Bill Bratton: Fighting Crime Without Shredding Civil Liberties
The former head of the NYPD and the LAPD talks about how bad leadership creates police brutality and why he's still against pot legalization.
My guest today is William Bratton, the former police commissioner of New York City and former chief of police in Los Angeles. He is widely credited for playing a major role in the historic decline of crime in the Big Apple in the 1990s, and he's a major presence in the new documentary Gotham: The Fall and Rise of New York, which will be released on video on demand on March 21 (pre-order here).
Bratton also had a highly acclaimed run in Los Angeles in the '00s, where he reduced crime and raised trust in a police department that had a truly awful reputation among the people it served. He is an outspoken defender of "broken windows" policing and also helped pioneer the use of CompStat, a data-driven system that focuses resources on where crime is happening at the moment.
Bratton is not without his critics, especially when it comes to supporting controversial policies such as "stop and frisk," which detractors say targets minority youth and abrogates civil liberties without increasing public safety.
My Reason colleague Zach Weissmueller and I talked with Bratton about all that, plus the recent increases in crime around the country and how qualified immunity, bad training, and weak leadership lead to horrors like the deaths of Tyre Nichols and George Floyd at the hands of the police. We also mixed it up with him over his insistence that legalizing marijuana was a mistake. It's a wide-ranging conversation with one of the most important law enforcement figures of the post-war era.
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