By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
George Kieffer, the attorney who three years ago presided over the Appointed Charter Commission, states that the council could appoint a person to fill the vacancy ”without even passing an ordinance.“ The Rules and Elections Committee, for instance, could propose and the council place a council temp automatically, as soon as the electoral-candidate nominations closed in January. For now, it’s up to the court to make that happen. But the council could probably avoid itself a lot of time and trouble -- and spare the city serious legal costs -- by acting responsibly. And getting the thing done first.
As I write this, Richard Riordan has under 120 days left to complete the reform of the LAPD he so recently, suddenly and implausibly embarked upon by firing Police Commission President Gerald Chaleff. Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen!
But at least the mayor was able to compel LAPD Chief Bernard Parks and Police Protective League (PPL) head Mitzi Grasso to stand outside with him on a very chilly afternoon to announce certain disciplinary-procedure changes. If you happen to be a police officer, the changes sound good: No longer could the chief wing you a dire punishment for ”infractions“ -- things like unlawful detention, firing a gun accidentally and so on -- based loosely on past penalties. Instead, there would be a list of guidelines. The guidelines would specify what the priority of the infraction was, and the least and most one could be punished.
The police union has long sought this change, as have the department’s advisers -- particularly former Police Commission President Ray Fisher, who in 1998 spent months developing such guidelines, only to have Parks reject them with a self-aggrandizing 72-page memorandum. You can‘t blame Parks, in a way.
After all, if you had the power of career life or death over your employees, you probably wouldn’t want to lose it either. But even some police-abuse attorneys I‘ve spoken to agree that, absent any certainty as to how the department will treat them in the aftermath, cops sometimes walk away from touchy situations.
Considering that he could have had this reform in place three years ago, however, Riordan merits no more than the sound of one hand clapping. Grasso deserves more credit. Although she supported Chaleff’s firing (on the old-time PPL grounds that he was ”anti-cop“), she‘s embraced some newfangled (less than 40 years old, at least) ideas about civilian review.
This is interesting because, as my colleague Joe Domanick has noted in his book To Protect and To Serve, regulations isolating the LAPD from any outside oversight originated with the PPL itself, way back when future chiefs like Ed Davis and William Parker ran that organization. By now, though, LAPD rank-and-filers know they can expect better treatment from a civilian board than they’ll ever get from chiefs like Parks, what with his Leadership Starts at the Bottom theory of organizational responsibility. Anyway, now that civilian oversight has proved itself for over 200 years with the U.S. Navy and Army, maybe it‘s finally time for the LAPD to give it a try.
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