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
Well, gang members are criminals, by definition. The nature of the gang is to engage in criminal activity. Many of them are mindless murderers. Since I’ve been here, we’ve had clear examples of these characters opening up on police officers and citizens. So let’s get real about this. Cops have a very dangerous job. There are a lot of disincentives to being a police officer in this city. We’ve got the consent decree. Today we’re having a press conference about racial profiling. That might be seen as a disincentive if police officers are working in an all-minority neighborhood in which most, if not all, of the people they’re going to stop are minorities. Unfortunately right now we only have raw data about the stops that doesn’t allow you to differentiate that particular nuance. So it’s very tricky. Look: It’s a balancing act to have an assertive police force — and make no mistake about it, I want an assertive police force — while at the same time making sure that the policing is done constitutionally and legally. The press might focus on my more controversial statements like equating gangs with the Mafia. Whereas they might not be as interested when I do a roll call, and talk about the constitutional issues. That’s not as sexy.While we’re on the subject: Former Chief Parks said that, for all intents and purposes, the goals of the Christopher Commission were accomplished. Do you think that’s true?
Not at all. The 1995 [Christopher Commission] review indicated clearly that they were not. I think that a lot of progress has been made. But there’s still a lot more to be done. There’s still a great deal of community mistrust of this organization.
And it’s not just L.A. The outside perspective of this department is just horrible. Because I’m an outsider, I’ve seen it.All right, what do outsiders think?
They think the LAPD is a racist, corrupt police department.
They think of the police officers as uncaring and insensitive. It’s an inappropriate understanding of a lot of the men and women in the department. But this is an organization that has been insensitive. I don’t think it’s a brutal department, it’s not a corrupt department. But does it have that type of activity within it? Yes. Is it condoned? No. Is it systemic? I don’t think it is.Some of your own training officers disagree. I sat in on one of the department’s West Point Leadership sessions while trainer Lieutenant Bill Murphy told your troops that the problems that surfaced out of Rampart were, in fact, not limited to Rampart at all. He said that the "any means to an end mentality" extended well beyond the Rampart division.
To some degree, I think it was all about control. It was all about controlling the community, not working with the community. And what starts out as the desire to control the criminal component of the community ends up spreading to all the aspects of the community. Unfortunately we don’t know the extent to which the Rampart problems extended to the rest of the department, because Chief Parks quickly disassembled the anti-gang units, so there was no ability to take the lessons learned from Rampart and see if those problems existed in other divisions. As a result, the department will never have the ability to refute the accusation that the problems of Rampart were systemwide. And second, a new set of problems was created. Gang control was totally disassembled. When it was reassembled, it was an ineffective shell of its former self. That’s another part of the problems of this department: With every crisis, you create a new unit.Getting back to the LAPD’s trust problem, how does one go about overhauling such a negative image?
That’s one of the reasons I’ve embraced the consent decree. I believe that, a year from now, with the proper training, the data gathering, the oversight, and the supervision it requires, we’ll be able to say to a doubting community, "Look: To the best of our ability, we’ve done everything possible to reform this department. And based on documented evidence, we can say our officers are not racist, they are not brutal, they are not corrupt."
Frankly, I’d like to have more monitoring in-house. But I don’t have the resources. So I’d be crazy not to take advantage of the outside entities like the consent-decree monitors and the inspector general that can serve me as independent eyes and ears.Do you feel you learned, in that regard, from your experience in New York? Everyone agrees that you lowered crime to an impressive degree. But, according to Amnesty International, as crime went down, civilian complaints rose, as did officer-involved deaths.