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New LAPD Chief: Racial Profiling is ‘Wrong’

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Los Angeles (NNPA)

By Tony Castro
Special to the NNPA from WAVE Community Newspapers

Newly confirmed Chief William Bratton has promised not to allow the Los Angeles Police Department officers to engage in racial profiling to lower crime.

“Let me make myself very clear on this issue: Racial profiling is morally and legally wrong,” the former New York Police Commissioner told the City Council during his confirmation hearing last Friday. Bratton, 55, will be sworn in as chief in a public ceremony Oct. 28.
“It will not be tolerated, it will not be practiced while I’m chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.”
Bratton received 14 of the council’s 15 votes with only Councilman Nate Holden voting against his confirmation.
“This department will be my last police department that I will have the opportunity to work with and lead,” Bratton told the council. “I would like to see it as the capstone of my career that I participate in what it once was and certainly will be again: the most professional, successful and caring—and I emphasize caring—police department in this country. All of this is achievable.”
Latino members of the council, most notably Councilman Nick Pacheco, who had expressed disappointment that Mayor Jim Hahn passed over naming a Latino all voted for Bratton’s confirmation.
“In no way am I going to impede your confirmation,” Pacheco told Bratton. “But my support is reserved. I need to see results.”
Pacheco said he is looking forward to a private meeting with Bratton to acquaint him with police issues specific to the Eastside and to get an agenda on how the new chief plans to address those problems.
Among those problems is gangs and gang violence, and in addressing the council Bratton vowed to tackle gangs and other serious crimes by decentralizing the LAPD and giving more authority and accountability to the department’s 18 division commanders.
“I know that today we are writing a new chapter in Los Angeles’ history, and the history of the Los Angeles Police Department,” said Council President Alex Padilla.
In his typically contentious manner, Holden told Bratton he opposed his confirmation because of his past history of allowing the NYPD to engage in racial profiling as a means of lowering crime.
Bratton countered by telling the South Los Angeles councilman that he had been misinformed on this record while NYPD commissioner.
Bratton received the votes of the other two African American members of the council, Jan Perry and Mark Ridly-Thomas.
He also received support from Los Angeles Urban League director John Mack and community activist Sweet Alice Harris, who were among those applauding Bratton on several occasions.
“I’m persuaded that Mr. Bratton possesses the outstanding leadership qualities that will be necessary to transform the Los Angeles Police Department into an institution that is going to serve all the citizens,” Mack said.
Bratton was Mayor Jim Hahn’s top pick from the three finalists chosen by the Police Commission after a nationwide search that began in April and yielded 51 applicants.
Many council members have praised Bratton, saying the former Boston street cop who has led five police agencies is an ideal choice to reform the troubled Los Angeles Police Department.
“His autobiography is entitled ‘Turnaround,’ and I hope that when he leaves Los Angeles in several years, he’ll be able to write a book called ‘Turnaround, Part Two,”” said Councilman Jack Weiss.
Weiss, a former federal prosecutor who sits on the council’s Public Safety Committee, said he has only heard positive things about Bratton from other council members.
But others questioned whether Bratton, as an outsider, can build enough rapport with the department’s 9,000 rank-and-file officers to push through the changes both he and the mayor want.
The LAPD is often considered an insular department, and the last time an outside candidate was chosen as chief—Philadelphia’s Willie Williams, hired in 1992 and let go in 1997—the results were dismal.
“I don’t know how the rank-and-file is going to accept this guy,” Holden said last week. “He’s an outsider. That’s an experience we’ve had before.”
Several council members had been pushing for the appointment of Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez, a former LAPD deputy chief and one of the three finalists. Lopez would have become the department’s first Latino chief.
“That said, while it was a missed opportunity, we had three great candidates, and I think that Bratton can definitely be one of the great police chiefs of Los Angeles,” Councilman Eric Garcetti said.
Bratton began his law enforcement career in 1970 in Boston and, in 1980, became superintendent of police, the department’s highest sworn officer.
Since 1983, he has overseen five police agencies and has made friends around the country, and says he knows former LAPD chiefs Daryl Gates, Willie Williams and Bernard Parks.
He was chief of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police and superintendent of the Metropolitan District Commission Police, which patrolled the Boston metropolitan area.
From 1990 to 1992, Bratton led the New York City Transit Police, and subway crime fell nearly 50 percent.
He later returned to Boston as superintendent-in-chief in 1992 and was named Boston police commissioner in 1993 before taking the helm of the NYPD in 1994. Bratton has promised to turn the LAPD around through increased community policing and a commitment to reform as outlined by a federal consent decree.
The city agreed to the decree last year to stave off a suit by the U.S. Justice Department, which said that the LAPD for years had engaged in civil rights violations.
“The professional model of policing that shaped so much of the ’70s and ’80s was designed and implemented here,” Bratton said when Hahn formally introduced him to the city family.
A strong adherent of the “broken windows” theory of crime suppression—the idea that ignoring smaller crimes like littering and jaywalking allows other criminal activity to flourish—Bratton said the old model of police work is out of date.
“Now, community policing has shown itself to be much more effective in reducing crime and disorder and fear,” he said.
Bratton also vowed to beef up the department’s FASTRAC computerized crime- tracking system, which is similar to the system he employed in New York, and to promote efforts to reform the scandal-ridden LAPD.
As a member of the team monitoring the department’s compliance with the consent decree, Bratton said he has learned that while many in the LAPD want it to improve, some are reluctant to go along with mandated changes.
“What has seemed to have occurred here over the past year...is that there has been resistance to (the consent decree) implementation,” Bratton said. “That will not occur while I am police chief.”
He has said that by the end of his tenure, the LAPD badge “tarnished” by past transgressions will be wiped clean.

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