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
Applying laws conceived in a markedly different cultural context and in a way that fails to recognize human factors has worked against the police in solving community problems, be they criminal or merely contributory to a reduced quality of life for residents.
We can agree with Bernard Parks. Leadership is indeed the paramount quality for the top cop. But how and to where will a new chief lead? And how does he or she propose to get there?
The new chief to be chosen by Mayor Hahn must display an understanding that police alone are unable to solve problems of crime and disorder. The chief must also understand that he or she alone cannot effectively manage the hugely complex LAPD organization. The chief must forgo the past personal and institutional go-it-alone philosophy and invite full participation of government, department members, a broad spectrum of the community and those in the private sector with special skills in establishing departmental goals, policies and methods. The objective will be to supplement the traditional arrest-based model with problem-solving strategies — the essence of community policing.
The new chief must accept as fact the social changes that have occurred in the past half-century and understand how they affect the role of the police. The chief must be willing to provide leadership in broad community-based efforts to address the problems posed by drug use, gangs, the homeless, the mentally ill, labor unrest and public disorders.
A good place to start is to note the example now being set by our own Los Angeles County sheriff. Lee Baca has demonstrated the kind of imaginative thinking any chief should bring to the position. Principally in programs administered within his huge county jail system, Sheriff Baca has implemented efforts to target underlying causes of spousal abuse and drug addiction and has focused attention on the need for broad community action to address the problems of the mentally ill who make up a substantial portion of the jail population.
Sheriff Moonbeam, as he wryly refers to himself, has enlisted community support for programs that provide help to the homeless in humane, non-traditional ways rather than merely pushing them from one location to another or arresting them. He has recognized the need for independent review of internal misconduct investigations by establishing a panel of civil rights attorneys to oversee and make recommendations on such matters.
The new LAPD chief must follow the path being opened by Baca. The chief must also have a management and organizational plan that allows the delegation of routine duties, freeing the chief from the mundane and allowing him or her to interact with others on a more cosmic level. The management plan must include a system that holds each successive subordinate level accountable. If upper-level managers can't enthusiastically support programs arrived at in the collective, collaborative process, they should be encouraged to leave.
The new chief must explain in specific terms how he or she proposes to lead the department in these new directions. Ill-defined platitudes should not be accepted by the mayor or Police Commission as a substitute for programmatic substance.
Most important, the chief must be allowed the organizational flexibility, the budget and the authority to accomplish this essential paradigmatic shift. Without that support, leadership of the LAPD will remain an empty concept.
David Dotson served as assistant chief of the LAPD. He retired in 1992 after giving extensive testimony to the Christopher Commission that angered then-Chief Daryl Gates. Dotson now serves as a consultant to police-reform and civil-liberties organizations.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city