William Bratton Analytical Book Review

Published 12 Jun 2017

William Bratton is noted for his exemplary contribution in the Los Angeles Police Department with more than 32 years of law enforcement experience. His book entitled Turnaround which he co-authored with Peter Knobler (1998) is just one of the many achievements under his sleeves.

The book describes in full detail how a well-managed police effort can actually affect the reduction of crime. Bratton’s career is peppered with various accomplishments which makes him an efficient crime writer. He is behind the turn around of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA), the Metropolitan Police, which is now part of the Massachusetts State Police, the New York Transit Police, Boston Police, and the New York Police Department (NYPD).

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The Book (Turnaround 1998) shows Bratton’s belief in the Broken Windows theory, which translates that that acceptance of petty crime establishes an environment that creates more serious crime. He also believes in the analysis of crime statistics by location, time, among others to ascertain how to deploy police resources: originally pins on a map, eventually growing in to the famous CompStat. Bratton learned that by dropping the amount of city-wide petty crime, he was also able to reduce the number of city-wide serious crime.

In Turnaround (1998) Bratton illustrates the police efforts that led to these successes. Together with his peers, Bratton used computer mapping to pinpoint crime hot spots and then cleaned up the areas using all the tools of law enforcement. One of the favored tools was “quality of life enforcement” which decreases minor crimes such as panhandling, squeegeeing, and prostitution to make the streets less enticing to worse criminals. He made police commanders from all districts of the city accountable by requiring them to report on progress and problems in their locales during frequent departmental meetings.

What makes the book interesting is the mention of various cities where Bratton have worked and references of various people as well. His stint at the Los Angeles Police Department is such a fascinating part of the book. LAPD has been beset by scandal, incompetent leadership, and low morale and high employee turnover. Crimes such as reckless driving, littering and graffiti are ever-persistent which makes his stay more exciting.

The book tells the story of Bratton from his childhood years growing up in Boston to becoming the most important police officer in the United States which may inspire many of the readers who may wish to take the same steps Bratton decided to take. Bratton (1998) depicts the type of power politics that are being played in police departments. He described in details the negative things that occur at police headquarters. He pointed the run-ins he had with members of the old guard at the Boston police department, as well as his famous battles with Rudolph Giuliani, while he was head of the NYPD.

The book is trying to tell us that crimes can be solved and our cities will be more interesting to live in if we have cops or police department heads who thrive on good policies to make living a little easier. It may take some time before the United States produces another Bratton in its history. But at least he co-authored this book to remind us that it takes efforts to end or at least reduce crimes in the city. It is not enough to have all the best computer-equipments in the planet. What matters is that we learn from history and try to do things a little better.

Like everything else, crimes do happen for a reason. Each of us is responsible in making our lives easier. There are other criminal justice books that have been published to continue to remind us of our responsibilities as citizens. It would be wonderful to also go over these other books and pick up interesting anecdotes and facts to teach us a lesson or two in fighting crimes.

William Bratton may have grown up in the suburbs of Boston with humble beginnings but this did not stop him from changing the lives of others in the long run. His being a police officer spelled the difference in other people’s lives. Those who might have been victims of possible crimes which he controlled even before taking place will forever be grateful for him.

This book is a living example of a noble person who may or may not be hero to some. Bratton gives us his insights on how to interact well with the press, how to keep employees happy and how to sell a program. It is not clear whether he intended his book to be read from this perspective but this book includes many remarkable pieces of wisdom on how to run and operate a large organization.

Bratton’s ideas about curbing crime should be of interest to both those involved in law enforcement and regular people who are concerned about crime. Bratton’s colorful biography will remain an interesting read. His crime-fighting methods are worth emulating.

If we try to unearth the real message of Bratton’s book, we will learn that crime prevention is indeed a responsibility of everyone. It is not just a responsibility of those in the police forces like Bratton but every living taxpayer should learn to cooperate and bring in his share and participate for the success of every endeavor. We should not content in watching the whole thing transpire before our very eyes, we should find out for ourselves what we can do. In doing so, crimes – be it petty or major crimes – will be easily solved.


  • Bratton. W., & Knobler, P. The Turnaround: How America’s Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic: Random House (Jan 1998)
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