In Depth

Bill Bratton, Globocop


(Corrects the name of Providence Equity Partners in the fifth graph.)

Sometime this past summer Bill Bratton realized he was getting bored. He was nearing his 62nd birthday and wondering what his next challenge might be. He'd spent most of his career in law enforcement. Was it time for another shot at the corporate world? He had been in command of the Los Angeles police force for seven years, the longest he had ever stayed anywhere. Bratton had led the department through grueling, federally mandated reforms. He had put into practice all of his ideas about policing and management and leadership, and they had worked. The crime rate had dropped by more than a third. The LAPD, long despised in minority communities, found acceptance where it had previously been feared. Morale was high. "I had done everything I wanted to do," he says.

What he chose to do next suggests that Bratton still has something to prove, because there are many easier ways to ensure a comfortable retirement. In the fall of 2009 he became chairman of Altegrity Risk International, a security consulting firm in New York. Bratton intends to bring the best of American policing to some of the most dangerous places in the world. Soon the State Dept. will open the bidding on highly lucrative contracts to help train police forces in what it calls post-conflict nations. It's work that has often defied the expertise of more established companies, other law enforcement agencies, and the U.N. It is dangerous, frustrating, politically fraught, and labor-intensive. Bratton, however, is optimistic. In fact, he sounds like a man about to embark on a long-planned vacation. "It's a great time to be doing this," he says in his office in midtown Manhattan. "Some of the fun I can have with this venture is that I still get to advocate for the American success story. And it's an opportunity to have that success validated by making money."

Bratton's philosophy of law enforcement took shape 20 years ago when, as head of New York City's transit police, he inspired and provoked a once-demoralized force to restore order underground. He and a small brain trust believed that police should consider residents their customers, criminals their competitors. They also understood that authority and accountability had to be visible at a local level. Which meant that cops in the squad house needed real-time information that they weren't getting: details about crime patterns and colleagues' responses.

In 1994, New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani appointed him police commissioner, and although friction with his boss led to Bratton's ouster after two years on the job, his impact was long lasting. During his time as head of the NYPD, serious crime dropped by 33% and the murder rate was cut in half. The Bratton approach includes a data-driven problem-solving process known as CompStat (for computer statistics) that was devised by one of his most influential deputies, the late Jack Maple. CompStat has been widely, if unevenly, embraced by forces around the country.

Today, nearly 15 years after Bratton's career as New York's chief cop ended, he still wears a large gold ring with a replica of his badge. His Altegrity office in Manhattan is full of police memorabilia: his first badge from Boston and miniatures of New York's first police helicopter and California's first black-and-white cruiser. Altegrity, a billion-dollar company owned by the private equity firm Providence Equity Partners, has many lines of business: It conducts employment background checks, due diligence, corporate fraud investigations, and risk analysis of all kinds. Altegrity Risk International is a new division. Overall, the company has about 2,800 investigators and its biggest client is the U.S. government. In anticipation of winning a few of the upcoming State Dept. contracts, which could be worth $30 billion overall, Bratton and his staff have been recruiting former police chiefs, cops, lawyers, and judges to handle the day-to-day work overseas.

Altegrity is run by Michael G. Cherkasky, a former New York prosecutor who used to head up Kroll and, after selling it to Marsh & McLennan in 2004, led that firm, too. He was brought in as CEO a year and a half ago to expand the company, which started out as USIS, and prepare it to go public. (Bratton has an undisclosed stake in Altegrity.) Among the businesses that Providence might consider adding to Altegrity is Kroll itself, which is rumored to be for sale for about $1.5 billion.

Cherkasky and Bratton have known each other for years and worked together most recently in Los Angeles, where Cherkasky had been monitoring police department reforms on behalf of the federal government, which had oversight of the LAPD between 2001 and 2009. Both share a bright view of what could be very glum work. "There's nothing inconsistent with winning on Wall Street and doing good things for the world," says Cherkasky. Bratton describes Altegrity as "like the Peace Corps, but better paying."

MONEY IN CONFLICT

The main contracts from the State Dept. will be to train police forces in 14 "post-conflict" nations, including East Timor, Haiti, and Afghanistan. Altegrity sent a four-person scout team to Kabul in December. "No one is going to confuse Los Angeles with Afghanistan," says Cherkasky. "I hate when people say it's a war on poverty, crime, drugs. War is the fighting in Afghanistan. There are different rules. We understand the differences. We won't solve all the problems, but we're trying to do it better."

