Kevin Cullen

Bill Bratton is America’s most wanted

Randolph’s, the small but tasteful bar at the Warwick Hotel, sits on the corner of West 54th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. Elvis used to haunt the place. Paul McCartney still does, walking in from his Midtown apartment for a quiet drink in the same spot he and The Beatles held that wacky press conference when they played at Shea Stadium in 1966.

Randolph’s is a picture of understated elegance, as is Rikki Klieman, the lawyer and legal analyst who for the last 14 years has been known as Mrs. Bill Bratton.

She was sitting on a soft couch in Randolph’s talking about hard jobs.


“I think,” she said, “Bill has one more big job in him.”

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The New York tabloids went cuckoo last week, lusting at the prospect of Bratton, a Dorchester boy made good, returning to the job that made him famous in the 1990s: police commissioner of New York.

Bratton went to New York with the simple but revolutionary idea of paying attention to the quality of life issues that made big city life lousy. By paying attention to the little things, to the broken windows, Bratton made it easier for New York’s finest to tackle the big things.

Bratton did his job too well. When the polls showed he was more popular with New Yorkers than Mayor Rudy Giuliani, his days were numbered. He went on to prosper in Los Angeles and helped mentor a generation of progressive police commanders, including a good guy from Lowell named Ed Davis, Boston’s current commissioner.

The politics are probably not right for Bratton in New York. Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council and currently the favorite to replace Medford’s own Mike Bloomberg as mayor next year, says she wants to keep police commissioner Ray Kelly on. Quinn’s no dummy. Kelly, as popular as Bratton was back in the day, is probably the only guy who could beat Quinn if he chose to run for mayor. What’s that line about holding your friends close and your enemies closer?


Bratton, who lives in New York with ­Klieman, was his affable self when confronted by the New York press, saying he would be honored to do the job, but he told me he thinks it’s unlikely it will open up. That’s no skin off his nose because the British government is in the process of changing the law precisely so someone like him could lead the Metropolitan Police in London. David Cameron, the British prime minister, is a big Bratton fan.

And then there’s the possibility that ­Janet Napolitano will leave Homeland Security and President Obama will come calling. Personally, I think Bratton would make a very good FBI director, and that job will open next year when another Boston guy, Bob Mueller, steps down. Bratton’s on that short list, too, and it’s an organization that desperately needs the kind of cultural and institutional overhaul Bratton specializes in.

So how’s it feel to be Bill Bratton?

“I’m in a good place,” he said with searing understatement from Oakland, where he is consulting for that city’s police department. “I’m not lobbying for any of those jobs. The FBI is one of those positions you can’t lobby for. It’s the president’s appointment.”

He enjoys the attention.


“It’s like that old Peter Sellers movie, ‘Being There.’ I’m just there.”

Like Sellers, the actor, Bratton, the cop, was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth, so the Met job would fit nicely. The Brits love him. I can see Rikki Klieman doing live remotes from Bow Street Magistrates Court for the BBC or Sky News.

Funny. It wasn’t that long ago that a kid from St. Peter’s parish making nice with the Queen of England wouldn’t last very long on a corner in Meetinghouse Hill. But the corner of West 54th Street and Sixth Avenue is a long way from Dorchester.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at