When Bill Bratton abruptly resigned in early August as LA police chief, questions were raised about a possible conflict of interest over his relationship with federal monitor Michael Cherkasky and whether it influenced the decision to end the LAPD’s federal court consent decree.
Bratton announced he was joining Altegrity Security Consulting, a huge global security firm that had recently appointed Cherkasky as CEO, a disclosure that came just three weeks after the 9-year-old consent decree was lifted on the recommendation of Cherkasky.
The LA Weekly, KPCC and the LA Times all questioned the timing and whether Bratton and Cherkasky talked about the job prior to the June 15 end of the monitor’s contract and whether there was a conflict of interest.
“The manner and timing of Bratton’s departure is almost breathtakingly irresponsible,” wrote Tim Rutten in the Times.
“It also raises troubling questions about his relationship with Michael Cherkasky, the court-appointed monitor who evaluated the LAPD’s compliance with the federal consent decree, and about Cherkasky’s role in convincing the federal judge to terminate oversight of the department … In other words, the monitor gave the court advice that helped cement Bratton’s reputation as the country’s leading police chief, then just weeks later the two enter into a lucrative business arrangement built on that very reputation.”
There were denials all around and the matter dropped without anyone taking notice that just three weeks after Bratton’s announcement another top police official — Savannah Chief Michael Berkow — with long-time ties to Bratton and Cherkasky announced he too was resigning to join Altegrity after discussions he said started in April.
That would push Cherkasky’s recruiting efforts back two months before his contract as federal monitor of the LAPD ended and raises new questions about when his talks with Bratton actually began.
“Under L.A. ethics laws, officials cannot directly or indirectly negotiate future employment with anyone who has something pending before that official’s agency,” Jill Stewart wrote in the LA Weekly on mid-August.
The ties between Bratton, Berkow and Cherkasky run deep and revolve around the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a foundation now headed by Miami Police Chief John Timoney.
PERF wields enormous influence in law enforcement circles and provides a revolving door for top cops like Bratton to move in and out of highly-paid consulting jobs as they hop between roles in police agencies.
Bratton, for instance, came to LA as a consultant on the consent
decree, caught the notice of Police Commission head Rick Caruso and was
named chief in 2002 when Mayor James Hahn dumped Bernard Parks.
later, in March 2003, Bratton hired Berkow, then Irvine police chief,
to head the LAPD’s internal affairs unit, a critical element in
rebuilding confidence in the department and meeting the requirements of
the consent decree. Berkow, then 47, became the first high-ranking
sworn officer other than the chief to come from outside the ranks of
“Bratton knows Berkow well. The Irvine chief worked as a consultant in
Boston and New York during Bratton’s tenures in those cities,” the LA Times reported at the time.
Berkow’s career at the LAPD ended badly with allegations against him of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed in May 2006 by Sgt. Ya-May Christie who eventually won a $1 million judgment against the city..
He took the Savannah job in October 2006 and two months later CBS2 reported:he was under investigation for allegedly giving favorable treatment and
even promotions to female officers in exchange for sexual favors.
Bratton confirmed the investigation was being conducted but called
Berkow “an outstanding police officer, hardworking, dedicated.”
According to the lawsuit, Berkow’s office in the Bradbury Building had
an air mattress inside and Christle saw several female officers leave
there, followed by Berkow wearing a T-shirt and pajamas.
one female officer who was trained by Christle had sex with Berkow, she
was given a pay raise and a coveted position that made her Christle’s
boss, the lawsuit states.Berkow also had sexual affairs with
a female sergeant and a female captain, also rewarding them with
enhanced or extended positions within the department.
suit claims that Berkow told Christle to stop
pursuing the most serious internal charges against yet another female
officer who was arrested along with her husband for making criminal
threats, resisting arrest and providing false information to a police
Both Bratton and Berkow are leaving their posts this month. Bratton will be based in New York, Berkow in LA.