Thursday, December 20, 2001
Council Approves LAPD Bureau to Create Database to Track Problem Officers
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The City Council yesterday dared the Police Commission to back down, unanimously approving a new police bureau to build a database to track problem officers just a week after the commission rejected the bureau’s oversight.
While the department will spearhead the design and implementation of the consent decree-required TEAMS II computer system, the council also approved a steering committee made up of representatives from the mayor, the city administrative officer and the chief legislative analyst offices to oversee the new LAPD Management System Reengineering Division to ensure the consent decree’s strict deadlines would be met.
The steering committee has the authority to make policy regarding TEAMS II and will work out differences between the LAPD and the city’s Information Technology Agency, which will work with the department on TEAMS II. A steering committee currently exists with the LAPD as a member.
Last week the Police Commission voted unanimously to accept the new bureau, but with the condition that the steering committee be advisory only and not have the ability to make department policy.
“[The commission] will not accept it if an outside entity is going to have policymaking authority,” Police Commission Executive Director Joe Gunn told the council.
Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the council and the decisions like those made by the Police Commission on the steering committee are how the department got into trouble with the federal government in the first place.
“That is exactly the reason we have a consent decree today,” Miscikowski said.
The department had tried to create a system similar to TEAMS II in 1992, but the project was never completed, she said.
“It’s not acceptable,” Councilman Jack Weiss said. “It’s just not acceptable for us to fail again.”
The Police Commission needs to realize a policymaking steering committee is not an option, Weiss said.
“It is how policy will be set and directed with regard to TEAMS II,” Weiss said.
Once in place, the database will contain information on officers including: all uses of non-lethal and lethal force; all officer-involved shooting incidents and firearms discharges; all incidents in which a complaint has been filed against the officer; all arrest reports and citations made by the officers, including motor vehicle and pedestrian stops.
“This council will see, if no one else will, that TEAMS II will be implemented within the requirements of the consent decree,” Weiss said.
Chief Legislative Analyst Ron Deaton, whose office is currently running the project, said the mayor and the council must be allowed to have oversight since they are the ones who report directly to the Independent Monitor.
“The city has a responsibility to make sure those deadlines are met,” Deaton said. “I do not believe it would be reasonable for the council and the mayor to walk away from this responsibility and that’s why the steering committee is there.”
Deaton also noted that TEAMS II has an extremely tight implementation deadline of 24 months.
“It is very crucial that a dedicated staff be provided with the necessary resources and expertise to accomplish that,” Deaton said. “I believe having a deputy chief and a dedicated staff is necessary for us to have a chance at meeting those deadlines.”
“I can’t tell you how strongly I recommend that we proceed with this,” he said.
Miscikowski urged her colleagues to act quickly on the issue to avoid cutting it close to the immovable deadlines of the consent decree.
“A delay at this point is costly,” Miscikowski said. It’s costly to the implementation of the TEAMS II program and it’s costly to the city to be able to meet consent decree deadlines.”
But Councilman Hal Bernson, who opposed the city’s entering into a consent decree, said he felt uncomfortable about voting for something that the Police Commission rejected.
“I think the commission must have some reason why they don’t want oversight,” Bernson said.
“I’ll vote for it, but I have a lot of misgivings about it,” Bernson said.
Mayor James Hahn must still approve the council’s decision, but Tim McOsker, Hahn’s chief of staff, told the council that the mayor supports having a policymaking steering committee.
McOsker characterized the situation as a “failure to communicate between the council and the commission.”
“This will work out,” McOsker told the MetNews.
The Police Commission will discuss the council’s action at it’s meeting on Jan. 8, Gunn said.
“We’ll take [TEAMS II] but we’ll take it with all the policy and decision making authority,” Gunn said.
Despite the disagreement between city entities, LAPD Lt. Horace Frank said there is not a possibility of conflicting orders from the Police Commission and the City Council arriving at the department.
“Ultimately the city leaders have the last say,” Frank said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company