By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
It needs to change on several levels. The LAPD became a very reactive police force over the last number of years. And what I’m attempting to do is get it more proactive, so that it’s more focused on the prevention of crime, and reduction of crime, rather than measuring success in terms of the response to crime. That’s a very significant difference.Could you be a bit more specific?
The L.A. police really created the professional police model that was very much in vogue in the ’70s and ’80s. It came about after the riots of the 1960s when the Kerner reports said that crime is caused by all those societal influences such as racism, poverty and the economy. And since police aren’t responsible for those issues, they should focus their efforts on increasing the professionalization of their response to crime. So the LAPD led the way in this regard with a professional model that emphasized rapid response. You had the black-and-whites here covering a very large area. You had random patrol. The idea of random patrol is that you keep the criminal off guard because he never knew when a police car was coming around the corner. And you had reactive investigation. Joe Friday [of Dragnet] was the epitome of the modern LAPD detective, solving the crime in 24 minutes, leaving six minutes for commercials. As a result, the LAPD became the embodiment of measuring success by number of arrests, by response time, by clearance rates. That’s all after-the-fact policing.How does your policing model differ, then, from LAPD’s traditional approach?
It focuses on the prevention of crime. It measures success by fewer victims. Fewer crimes. Not on numbers of arrests.
But, going back to the LAPD culture, it went through another phenomenal change in the ’90s as a result of the Rodney King situation and Rampart. At that time, the organization became even more reactive, but much less risk-intensive. In fact, it became a risk-averse organization, wanting only to stay out of trouble.There’s a new division of the LAPD, called "Risk Management," that’s larger in terms of personnel than any of the field divisions like Hollenbeck, or Newton, or 77th that actually fight crime. This sounds like an extraordinary misallocation of staff and resources.
Oh, yeah. One of the difficulties for the LAPD is that it’s an incredibly small department by anybody’s standards. They’ve never had enough officers to do the kind of community policing that the East Coast supports — walking the beats in neighborhoods. That’s why the senior-lead-officer ä program became so critical. There were only a few hundred of them, but they were at least someone that the community could touch and feel as a caring police presence. But then, during Chief Parks’ time, an already over-small department found hundreds of its officers being drained off by various reactions to crises, things like consent-decree compliance, risk management and internal affairs. So it was like you had this lemon that had already been squeezed dry, and then it got squeezed even more by this crisis-driven mentality.But you have to comply with the consent decree [the recent agreement that allows the U.S. Department of Justice to oversee and monitor long-stalled reforms within the LAPD], and I think it’s safe to say you’re not going to get the extra 3,000 officers you asked for out of the dismal California and/or L.A. budgets that now loom on the horizon. So what are you going to do?
How do we reposition our resources to embrace community policing in a department that doesn’t have enough officers to walk a beat? The answer is partnership. We have to work in partnership with the community in which we agree on common priorities. We can’t do everything all at the same time. We have the consent decree, we have a rise in crime and a rise in gang violence. How do we assign our resources? Hopefully, by getting everybody in partnership and arriving at some consensus. In terms of the gang situation, we’re trying to get the federal government, local government, state government and community groups all working with us.Let’s talk about gangs. Many feel you’ve put out mixed signals from your recent public statements regarding the spike in gang homicides. On one hand, you’ve said you don’t want to duplicate Daryl Gates’ Big Blue Hammer, and you’ve promised not to send an occupation force into South L.A. On the other hand, you’ve said that gangs are worse than the Sicilian Mafia. Isn’t that the kind of us-versus-them, gang-member-as-monster way of talking that led to Rampart?
No. In fact, I defy you to point to anything I’ve said in the two months that could be seen as giving officers permission to run roughshod through the community.You characterized all gang members as domestic terrorists.
What’s wrong with that? Aren’t gang members terrorizing the community?