William J. Bratton was the 9-year-old son of a Dorchester, Mass., postal worker when he became enthralled by the NYPD after reading a children's book about the world of cops in the Big Apple.
Bratton's fascination with cops put him on a path that repeatedly brought him back to New York -- where he'll work again following his appointment Thursday as the 42nd commissioner of the NYPD, his second stint in the position.
Although a man of modest background, Bratton, 66, has become part of a global law enforcement elite.
Since becoming a Boston police officer in 1970, Bratton has led departments there and in Los Angeles and New York, and also served as a military police officer in the Army.
The advice he has dispensed to foreign governments led Britain's Queen Elizabeth II to bestow upon him in 2009 the title of Honorary Commander of the British Empire in a ceremony in Los Angeles.
Known for assertiveness, self-promotion, straight talk -- and occasional nightclubbing -- Bratton earned a reputation as a policing innovator, unafraid of taking risks.
After becoming NYPD commissioner in 1994 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Bratton started Compstat, a then-controversial program that maps crime statistics to allow local commanders to monitor trends. Commanders had to justify to headquarters what they were doing to combat crime. Compstat meetings could resemble brutal cross examinations; some commanders, not used to such treatment, put in their retirement papers after grillings by top NYPD brass, said one law enforcement expert who witnessed some sessions.
An adherent of the "broken window" theory of policing -- where police target quality-of-life crimes -- Bratton focused on offenders including squeegemen who pestered motorists for pocket change.
His career began in Boston, where he served as a police officer for 10 years and ultimately rose to superintendent of police, the highest sworn rank. In the 1980s, he became head of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police and the Massachusetts Metropolitan District Commission Police.
In 1990, Bratton took over New York City's transit police and was credited with giving officers 9-mm handguns. He returned to Boston in 1992 as police commissioner, serving about two years before he was tapped by Giuliani.
While crime declined in New York, a process that would go on for two decades, other problems set in quickly for Bratton. The department was wracked by corruption scandals, and embarrassed when some officers got drunk during a rowdy public outing in Washington, D.C., in 1995.
In 1996, Bratton experienced his own troubles. He was forced to resign after criticism of a $350,000 book deal he had signed and unauthorized trips he allegedly took as the guest of some organizations.
Bratton took on a number of high-level corporate security posts, and in 1998 penned a well-received autobiography, "Turnaround." The title referred to the historic reductions in crime he claimed credit for.
In 2002, Bratton became chief of police in Los Angeles, where he was credited with rebuilding relationships with minorities and presiding over a historic crime decline.
"The very best news about a Bratton police commissionership at this point in New York history is the record in Los Angeles," Franklin Zimring, a professor at Berkeley Law at the University California. "He stepped into a department with enormous problems. Through tighter and strategic management in Los Angeles . . . [Bratton] managed to improve the reputation of the department . . . in a relatively short period of time."
Bratton has been married four times and has one grown son, David. He married current wife Rikki Jo Klieman, a criminal attorney known for her work on truTV, in April 1999.
With John Valenti