What to Do With a Retired Police Chief

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"What to Do With a Retired Police Chief"

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Mark Kleiman says that he hopes Bill Bratton will return to public service after a few years of cashing in, perhaps as FBI Director. Kevin Drum observes that “Mueller’s term is up in 2011, so that would give Bratton a couple of years to earn some private sector dough before returning to the trenches.”

This strikes me as a not-so-hot idea. As Kleiman himself says, “The FBI would be a stretch: agents aren’t really cops, counter-terrorism isn’t policing, and any fight to change Hooverville would run into serious resistance from the Ba’athist dead-enders at on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue.”

The whole concept has a kind of Peter Principle air about it to me. Here’s a guy whose proven to be really good at running large urban police departments, so let’s put him in charge of a federal agency that’s not really a police department at all. That doesn’t make sense. Having well-run urban police departments is important on its own terms. We should be encouraging people who’ve proven successful at that to . . . keep doing it. Unfortunately, after New York and Los Angeles there’s no more upward step, so concepts like the FBI come to mind. But wouldn’t it be better if there were some kind of federal (or perhaps philanthropic) program dedicated to spreading best practices among urban police departments? Some kind of federal initiative to bring more and better policing to America’s more resource-strapped cities would be a boon to the poor people who are the main victims of crime and would be an appealing alternative to building ever more prisons.

That’s a kind of half-assed idea, but the larger spirit is that when people are doing important work successfully you should be finding ways to get them to keep doing that stuff instead of moving on to other things.

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