LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Police Chief William Bratton is stepping down after a seven-year tenure in which he instituted major reforms of the once-scandalized Police Department, the City Council president said Wednesday.
Bratton, 61, disclosed the surprise decision in a phone call, Councilman Eric Garcetti said.
"The people of Los Angeles are safer than they've been in half a lifetime," Garcetti said, crediting Bratton for reforms and for knocking down the crime rate to levels not seen in decades.
The department said Bratton planned a midday news conference with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Bratton's decision came just weeks after a judge released the department from eight years of oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice, which had alleged a long pattern of abuse.
Bratton declared then that his police force had become "a leader in creating positive change."
Bratton was picked to lead the Los Angeles department in 2002 after heading police forces in New York City and Boston.
At the time, Los Angeles police were still struggling to emerge from under the clouds of the 1991 Rodney King beating and the Rampart police corruption scandal later in the decade.
Bratton is two years into his second and final five-year term. The City Charter would have to be changed for him to serve a third term.
Los Angeles police chiefs once enjoyed unlimited tenures. Changes in the charter under reforms driven by the King beating and resulting 1992 riot led to limits.
One goal of the Bratton administration was to make the force more closely resemble the city.
The 10,000-officer force is now 42 percent Hispanic, 37 percent Caucasian, 12 percent black and 7 percent Asian, according to Gerald Chaleff, the civilian administrator in charge of the department's reform office.
Under Bratton, Los Angeles has seen declining crime rates since 2003.
Calls to Bratton spokeswoman Mary Grady were not immediately returned.
African-American commentator and community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson said Bratton's departure will be a "tremendous blow" to the city.
Bratton changed "the culture of the department that was seen as brutal and oppressive to a department that is seen and regarded and hailed as a department that is committed and dedicated to a true partnership with community residents and organizations," he said.