You can now count Tom Hayden as one heavyweight L.A. liberal not enamored with Los Angeles Police Department Chief Bill Bratton.

In a hard-charging feature in The Nation this week, Hayden says that the recent arrest of anti-gang activist Alex Sanchez by the FBI and LAPD “reflect(s) a complete throwback to the

pre-Rampart mentality.” 

Although the arrest has gotten tremendous attention and set off big debates among bloggers such as law-and-order-type Patterico and Witness LA's liberal Celeste Fremon, that's still a heavy statement by Hayden, whose feature is titled, “Has Bratton's LAPD Really Reformed?”

Hayden also says Bratton has brought the “same arrogance” he displayed as police commissioner in New York City to the job in L.A. The liberal's liberal cites a rather obnoxious quote that Bratton gave to L.A. Weekly for a cover story about his claim that L.A. is safe as it was in 1956.

“That's his opinion

and what the hell do I care about his opinion,” the chief said about highly-regarded USC gang expert Malcolm Klein. “Nobody is listening to

him anyway. I don't know who he is, and if you walked down the street

and asked the first 100 Angelenos do they know who he is, they're not

going to know.”

To add to Hayden's critique, the L.A. Times publishes a piece today that the LAPD's public database has, quite alarmingly, “failed to include nearly 40 percent of serious crimes reported in the city, a Times analysis has found.”

Bratton has long touted the LAPD's “transparency” when reporting such crimes to the public, telling L.A. Weekly a few months back that “we report this stuff more intimately than just about any department in America. We report it more publicly. We report to the Police Commission just about every week.”

The fact that Hayden's no-punches-pulled critique runs in one of the country's most revered liberal magazines may now start up an interesting battle among L.A. progressives, many of whom seem to have a special fondness for Bratton.

Journalist/blogger Fremon, for example, backed Bratton after L.A. Weekly examined Bratton's bogus claim that L.A. is as safe as it was in 1956. I wrote that cover story: “Trust Us, It's 1956: Why nobody feels safer in Chief Bill Bratton's dark and shiny new L.A.”

On Witness L.A., Fremon took exception to the piece and wrote that she's “with the chief. He is not perfect. (Who is?) But

he's wickedly smart, and unafraid to hire the best around him. And

guess what? He has lowered crime in L.A. — even if there's still a long way

to go. We are lucky to have him.”  

Yet crime is at record lows in many cities, and chiefs in those cities also peddle the notion that they are the reason.

“Nobody really knows why crime went down in the 1990s and into today,” Harry Levine, professor of sociology at Queens College in New York City and a distinguished drug-crime expert, told L.A. Weekly, “so it's easy for everyone to take credit.”

And while Hayden finds Bratton arrogant and wants a federal consent decree on the LAPD to stay intact, Fremon explains that the chief's verbal salvos are part of his “charm” and wants the decree to be lifted — something Bratton also seeks.

It'll be fascinating to see how L.A.'s progressives react to Hayden's story criticizing Bratton.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

LA Weekly