Friday, October 4, 2002
Bratton Pledges to Restore LAPD’s ‘Tarnished’ Reputation as Police Chief
By LORELEI LAIRD, Staff Writer
William Bratton pledged yesterday to restore the luster to the Los Angeles Police Department badge as Mayor James Hahn’s choice for LAPD chief.
Hahn formally announced his choice at a news conference at the North Hollywood Police Station, confirming reports Wednesday that he picked Bratton from a group of three candidates sent to him by the Police Commission.
The mayor said he chose 54-year-old Bratton because he “embodies qualities needed to make Los Angeles the safest big city in America.”
Those qualities, he said, include experience leading big-city police departments, understanding the importance of community policing and community involvement, experience with Los Angeles policing through his work on the commission that oversaw implementation of the consent decree and a record of a dramatic drop in crime while he was police commissioner in New York City.
Bratton said he hoped to restore the reputation as leaders among law enforcement that the LAPD had when he was growing up in the 1960s.
“Together we will build on the legacy and the traditions and the skills,” Bratton said. “And we will take that—the most famous shield, the most famous badge in the world—and whatever little…tarnish exists, it will be wiped clean, and it will be the most brilliantly shining badge of any in the United States.”
He also said he shares the mayor’s vision of community policing and “quick and full implementation of the consent decree.”
“He [the mayor] has referenced that it is a foundation and not the ceiling, and it will be more than a foundation,” said Bratton of the consent decree. “It will be integral to everything that we do in the LAPD during my time as police chief, as I believe deeply that the department and the city, officers and citizens, will benefit from the consent decree and its quick and full implementation.”
Asked how he planned to overcome the LAPD’s notorious resistance to outsiders, a tendency that many blame for the short tenure of previous police Chief Willie Williams, Bratton said he had already started by meeting with key police and community groups.
“You’d better believe I studied this place,” he said. “Coming out of the gate, there’s a willingness to work with me, not against me.”
Rick Caruso, president of the Police Commission, said he approved of the mayor’s choice.
“I think we gave the mayor three great choices, but my personal opinion is Bill was the strongest choice,” he said. “He understands not only the issues at the LAPD, but he understands the organization. He also understands the people.”
Addressing concerns about Bratton’s personality conflicts with former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Caruso said Bratton “understands who his boss is.”
“We’re not going to let this fail,” he promised.
At least one police organization expressed its pleasure that Bratton was chosen. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union for rank-and-file police officers, distributed a statement that it has met with Bratton and looks forward to working with him.
“We are pleased with our initial conversations with Chief Bratton and know he is truly interested in working with our membership in a collaborative and productive manner,” the union statement said.
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo echoed that sentiment. Through a spokesman, he said he has met with Bratton and “we share a great deal in common on our vision on how to reduce crime by attacking quality of life crimes. I look forward to working closely with him to reduce crimes in our neighborhoods.”
Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor who has followed police issues, said she thought Bratton was clearly the best of the three choices, with proven experience and knowledge of the LAPD through his work on the consent decree.
“I think he has come in with his vision, and pretty much not taken no for an answer,” Levenson said. “If his past experience is any gauge, he’s able to deal with big departments, with officers who are initially resistant.”
Levenson dismissed concerns that officers might be resistant to Bratton, as an outsider, as they were to Williams.
“I don’t think we’re going to see a repeat of Willie Williams,” she said. “First of all, I think the police saw the writing on the wall. This may be finally the time they’re ready to change. A lot has happened since Willie Williams.”
In addition to the job as NYPD police commissioner, Bratton’s resume also includes stints as Boston police commissioner, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police Chief, superintendent of the Boston-area Metropolitan District Commission Police and head of the New York City Transit Police.
He will not be formally installed as the new police chief until a majority of the City Council ratifies the mayor’s choice. Despite reports that several council members preferred Art Lopez, currently the police chief in Oxnard, the council is not expected to oppose Bratton. Council President Alex Padilla said through a spokesman that while he supported Lopez before the selection was made, he’s now “more than supportive” of Bratton.
Bratton was one of a list of three finalists chosen by the Police Commission in September, a list that also included Lopez, a former LAPD deputy chief, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney. Those three were themselves chosen from a longer list compiled by a blue ribbon committee of community members working with the general manager of the city personnel department.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company