The problems in Afghanistan are daunting: Police recruits are often illiterate, corruption is rampant, drug use prevalent, and the training, so far, dangerously inadequate. The State Dept. is trying to address the chaos there and elsewhere by awarding smaller jobs to more companies as a way to assess which approaches work best and reduce the risk of failure. That's the only reason Altegrity stands a chance against companies such as DynCorp (DCP) and Lockheed Martin (LMT), which have had a lock on police training programs. "The State Dept. will CompStat it," says Bratton. "Who's having success? If it worked in the 7-5 [precinct], will it work in the 8-5?" The government wants to encourage competition, says William Loomis, a managing director at brokerage Stifel Nicolaus (SF). And it could be receptive to the Bratton brand name, he says. "Any time you have a service company, the people are what give you the credentials."

Although government contracts are where the big money is, other consulting work, especially in Latin America, could come Altegrity's way. None of it will come easy. "The threshold hurdle will be to establish the legitimacy of authority," says Richard Aborn, a consultant to European police forces and the president of New York's Citizens Crime Commission. "Bill will have to overcome the incredible skepticism people have toward police and, frankly, toward government."

Bratton has had some experience exporting American-style law enforcement to other countries, and those forays offer glimpses of the potential hazards ahead. After Giuliani fired him in 1996, Bratton eventually opened his own security consulting firm, Bratton Group, that operated out of Kroll's offices. He secured two major contracts with local governments.

RESISTANCE FROM ABOVE

The first was in the city of Fortaleza, the capital of the state of Ceará in northeastern Brazil. In the late 1990s, the governor, Tasso Jereissati, was worried that the violence, drugs, and organized crime so common in Rio de Janeiro and São Paolo were taking root in Fortaleza. "Our idea was to control it from the beginning," Jereissati recalls. He had read about Bratton and asked him to advise Fortaleza's police. Brazil, like many countries, has military police to maintain order and a civilian force to investigate crimes. "It was difficult to get them to work together and share intelligence," says Jereissati. "Both thought they were losing their autonomy. The old policemen gave a lot of resistance." William Andrews, who had worked as Bratton's special assistant in New York, was involved in these projects. "In Brazil, we did local CompStat continuously, in a very nuts-and-bolts way, creating model precincts," he says.

Term limits forced Jereissati to step down in 2002, and with him went police reform. "We were starting to have good results, but the governor that followed me decided to go with the resistors." Jereissati, who is now a senator, says: "We wanted to train people, not just make a beautiful plan. But it requires big changes to the system."

Bratton was brought to Caracas, Venezuela, in 2000 by a reform-minded mayor, Alfredo Peña, and his police commissioner, Ivan Simonovis, to help set up a new municipal police department. President Hugo Chávez had given more autonomy to Caracas and Peña, an early supporter. Bratton and Andrews knew they couldn't jump in with CompStat across the entire city. "You'd be kidding yourself," says Andrews. "You would be putting on a show, which CompStat can degenerate into. It has to be real, with accurate numbers."

They focused on a district called Catia, an impoverished barrio sprawling up steep slopes in the western part of Caracas. Bratton and Simonovis divided Catia into 12 precincts and found mid-level officers to run them. "The top ranks were very resistant to change," says Andrews. Simonovis arranged for the national police to train Catia's detectives. "There was nothing magical or Sherlock Holmes about it," Andrews continues. "It was just that homicides were being investigated for the first time." Over the next 18 months, Catia's murder rate declined by one-third, he says.

Then Chávez and Peña had a falling out. Graffiti appeared in Catia: "Bratton Go Home." After a brief and unsuccessful coup against Chávez in the spring of 2002, the experiment came to an end. Simonovis was jailed; Peña fled to Miami. "The whole thing fell apart," says Andrews. "Police reform requires constant presence. Institutions revert to form with dazzling speed."

In Chacao, another district of Caracas, the mayor tried to implement CompStat on his own. Leopoldo López came up against a systemic problem of a different kind. He had observed Bratton's work in Catia and knew the drill: He met with his top police officers every Tuesday at 6 am to review crime data. "I was totally committed to changing the way we were policing," he says. "In my district we could do the police management, get accurate measurements." What they didn't have was the support of the attorney general, he says, so "80% of the people we arrested were put back on the streets because of poor process or political reasons."

López, who has been barred from political office, still believes change is possible. "If we had a democracy, we would have been able to implement these reforms in the entire city of Caracas. I have no doubt about that." If...

Bratton says he understands the ifs, ands, and buts. Political institutions will be fragile; resources scarce. He will have to work neighborhood by neighborhood in these vast metropolises. He will have to adapt to local conditions that he is not even aware of yet. He will have only measured success. "But based on our experiences there is reason to be optimistic. Police can be agents of change," he says. "You have to start with optimism. You have to line up with political leaders who believe you can do good things. Then you have to ask: What is achievable?"

Susan-berfield-photo-200x200
Berfield is a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York. Follow her on Twitter @susanberfield.

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