AS YOU READ THROUGH THIS issue, the Los Angeles Police Commission is conducting interviews with the 13 job applicants who remain in the running for the city's new LAPD chief. Sometime this month, Mayor Jimmy Hahn will be handed the last cut of three names from which he is expected to make his decision.
This could be a turning point for both the department and for the city at large. Every one of us has a stake in this decision; just how the LAPD is run and shaped in the immediate future are matters that touch all of our lives. That's the short answer to why L.A. Weekly is dedicating an entire issue to the LAPD.
Since the video explosion of Rodney King's beating more than 11 years ago, up through the fiery mass disturbances of 1992, the painful unseating of Daryl Gates, the failed tenures of Chiefs Willie Williams and Bernard Parks, and the revelations of the Rampart Division scandal, the front-and-center conundrum of how to reform the LAPD has been unresolved.
We are among those who believe that the right choice for chief can be a significant step toward providing definitive answers. More than a few excellent candidates are still under consideration -- some of whom are covered in this special edition -- and we can hope that Mayor Hahn will make a bold move.
In approaching the subject of the LAPD, it would be easy enough for us to sit on the sidelines and chuck a barrelful of bricks. Heaven knows that the historic attitude of the department and its top leadership provides endless fodder for attack. But we think it's time to cease and desist. Not that L.A. Weekly is about to abandon its own tradition of fierce, critical journalism. By no means. We have held the department's feet to the fire when necessary; we won't hesitate to do so in the future. And there is plenty of critical coverage in this current special edition. We have, however, made strenuous efforts to also understand the perspective of the LAPD itself. The thousands of officers who make up the department take extraordinary risks on a daily basis to perform thankless tasks that few of us would dare to attempt. And they do so under mounting pressure. It's enough to look at the closure of public clinics happening this week, the frustrations of our mass transit system, the alarming state of many of our schools, and the shredding of the national welfare safety net to realize the extent to which the state has abandoned its traditional duties. The only agency left to clean up the messes of an increasingly economically divided city is the police.
This is an unhappy reality for both sides -- for the cops, and for those they serve (or, in this case, manage). But a reality nevertheless. No accident, then, that we lead off this special edition with Greg Goldin's compelling, written-from-the-ground profile of a rank-and-file patrol officer -- the son of a Mexican-born bracero -- who effectively shreds many of the stereotypes and shibboleths that shroud the image of the department.
Just as important as understanding the challenge that the average cop faces on a nightly basis is overcoming the knee-jerk notion that the LAPD is an impenetrable, monolithic block of stubbornness and hubris. Consider Celeste Fremon's eye-opening inside report on the authentic attempt to humanize and reform LAPD training.
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We are equally delighted to have among our contributors for this issue former Assistant LAPD Chief David Dotson and veteran police reporter and author Joe Domanick, who have some recommendations for Mayor Hahn regarding the new chief. And our own political editor, Harold Meyerson, treats us to another helping of his trademark analytical acumen in dissecting what calculations Mayor Hahn must make in choosing the new chief.
Also: Charles Rappleye reports on the newest developments in the Rampart case, while Bobbi Murray tries to make sense of police-abuse statistics. Steven Mikulan re-examines the stereotypes of Simi Valley, known to many as L.A.'s Copland. Erin Aubry Kaplan, Christopher Lisotta and Joseph Treviño look at the progress made and roadblocks that remain for the LAPD's black, gay and Latino officers. Kateri Butler sifts through LAPD archive photos of the uniforms women cops had to endure before they were allowed to wear the same pants and gun holsters as their male colleagues. Marc Haefele remembers the grittier days of the LAPD pressroom. And Christine Pelisek compiles an index of everything you ever wanted to know about the LAPD.
LAPD community-affairs Commander Gary Brennan, the office of Media Relations, the leadership of the department's Training Group and Police Academy, and the Wilshire Division granted the Weekly unprecedented access. This alone is perhaps the best indicator that the times may be a-changin'.
Marc Cooper may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org