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The many celebrities in Los Angeles include the city's police chief. William Bratton came to the city after a high-profile role in New York. He became a media star in California, too. This week Bill Bratton leaves the department for a job with a corporate security firm. NPR's Mandalit Del Barco reports that many people are sad to see him go.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: This has been Bill Bratton's farewell week, and the one moment he'll definitely remember was the surprise tribute from his officers. They lined up outside L.A.'s brand new police headquarters for a final salute that began with this radio dispatch.

Unidentified Man: Attention all units, attention all units, this is an end watch broadcast for William J. Bratton, serial number 36573.

DEL BARCO: Bratton seemed to savor the moment, surrounded by his troops. Then he choked up as he addressed them for one last time as chief.

Mr. WILLIAM J. BRATTON (LAPD Police Chief): I'm really going to miss all of you. And thank you for this. This is - well, you know, I'm never at a loss for words, but I am. Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

DEL BARCO: During his seven years as chief, Bratton had lots of words for criminals. He called them knuckleheads and nitwits, and he had a mantra.

Mr. BRATTON: Cops count, police matter. You hear me say it over and over and over again.

DEL BARCO: He came to L.A. after clashing with New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Here he was embraced by two mayors, and most of all, by Angelinos who long ago grew frustrated by the LAPD's embarrassing headlines. Under Bratton, crime went down and the department changed. Cops who got out of line faced consequences.

Three years ago at a rally for immigrant rights in MacArthur Park, officers in riot gear beat protestors and news crews.

(Soundbite of riot)

DEL BARCO: Chief Bratton faulted two top commanders. One quit, the other was reassigned. Several officers were disciplined. And Bratton apologized to the people who had been attacked by the LAPD.

Mr. BRATTON: I think of myself as media-friendly, and so the treatment that you received yesterday at the hands of some Los Angeles police officer, as well as some of the residents of this city, is something we cannot tolerate. I won't tolerate it.

DEL BARCO: That kind of attitude earned Bratton a respect, even from some hardcore gang members. Recent parolee Hector Garcia says, by declaring war on street gangs, Bratton made the Mara Salvatrucha, the M.S., famous. But Garcia also gives him credit for reform.

Mr. HECTOR GARCIA (Parolee): Now days, I feel like there's more respect in officers. I guess after the MacArthur Park thing, they're being respectful. I mean they changed their mentality about how to react against community - it really worked a lot. So they pretty much, I think, he kind of like make a difference and then…

DEL BARCO: Bratton made it clear he would be a different kind of chief than the LAPD had ever seen. He wanted a department more diverse and more community oriented than it was in the old Dragnet era of the legendary chief William Parker.

Mr. BRATTON: Did you ever see Joe Friday ever put his arm around a victim? Just the facts, ma'am. The police department of the Parker era was - and he coined the phrase, the thin blue line - was the idea, leave us alone, we'll take care of business, and you the public really have nothing to do with how we take care of business. That's certainly not how we look at policing today.

DEL BARCO: Now Bratton returns to New York, this time as a security consultant for police department around the world. And, as he's done in the past, he'll rely on the latest computer technology as a crime fighting tool, something he calls predictive policing.

Mr. BRATTON: Like doctors, we're getting very sophisticated at looking at the symptoms and creating medicines, if you will, to prevent them from happening.

DEL BARCO: So there could a vaccine, a crime vaccine?

Mr. BRATTON: It could be a crime vaccine, much the same as the flu vaccine. It works for most patients, it doesn't work for everybody. But the whole idea of the vaccine is to limit the affects of the illness, even if you get it, or prevent it totally. Similarly, crime can have a similar impact.

DEL BARCO: The private sector may pay a lot more than being a police chief, but Bratton says he'll miss wearing a badge.

Mr. BRATTON Being a cop is the best thing you could ever want to do in life. It's full of fun, it's full of a sense of doing something important. More(ph) like thinking, my almost 40 years as a policeman, my life has counted for something, and I think it's been a life of significant and I've worked with a lot of great people.

DEL BARCO: As that surprise tribute was wrapping up, a police helicopter and motorcycle brigade escorted him off into the sunset, but not before someone had to remind Bill Bratton to turn in his LAPD badge.

Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News.

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