Former New York City police commissioner William Bratton will advise the British government on gangs in the wake of rioting in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said on Friday.
Downing Street said in a statement that Cameron had spoken with Bratton earlier in the day and thanked him for agreeing to make himself available for a series of meetings in the UK this fall to share his expertise tackling gang violence.
Bratton “will be providing this advice in a personal capacity and on an unpaid basis,” it added.
Bratton said on Friday evening, however, that he’s giving a free consultation that he hopes will turn into a paid contract.
Cameron told British lawmakers earlier this week he would welcome Bratton’s input following a flurry of criticism over police response to rioting in London.
Bratton — who gained fame by fighting crime with innovation and bravado as he headed police departments in New York, Boston and Los Angeles — confirmed to the Associated Press in a phone interview that Cameron had called him on Friday seeking his expertise.
“We can definitely take some of the lessons here and apply them there,” Bratton said.
Bratton — who is now a prominent security consultant — said that disturbing scenes of police overwhelmed by rioting in London show a need for more minority officers and other long-term solutions that have worked in New York and other US cities.
“This is a prime minister who has a clear idea of what he wants to do,” Bratton said. “He sees this crisis as a way to bring change. The police force there can be a catalyst for that. I’m very optimistic.”
Bratton, 63, left the Los Angeles police in 2009 and is now chairman of Kroll, a Manhattan-based private security firm.
Police in England have been outmaneuvered by mobile gangs of rioters and the unrest has stirred fears of heightened racial tensions.
Bratton said he believes British police need to focus on quelling racial tensions by collaborating more with community leaders and civil rights groups. He also said social media sites can be a useful tool for law enforcement trying to monitor gang activities.
“The idea is to get ahead of the violence rather than just react to it,” he said.
Another part of the potential long-term solution for London’s Metropolitan Police, widely known as Scotland Yard, is to become more racially diverse, Bratton said.
“Part of the issue going forward is how to make policing more attractive to a changing population,” he said.
Los Angeles and New York have benefited from police forces that “reflect the ethnic makeup of the cities,” he said.
Over the past two decades, Bratton has gained a reputation as a bold leader who refocused police departments in cities struggling with spikes in gang and other violence.
When Bratton stepped in as Boston’s police commissioner in 1991, the city was still being rocked by the violence that gripped many US cities in the late 1980s as potent and addictive crack cocaine flooded urban neighborhoods. The ensuing gang turf wars forced a dramatic spike in the city’s murder rate, hitting a high of 153 people in 1990.
Throughout the decade, Boston’s murder rate steadily fell to 35 in 1998.
Although the city’s murder rate has fluctuated since then, local leaders credit the legacy of community policing with helping keep the city relatively safe.