Yesterday, we mentioned how political endorsements have a funny way of coming back to haunt the people who do the endorsing. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Bill Bratton is now learning that lesson in spades.
Even though critics, police experts and even the Los Angeles Times editorial page have warned Bratton that the chief of police should not be in the political endorsement business, the wanna-be kingmaker went ahead anyway and backed a slew of politicians over the past several months.
Now his endorsement of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is starting to get a little weird, and it's a prime example of why a police chief, or sheriff, for that matter, should stay out of politics — you never know when you may have to investigate the person you've backed.
Leading the California section of the Los Angeles Times yesterday, reporter Paul Pringle writes that federal investigators are looking into possible improprieties done by Ridley-Thomas and a labor coalition called the Alliance for a Stronger Community during his successful, 2008 run for L.A. County Supervisor.
The possible wrong-doing involves, among many other things, the labor coalition “coordinating its expenditures with [Ridley-Thomas' campaign] committee,” which is prohibited under state law, the Times reports.
This is not good news for Bratton, who, as the Top Cop in L.A., shouldn't be anywhere near possible law-breaking. But now the Ridley-Thomas endorsement connects the chief of the LAPD to a growing political scandal that may end up with federal investigators asking Bratton questions about Ridley-Thomas.
L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca also backed Ridley-Thomas, so he may end up on the hot seat, too.
Already things are a bit strange because of Bratton and Baca's endorsements. In the Times, Pringle reports that investigations of “county campaigns usually are handled by state or local authorities. But under certain circumstances, federal prosecutors can assert jurisdiction over such contests.”
Gee, does the fact that “local authorities” such as Bratton and Baca endorsed Ridley-Thomas make for “certain circumstances”? It seems entirely plausible.
If the feds do approach Bratton, they may ask questions about a Ridley-Thomas campaign mailer that featured the chief and was paid for by the Alliance for a Stronger Community, the labor coalition under investigation by the U.S. Labor Department and the FBI.
In the mailer, Bratton was not portrayed as a private citizen, which was the line of logic he threw at the press whenever he was criticized for endorsing politicians. 'I'm backing Joe Supervisor not as the chief of police,' Bratton would say, 'but as John Q. Public.'
The chief would attempt to buttress that point by appearing in a political ad in a suit and tie rather than LAPD uniform.
But as this Ridley-Thomas mailer shows, Bratton is referred to as “Chief Bratton” — as far as we know, his private citizen name is “Bill” — and “Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton.” The mailer was also clearly paid for by the Alliance for a Stronger Community — read the writing directly beneath Bratton in the first image of this post.
So with only a few weeks left as chief of the LAPD, Bratton has suddenly found himself in a pickle, and an unnecessary one at that — he was warned over and over again to stay clear.
L.A. Weekly asked the chief's spokeswoman, Mary Grady, for Bratton's thoughts about the scandal, but our email did not receive a reply.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.