William Bratton

Former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton at his final new conference in downtown Los Angeles in 2009. Then Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, second from left, succeeded Bratton. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / October 28, 2009)

Citing William Bratton's past work with L.A.'s minority communities, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck on Thursday called his former boss the "perfect person" to head the New York Police Department.

Beck said he spoke to his "great friend" and "mentor" Thursday morning, when New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced that Bratton, who led the LAPD from 2002 to 2009, would return to the NYPD for his second stint as the city's police commissioner.

“I don’t think there’s a better choice they could have made on the whole planet,” Beck told The Times. “It’s a tough job, but he’s a guy that I know will be able to meet all the challenges.”

One of those challenges, Beck said at a Thursday news conference, was the relationship between New York's police and public. The department has recently come under fire for its aggressive use of controversial "stop-and-frisk" tactics in mainly black and Latino neighborhoods, but has also been at the center of several other contentious episodes in recent years.

"New York is struggling with community relations at the moment," Beck told reporters Thursday. "I think anybody that was in Los Angeles when Bill Bratton came recognizes what great strides he made in communities of color, particularly our African American community. He’ll do that in New York. He’ll not only do that, but he’ll keep crime down."

Bratton's time as New York's top cop made him an international figure, so by the time he came to L.A. in 2002 he was already a law enforcement superstar who had appeared on the cover of Time magazine in the '90s for his success in New York.

But it was his leadership in Los Angeles that cemented his reputation as one of the country's leading law enforcement minds.

Bratton implemented a crime-fighting strategy in Los Angeles built around crime data and a computer-mapping system used to identify specific areas of the city that required more policing. That approach, along with a management style that placed considerable authority in the hands of his field commanders, produced results. L.A. crime rates fell steadily each year under Bratton.

He also tried to decrease mistrust between the department and the city's black and Latino communities that stretched back to the Watts riots through to the Rodney King beating, the 1992 riots, the Rampart scandal and the May Day 2007 melee in MacArthur Park.

"What he did in Los Angeles was not only extraordinary in terms of reduction of crime, but dare I say Bill Bratton walked into a tense, difficult situation years in the making," and built partnerships with the community and made it work, De Blasio said.

And he did it "in a place where you would have thought it would take decades to heal wounds," De Blasio added.

Beck said his former boss would apply the same lessons in New York.

“Chief Bratton specifically said many times that he came to L.A. with the belief that just like police can negatively affect race relations in a community, that they can do the opposite. That they can improve and create good race relations within a community by policing properly,” Beck told The Times. “And I know he believes that at his core -- as do I -- and I know that that’s what he will use in New York.”

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