Tuesday, August 7, 2001
City Council Committee Approves Three Police Commission Appointees
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Councilman Nick Pacheco urged three Police Commission appointees at a City Council committee hearing yesterday to maintain their independence from the Los Angeles Police Department, before the Public Safety Committee approved the appointees for recommendation to the City Council.
Local lawyers Rick Caruso and Rose Ochi and longtime commission member and businessman Bert Boeckmann received a nod from the committee after responding to questions on police issues from Pacheco, committee chair Cindy Miscikowski, and future committee member Jack Weiss. A representative from the Los Angeles Police Protective League also gave the union’s endorsement of the three appointees.
The nominations are scheduled to be taken up by the full council Aug. 15.
The two remaining appointees, Sylvia Saucedo, an associate at the firm of Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliot, and David Cunningham III, a land use and redevelopment lawyer currently of counsel to Jackson and Associates, are tentatively scheduled to go before the committee Aug. 13.
Making reference to the senior lead officer debate, Pacheco expressed concern that the commission is allowing LAPD officials to make their own policy, rather than implementing the will of the commission, and urged the appointees to realize their role.
“It’s meaningless if commissioners act like they work for the police chief,” Pacheco said.
The commission, the official head of the department, is responsible for making policy and overseeing the police chief.
“I look to the commission as general managers of the department,” Pacheco said. “You’re in charge. Until you understand that dynamic, you are going to have police chiefs who think they have the last word.”
Critics have charged Chief Bernard Parks with going on his own and failing to implement policy set by the commission on reinstating the Senior Lead Officer Program after an agreement was reached between the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the Police Commission, City Council and then-Mayor Richard Riordan.
Designed to be a key part of community policing by then-Police Chief Willie Williams, the Senior Lead Officer Program designated approximately 160 officers to work full-time with Neighborhood Watch Groups, homeowner associations, and merchants.
A status report submitted to the Police Commission by Parks on May 31 found that three police divisions were not in compliance with the reinstatement agreement, prompting the police union to file a class-action grievance on behalf of the SLOs to force the department to comply.
Caruso, currently a member of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, said the Police Commission will analyze the facts and make good decisions based on facts alone.
“I have a job to do and I don’t come to it with an agenda,” Caruso said.
Ochi, former associate director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said she hopes the commission can change the perception of how department policy is made.
“The perception is it is dysfunctional and politicized,” Ochi said. “While we can’t take the political out of politics, I hope we can change the perception with more collaborative work.”
A lack of staffing for the commission and the possibility of a full-time commission were also addressed by the appointees.
Ochi acknowledged that “everyone’s plate is pretty full,” at a time when the department is under siege, struggling with low officer morale, the fallout from the Rampart corruption scandal and the oversight of federal authorities under a reform consent decree. For the commission to be able to handle the demands of the department it would need and adequate and unencumbered staff, she said.
Ochi also said she would support city policy makers taking “a good look” at whether there was a need for full-time commissioners due to the demands of the post.
While 14-year commission veteran Boeckmann said he was “not in favor” of full-time commissioners, arguing that commission duties took up just one day a week, he did say more staffing was needed for a part-time commission to be effective.
On another topic, Boeckmann criticized the controversial “3-12” compressed work schedule for patrol officers which Mayor James K. Hahn promised before winning the important endorsement of the LAPPL for his election campaign, but promised to help the new chief executive implement it.
“I do not like it,” Boeckmann said. “I have never liked it. I don’t even know what 12 really means.”
The program would give patrol officers a three-day, 12-hour shift work week instead of the traditional five-day, eight-hour work week.
But Boeckmann promised to support the program on a phased-in basis despite his concerns about a possible lack of continuity within the department. The mayor’s commitment to the police union should be honored, he said.
Caruso said he was also in favor of implementing the program on a limited basis to improve morale, retention and recruitment.
“If other departments have this, are we losing good people that would otherwise stay with the LAPD?” Caruso asked.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company