A Yank to Run London's Fabled Force: Will Bobbies Meet Billy?

The London Telegraph interviewed Bratton and he gave them this characteristically short-of-a-no answer: "As to speculation about my being possibly considered for the Met position let me offer the following Abraham Lincoln quote: 'I am flattered to be considered for a position that I have not been offered.'"

And a change in the law in London about two years ago makes it possible for Bratton or any foreigner to be selected "under exceptional circumstances" to run the Met: a force that faces perhaps the greatest challenge of the moment -- a massive effort to prevent an attack by home-grown, al-Qaeda inspired or affiliated terror groups. It is an effort that London's Metropolitan Police have faced down together with British intelligence, and which ABC News sources say faces 30 threats well along in the plotting stage each quarter -- and although it manages to take down about 20 of those, at the start of the next quarter, it still faces 30.

In a sense, London today resembles the city with crime run rampant that Bratton took over when he came to New York to head the nearly 40,000-officer force. Back then fueled by crack, a poor economy and enabled by what Bratton's aides came to view as sloppy or lazy police work, the city had more than 2,200 murders. Today, it has a crime rate that resembles a small city in Idaho, with a murder rate hovering around 500, a number it had not seen since 1963.

In London, Bratton's reputation as chief with a "zero tolerance" for crime, is known, if not fully understood, his stature as an innovator is embraced, and his potential as an agent for shaking up the force is large even when it is in the rumor stage.

Whether the force needs shaking up is another question: it has managed to keep terror in check by running its special units ragged, revamping its command structure and re-inventing its relationships with outlying departments. It can be argued it has done less well on staving off London's street crime problems. But the statistical verdict is far from complete.

One key question after discussing the situation with multiple sources: how long will the mating dance last? Another: Are both partners dancing or is one just holding on to the other's image: in that case, which is which?

If Bratton was asked what some of his life's ambitions were they might include the hope of leaving a legacy as America's most significant lawman. If he was asked whether satisfied in Los Angeles he would say he has become rooted there, his wife Rikki Kleinman is happy there, he is extremely well-paid and for the first time in his career, he has finally earned his way to a pension.

But the Met is arguably the most complex police agency in the world, and it faces one of the most complex challenges of the day -- and those are a prescription for interest by Bratton. If he were to earn the post he might be able to earn a reputation as great as that of Sir Robert Peele, the conservative prime minister who in the mid-Victorian era helped invent the modern concept of policing. The calling of British officers "bobbies" is no small part of his lasting monument. One thing seems certain: by December 1st, London ought to have a new police chief. ####

Excerpts from Blair's resignation address:

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