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Ex-N.Y. police chief to advise British on recent riots

Former New York Police Commissioner William Bratton will advise the British government on gangs in the wake of rioting in London, the office of Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday.

Downing Street said Cameron had spoken with Bratton earlier in the day and thanked him for agreeing to make himself available for a series of meetings in the U.K. this fall to share his expertise tackling gang violence.

He "will be providing this advice in a personal capacity and on an unpaid basis," it added.

Bratton told the Associated Press that he is giving a free consultation that he hopes will turn into a paid contract.

Cameron told British lawmakers earlier this week that he would welcome Bratton's input following criticism over police response to rioting in London.

Bratton -- who gained fame by fighting crime with innovation and bravado as he headed police departments in New York, Boston and Los Angeles -- confirmed that Cameron had called him Friday seeking his expertise.

"We can definitely take some of the lessons here and apply them there," Bratton said.

Bratton -- now a security consultant -- said disturbing scenes of police overwhelmed by rioting in London show the need for more minority officers and other long-term solutions that have worked in New York and other U.S. cities.

"This is a prime minister who has a clear idea of what he wants to do," he said. "He sees this crisis as a way to bring change. The police force there can be a catalyst for that. I'm very optimistic."

Bratton, 63, left the Los Angeles police in 2009 and is now chairman of Kroll, a Manhattan-based private security firm.

More than 1,700 people have been arrested following a week of violence in London and other cities after a protest demanding justice over a fatal police shooting under disputed circumstances developed into a riot.

Hundreds of stores were looted, buildings were set ablaze and five people died amid the mayhem that broke out last Saturday in London and spread over four nights across England.

Police have been outmaneuvered by roving gangs of rioters. The unrest has stirred fears of heightened racial tensions.

Bratton said he believes British police need to focus on quelling racial tensions by collaborating more with community leaders and civil rights groups. He also said social media sites can be a useful tool for law enforcement trying to monitor gang activities, since rioters have been using the sites to organize.

"The idea is to get ahead of the violence rather than just react to it," he said.

Another part of the potential long-term solution for London's Metropolitan Police is to become more racially diverse, Bratton said. "Part of the issue going forward is how to make policing more attractive to a changing population," he said.

Los Angeles and New York have benefited from police forces that "reflect the ethnic makeup of the cities," he said.