Thursday, September 20, 2001
Delgadillo Vows Focus on Crime Prevention, Hands-On Approach to Police Reform
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo yesterday promised new programs to prevent crime, including terrorism and hate crimes, and a hands-on approach to implementing police reform.
Speaking at what was billed as a major policy address, Delgadillo said the coming weeks will bring a sweeping reorganization of the office that for the past 16 years has been run by now-mayor James Hahn.
The new city attorney offered little in the way of details, sticking to the broad policy outlines he presented during his successful campaign of working with schools and neighborhoods to offer alternatives to gang crime.
But he hinted at an active role in handling the consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice for making over the LAPD, saying the document signed earlier this year “impairs our basic notion of self-governance” but also offers the “last, best hope” for fixing the Police Department.
“We must remember that the Consent Decree is not a panacea, it is nothing more and nothing less than a tool of reform,” Delgadillo told the crowd of law students and city officials gathered for the early afternoon speech at the USC law school. “If ever a provision of the Consent Decree exacerbates rather than solves a problem, I will oppose it. Or, more importantly, if a provision does not go far enough to reform our police force, I will find another way to reform it.”
Delgadillo promised not to “sit politely on the sidelines” during ongoing debates over the LAPD, which became wracked by scandal over alleged dirty officers last year and is continuing to see low morale and a rapid decline in the ranks of officers.
“If necessary, I will make waves,” Delgadillo said. “I will upset the status quo. I will do whatever it takes to once and for all restore credibility, effectiveness, and local-control to our great police force.”
Delgadillo took office July 1 after a tight race in which many observers saw him as an underdog to then-Councilman Mike Feuer. Since that time he has kept a low public profile, focusing on selecting top staff and working with a transition team of high-powered Los Angeles attorneys and business professionals to set a course for implementing the vision he articulated during his campaign.
Management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. has conducted a study of the office and is set to present recommendations.
Delgadillo hinted that the result will be a major office reorganization that could shake up longtime city lawyers but also “tap your great experience and excellence.”
“The time has come to streamline our bureaucracy, retire our rotary telephones, and put a working computer on every city attorney’s desk,” Delgadillo said to rousing applause from the dozens of lawyers from his office in attendance. “Our challenge is to embrace change and step into this new century with courage and conviction.”
He vowed to make crime prevention a central part of his agenda, but added to frequently repeated goals—partnerships with schools and a system of neighborhood prosecutors—a new promise to crack down on child abuse and domestic violence.
“This strategy is not only moral, it is smart,” the city attorney said. “Left unchecked, domestic violence cycles from one generation to another. Each time we save a child, we also save his children and grandchildren from a pattern of violence that touches us all.”
He said he would continue Hahn’s policy of gang injunctions—one of the earliest, largest and most successful such programs in the nation.
A hate crimes unit will be expanded to include prevention as well as prosecution, he said.
In an earlier speech at the Islamic Center of Southern California, Delgadillo noted that three times the normal number of hate crimes have been reported in the city in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
“After last week’s attack, we all have a duty not to allow these terrorists to turn neighbor against neighbor, and blame specific ethnic groups for the tragedy,” he told his USC audience.
The attack must also “serve as a wake-up call” to the city for boosting security, he said.
“Los Angeles stands as a shining symbol of American greatness,” Delgadillo said. “Unfortunately, that now makes us a target. In the coming weeks, I will work with city, county, state and Federal leaders to boost the security of key areas throughout our city.”
He added that should welcome “inconveniences and delays” in the name of security.
“However, we must never tolerate a slow erosion of our rights and liberties that make us all uniquely American,” he said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company