Bill Bratton speaks at the New York City Police Foundation 2017 Gala. (Getty Images)
VenuesNow Conference speaker discusses his role on the homeland security panel and some favorite police movies
Veteran law enforcement officer Bill Bratton has spent his entire life on the front lines as police commissioner in Los Angeles, New York and Boston, and now as vice chairman of the 30-person bipartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council, a panel that serves the secretary of homeland security on issues of interest or concern. In his role as chairman of Prevent Advisors, the security division of Oak View Group (OVG is the parent company of VenuesNow), Bratton has made it his business to use the most contemporary solutions for preventing and reacting to attacks such as the Manchester Arena bombing after an Ariana Grande concert or the mass shooting during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas. He is executive chairman of Teneo Risk, a global security advisory, consultancy, strategy and communications firm for the private sector.
What does the Homeland Security Advisory Council do?
We investigate a wide range of issues. Right now, we’re doing studies on the immigration crisis, human trafficking and cyberterrorism. It’s very interesting because it keeps me contemporary with national and local issues. There’s a very good group on the committee.
Do you miss being the police chief of a major American city?
Every day. I enjoyed those posts immensely. There’s never a good time to move on, but it was the right time for me a couple of years ago. I’m fortunate that, whenever I’ve stepped out of the job of policing, I remain involved through my consultancy and activities.
Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001?
Living in New York and working with Kroll Security, one of the leading corporate investigations and risk consulting firms in the country. It also propelled me back into policing. Within a year, I was named police commissioner of Los Angeles, and I was able to convince John Miller (who had worked under Bratton in the NYPD) to join me as a counterterrorism chief. The world of policing changed dramatically. Up until then, police departments were tasked with traditional crime and disorder, while terrorism was largely the domain of the federal government, the FBI domestically and the CIA everywhere else. John and I created a 300-person counterterrorism department. The world of stadium and event security also evolved overnight, from overcrowding and rowdy fans to a whole world of threats and challenges that had to be identified and potentially prevented.
Collaboration between the 40,000 federal agents, 800,000 local police officers and 2.5 million private security agents is essential in detecting and preventing acts of terrorism through increasing skill sets and improved technology. Also, we try to engage the public with the simple slogan, “See something, say something.” A 2012 Homeland Security study indicated 70% of terrorist threats that were detected and prevented came from the public. Keeping the country safe is a shared responsibility. Before 9/11 it was a lot different than where we are today.
What is being done to prevent the kind of tragedies that occurred in Manchester and Las Vegas?
There are things which can be prevented structurally and through crowd control. There are notification apps being developed to communicate with people on their iPhones, alerting them quickly of possible security risks, how to safely exit the stadium, if necessary. I serve on the board of ShotSpotter, an innovative technology that helps detect gunfire, as well as Electric Guard Dog, the largest manufacturer of solar electric security fences in the country. Facial recognition is another area with security implications, if we can convince the public it’s not an invasion of privacy.
We’re in a real position to share information much more rapidly, and it’s also important to have policies and guidelines in place up front to control particular law enforcement practices, like tasering. Communication, collaboration and clarity are the keys.
Any favorite police movies?
(Jules Dassin’s 1948 movie) “The Naked City” was the first to film on the streets, as did “The French Connection” years later. “Madigan” starred Henry Fonda as a New York police chief, which inspired me to want that job one day. It’s as close to reality in its portrayal of police procedurals as any movie I’ve seen. I was the commissioner in Boston during the time of “The Departed,” which was an accurate depiction of Whitey Bulger. Martin Scorsese did take some liberties, though. It wasn’t the state police who were corrupt, it was the FBI.
Bill Bratton will take part in the panel “Never Forget: How Sept. 11, 2001, Forever Changed Public Assembly,” at the VenuesNow Conference Sept. 10-11 in New York City.