Thursday, September 6, 2001
Few Turn Out for LAPD’s Central Division Consent Decree Meeting
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Just a handful of community members from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Central Division turned out yesterday to discuss the federal reform consent decree with department officials during the division’s first mandated community meeting.
The decree, which calls for sweeping reforms in the way the LAPD operates, requires the department to hold quarterly public meetings discussing the agreement in each of its 18 divisions for the first year of the five-year agreement.
During a presentation at a regularly scheduled Community-Police Advisory Board meeting, Sgt. Mike Beloud, a member of the LAPD’s Consent Decree Task Force, gave a brief overview of the agreement covering the basics of department’s involvement and progress with the decree along with some of the bigger changes the community could expect in the coming months.
Fewer than 10 members of the public not on the C-PAB panel attended the meeting, along with 20 police officers.
Many Los Angeles residents aren’t even aware the department is under a consent decree, Beloud said.
A spokeswoman for Mayor James Hahn said then-city attorney Hahn worked to include the community meetings, which he saw as an important tool for both the community and police department to use.
“He would like to see as many people as possible from our community be involved in working with our law enforcement,” Hahn spokeswoman Julie Wong said.
“I think it’s worth the effort,” Beloud said of the mandated meetings. “People should know what’s going on. They didn’t really get input during the negotiations and they’re stuck with it.”
Beloud told the attendees that the many of the decree’s 187 paragraphs were merely a continuation of what the department was doing prior to the Rampart corruption scandal or was planning on implementing after its internal review conducted after the scandal.
He discussed the decree’s requirement for the department to begin compiling racial data on pedestrian and motorist stops Nov. 1 and how the agreement is changing the way department trains officers and supervisors.
While collecting the racial profiling data is a requirement of the decree, how the data will be analyzed and used is still up in the air, he said, adding that any instances of racial profiling occurring in the department now are punished.
“That is not something we would ever encourage,” Beloud said.
When a police officer asked when the rank and file of the department would be receiving their own copies of the consent decree, Beloud said that special arrangements could be made and the agreement was available on the department’s website, but copies would not be made and distributed to each officer.
“We don’t want 9,000 people interpreting what is in the consent decree in their own way,” Beloud said, adding that notice is given to the officers when changes affecting them are made.
Central was the third division to hold the required meeting, with the West Valley holding its last week and Van Nuys yesterday.
The Van Nuys meeting lasted over 2 hours attracted over a crowd of over 100 police supporters who were very hostile about the department being under a consent decree, Beloud said.
A spokesman for City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo applauded the consent decree meetings.
“Community participation and community education is absolutely critical,” Delgadillo spokesman Ben Austin said. “The average person on the street might know what the consent decree is, but doesn’t understand the implications.”
“Rocky believes that part of the responsibility of public officials is to educate,” Austin said. “The public needs to understand the implications fully.”
The fact that the consent decree was not actually signed in court until June 15 without any adjustments made to the already set deadlines made setting and notifying the public about the meetings difficult, he said.
Notices about the meetings appeared in newspapers across the city, including the Los Angeles Times and the Daily News and various community newspapers, along with radio announcements.
Fliers were also posted in neighborhoods in both English and other languages and the information was available on the city’s and department’s websites, Beloud said.
More effort will be made next quarter to make sure meetings are not scheduled simultaneously, he said.
After the initial year, the agreement requires that each of the department’s divisions continue to hold quarterly consent decree meetings for the final four years of the contract.
Filed in federal court and approved by the city council last November, the consent decree is overseen by U.S. District Judge Gary Feess of the Central District of California.
The North Hollywood division will hold its meeting today at Victory Elementary School in North Hollywood at 7 p.m.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company