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One More Question

Make no mistake about it. Mayor Jim Hahn chose to hold Bill Bratton’s coming-out party last week at the North Hollywood Division station to send a shot across the bow of Valley secessionists. Hahn‘s message: He was recommitting his administration to community-based policing, and the San Fernando Valley was his number-one community.

”The luster is being restored to the LAPD badge,“ the mayor said, ticking off Bratton’s accomplishments, his reasons for choosing him, and the struggles of the LAPD.

What an irony. Here was the former city attorney, who had routinely looked the other way as corruption and criminal misconduct by officers continued to grow. Now Hahn was once again mouthing his commitment to police reform and asserting that Bratton would be the one to fully enact the federal consent decree, restructure the department, rekindle morale, orchestrate a new crime-fighting plan and re-establish community trust.

The gray-haired Bratton stood serenely by. The Boston-born veteran policeman, who‘s known as much for his personality as he is for his administrative skills, began his remarks with a joke. ”I didn’t bring my interpreter with me, so I hope my Boston accent with New York nuances won‘t be too hard to understand,“ he said.

Bratton hit all the right notes. ”I will be eternally grateful for this assignment. Community-based policing is the philosophy that police forces need to embrace. I grew up on images of the LAPD. They set the standard for professional policing.“

A friendly press responded in kind, lobbing softball questions. Finally, I asked Bratton how he would attack corruption at the LAPD.

The chief-select’s response wasn‘t totally satisfying: ”. . . We need to find out whether there are real problems with corruption or excessive force, or [if] it’s the perception of people that the problems are real. I don‘t believe the problems are systemic.“

The query transformed Hahn’s face from a smile to a glower. No follow-ups were allowed, and Hahn‘s press secretary ended the news conference.

Afterward, politicians scrambled to waiting microphones to express their approval. One grizzled detective, who had watched Bratton’s performance through an open door, simply said: ”I‘ll wait to see what he does.“