If Bill Bratton Returns to the NYPD, He'll Be Trailing Conflicts of Interest Like Toilet Paper on an Old Man's Shoe
In several radio interviews leading up to the November 5 election, mayor-to-be Bill de Blasio mentioned William J. Bratton, whom he called a "very key adviser," as a top candidate for New York City's next police commissioner. If picked, Bill Bratton would return to the department where two decades ago his career as a data-driven crime fighter took off. After leading the New York Transit Police from 1990 to 1992, Bratton moved to the top of the New York Police Department for two more years, from 1994 to 1996. While running the NYPD under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, he instituted two seminal initiatives — the statistically driven management method known as CompStat, and a zero-tolerance model of policing — that gained much favor with tough-on-crime politicians. Bratton would go on to burnish his credentials as the nation's top cop by running the Los Angeles Police Department from 2002 to 2009.
But Bratton's possible return to public office in New York is complicated by his other career as a private sector consultant and corporate board member. After leaving public office the first time in 1996, Bratton took on lucrative consulting jobs. When he again retired from public service in 2009, Bratton joined the boards of several companies that sell technology, surveillance gear, and other goods to police forces, including the NYPD. These companies include Manhattan-based Kroll Inc., Motorola Solutions, and ShotSpotter Inc.
A billion-dollar security firm that contracts mostly with corporations, Kroll was established in 1972 and soon became known as "Wall Street's private eye," per the official history on the company's website. The Los Angeles Times' Joel Rubin has reported that it was Michael Cherkasky, a former prosecutor in the New York District Attorney's Office then working as a Kroll executive, who recruited Bratton in 1996. Over a period of more than a decade, the city of Los Angeles paid Kroll $16 million to implement a federal court order aimed at eliminating corruption within the LAPD.
Bratton left Kroll after only a year to assume the post as L.A.'s chief of police. When he stepped down in 2009, Kroll's work with the LAPD was done, but Cherkasky lured Bratton back. By that time, Kroll had become a subsidiary of Altegrity, a holding corporation led by Cherkasky. Bratton's new title: chairman of Altegrity Security Consulting.
In November 2012, Bratton relinquished his chairmanship. But he remains a "senior advisor" to Kroll, which since 2010 has won $1.7 million in New York City contracts, mostly for "investigative consulting services" provided to the New York City Law Department. Michelle Creeden, a spokeswoman for the company, says she has been in contact with Bratton's office and that he is not available to speak with the press about his potential return to the NYPD. She declined to comment about Bratton's financial relationship with Kroll or whether he was involved in any work the firm has done for the city.
In 2011, electronics giant Motorola Solutions elected Bratton to its board of directors. Securities and Exchange Commission filings show that Motorola paid Bratton $100,000 in cash and $140,028 in stock awards in 2012, and that Bratton owns more than 10,000 stock options worth an estimated $630,000. When Bratton joined Motorola's board, the company's statement to shareholders cited his "significant experience in law enforcement both in the U.S. and abroad and his insight in criminal justice system operations."
Motorola Solutions is a major vendor to police departments nationwide; other clients include the army, the border patrol, the federal prison system, and the National Security Agency. Serving alongside Bratton on the board of directors is retired U.S. Air Force General Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA.
In terms of sheer dollars, Motorola Solutions is one of New York City's largest vendors. According to the comptroller's contract database, the city has paid the company $34 million since 2011, mostly through sales of radios and other communications gear. (Contracts on file with the city of Los Angeles show Motorola has sold approximately $107 million in goods and services to that municipality, most of it in the form of communications equipment used by the LAPD.)
Tama McWhinney, a spokeswoman for Motorola Solutions, declines to comment about Bratton's role or on speculation that he might be offered the job of New York police commissioner.
The Voice asked the New York City Conflict of Interest Board whether Bratton would have to resign from his corporate posts and sell off stock holdings if he were to accept nomination for city office. Though the board never comments on cases either hypothetical or actual, a COIB attorney pointed to procedures undertaken during the Bloomberg administration.
Prior to taking office, Mayor Bloomberg disclosed extensive financial holdings that created potential conflicts of interest. His senior staff also had to disclose their financial interests, which included real estate holdings in Manhattan and stock in numerous companies regulated by and doing business with the city. For example, the COIB required Bloomberg to recuse himself from all matters related to New York's regulation of cable franchises, because his Bloomberg Television company is carried by cable companies, and decisions he might have made as mayor, or as a member of the city's Franchise and Concession Review Committee, could have indirectly affected the financial success of Bloomberg TV.
In several instances, the COIB advised Bloomberg's incoming staff to sell stock holdings and real estate interests and resign from private-sector boards and executive positions before taking public office, and also to recuse themselves from certain business while in office. For example, Daniel Doctoroff, whom Bloomberg appointed deputy mayor for economic development in 2002, had to resign from the boards of multiple companies and place his stock portfolio in a blind trust administered by an independent third party. He was barred for the duration of his tenure as a city official from involving himself in any matters concerning Oak Hill Capital, the private equity firm in which he had been a partner.
ShotSpotter is a California engineering company that designs and builds gunshot-detection systems that are deployed in more than 80 cities. New York City has no contracts with ShotSpotter, but according to city records, in 2009 and 2010 the company hired the Greenberg Traurig law firm to lobby the mayor's office and the NYPD. Bratton joined ShotSpotter's board earlier this year, after Motorola Solutions invested $12 million in the company. Motorola declines to say whether Bratton's role with ShotSpotter is related to the investment.
Back in 2008, when he was leading the LAPD, Bratton advised the city to purchase ShotSpotter's system. "Should funding become available," he wrote to the L.A. Police Commission, "the Department would benefit from the use of this technology."
Earlier this year, Bratton formed his own company, Bratton Technologies, which is developing a LinkedIn–style social network for law enforcement officers. John Roderick, a spokesman for Bratton Technologies, says Bratton isn't answering journalists' queries about the possibility of rejoining the NYPD. Roderick adds that Bratton Technologies' BlueLine social network is nearing its launch, and that, unlike products offered by Motorola Solutions, ShotSpotter, and Kroll, "it's not sold to police departments." Says Roderick: "It's free to join, offered to individual officers."
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