifted. So the chief
constable with fewer resources would have more flexibility to
assign those fewer resources to changing priorities, some of which
would be identified by the PC.
It seems to me to be a very workable situation. The
challenge is going to be that 20% force reduction. However, in
some respects, I've been thereI've already referenced that
in New York I had 38,000 and in Los Angeles I had 9,000 officers.
In some respects, it's not so much the number of police that you
havewe'd love to have a ton of thembut what you
do with them, how they are used. The public is quite clearly indicating
in your country, as they did in mine, that while they are very
concerned with serious crime they also want something to be done
about the social disorder and quality of life. I think the challenge
is going to be, with this reduced workforce, to broaden the policing
field from focus on and measurement of the serious crime to more
focus on and activity in dealing with the so-called minor crime.
Over time, it will be very interesting to see how that works out.
It is going to require creativity, that visibility, but visibility
where the officers are seen to be doing something.
I saw a clear example, being quite frank with you,
on Sunday, when my wife and I first arrived. We were walking in
Oxford Street, which was packed to the raftersyou wouldn't
know there was an economic crisis in this country based on the
people out shopping on Sundaybut walking the length of
about a mile I passed three constables, bobbies with the bobby
hats, and after I passed the first one, when I encountered the
second one further down the line, I found myself thinking, "What's
wrong here?" And it dawned on me, why were they by themselves?
Then as we came closer to Marble Arch where we're staying, I saw
a third one and it dawned on me what was different was you always
used to see them in pairs. In the 15 years I've been coming to
LondonI first came here when Paul Condon was the head of
the Metbobbies have always been two together. I've never
seen a bobby by himself or herself. Yesterday, at tea with Sir
Paul Stephenson, talking about these issues we're discussing,
he was talking about one of the things he had recently effected
as a force multiplication effort was requiring that, in a lot
of areas of the city, bobbies walk by themselves instead of in
pairs, so that he doubled his visibility, if you will.
What also occurs, in my experience in American policing
in a similar way, is that officers by themselves tend to be much
more attentive to their surroundings because they're not talking
with each other. The idea there is that you get more visibility,
but you also get more activity because they're effectively more
engaged. It's a decision that has to be made post-by-post because
some locations do require two bobbies; in the United States, there
are two officers in a car. But it's that type of management discretion
that you want your chief superintendents to have in determining
how can they maximise, with their more limited resources, the
effectiveness and the visibility of their officers.
Chair: Mr Reckless, you
can have one final question if you want one, and a brief answer
if that's possible.
Q13 Mark Reckless:
We've had various attempts in the UK on the policing of some serious
organised crime going across force boundaries and the national
arrangements for that, which I think most people agree are proving
disappointing to date. What lessons could we draw from the US
in terms of how the FBI and potentially other agencies work across
the 17,000 boundaries?
Bill Bratton: I
have a very limited understanding of some of what is being proposed.
I just left the Home Office meetings with a number of the people
who are being charged with creating this national FBI type of
entity. Again, our two countries are very different in that we
also have in our country states, which you don't have. So we have
federal, state, county and local. Our national police are indeed
the FBI, DEA, ATF, and that system works for us. I'm not informed
enough about what you're proposing to do and your structure as
a country is so different from mine that I would not want to advance
an opinion on that at this stage. I'm just not informed enough.
Mark Reckless: I understand.
Chair: Mr Burley has one
very quick question and we'd like a quick reply.
Q14 Mr Burley: Mr
Bratton, you have spent a lifetime working in crime. A huge amount
of what you have had to deal with has been around drugs and you
will be aware that there is a movement now in America, Law Enforcement
Against Prohibitionwhich is a group of criminal justice
professionals, police chiefs and so onwho say that prohibition
is no longer remedying the drug problem and that, in fact, prohibition
is just making it worse in terms of drug abuse and gang violence
and so on. Do you have a view of this growing body of professionals
who now think it's time to look seriously at drug prohibition
in the same way that we looked to alcohol prohibition 70 years
Bill Bratton: My
viewpoint is that movement is nearly invisible. It's the first
I'm hearing of it. I'm being quite frank with you. I was the president
of the Major City Chiefs of the United States and I can assure
you that that organisation and the IACP, the International Association
of Chiefs of Police, are not supportive at all of legalisation
of drugs at this time. There may be those who, out of frustration,
are advancing that idea but I certainly do not and I don't believe
that my colleagues who are still in the business are supportive
or advocating of it.
Q15 Chair: Mr Bratton,
I don't say this of many witnesses but it is a great pleasure
to have had you here giving evidence to this Committee. We are
most grateful. If there is any other information you think would
be helpful to us in our deliberations please do keep in touch
Bill Bratton: Thank
you for the courtesy of inviting me to appear before you.
Chair: Order order, this
Committee stands adjourned until next Tuesday.