Thursday, August 16, 2001
City Council Confirms All Five of Hahn’s Police Commission Appointees
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
All five of Mayor James Hahn’s Police Commission appointees were confirmed yesterday by the City Council, with all but one receiving a unanimous vote.
The council voted 14-0 to confirm longtime commissioner Bert Boeckmann and attorneys Rose Ochi, David Cunningham III, and Rick Caruso to the panel.
Silvia Saucedo, an associate with the law firm of Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliot, was approved with a 12-2 vote, with council members Cindy Miscikowski and Jack Weiss voting against confirmation.
The Police Commission, the official head of the Los Angeles Police Department, is responsible for setting policy and overseeing the police chief. The civilian panel must grapple with a number of problems as the department struggles with low officer morale, the consequences of the Rampart corruption scandal, and the oversight of federal authorities under a reform consent decree.
The panel also has the key role on appointing and reappointing the chief. The current term of Chief Bernard Parks expires next year, and he is eligible to apply for one more five-year term.
Emphasizing the dire straits of the police department, Miscikowski, chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, questioned the 27-year-old Saucedo’s ability to deal with the strong personalities of the mayor’s office, police chief, inspector general and council members, given her limited background in policy making and governance.
“This commission is going to be tested,” Miscikowski said. “Seasoned veterans have been exhausted by this commission.”
Miscikowski said she wasn’t sure the Police Commission, which she called the city’s most important panel, was the right place for Saucedo at this time, saying other commissions give people a chance to grow and learn, while the police panel needs experience.
Miscikowski voted against recommending Saucedo at Monday’s Public Safety Committee meeting. The committee voted 1-1 on Saucedo, leaving her the only appointee to go to the full council without a committee recommendation.
Weiss joined Miscikowski in voting against Saucedo, saying the real estate lawyer who just recently developed an interest in police issues is without the legal, academic, or practical qualifications to be able to oversee a department in such distress.
“I think a fresh perspective is important,” Weiss said. “But when freshness arises out of being inexperienced, I don’t think it is appropriate for the Police Commission at this time.”
Weiss defended his vote, saying he has been evaluating the appointees for the past several weeks and voted the way he thought was right.
Pacheco said he was very disappointed with the comments his colleagues made about the young lawyer, saying her success as a minority proves she can overcome obstacles.
“Anytime you see a successful minority, you see someone who has been tested,” Pacheco said.
Councilwoman Janice Hahn, the mayor’s sister, told the council they would be hypocritical to hold age and inexperience against Saucedo, saying that many of the council members barely had a career before joining the council.
Hahn also noted the late Council President John Ferraro was appointed to the commission when he was 26, with only a background in insurance.
While Councilman Joel Wachs voted for all the appointees, he expressed distress over the lack of change that has occurred in the department, even with qualified commissioners, and said he didn’t hold high hopes for the future.
“I’m not optimistic that these five people are going to do things different,” Wachs said, adding that the commissioners need to stand up and be in charge of the department. “If you don’t do it, no one will.”
During the council hearing, all of the appointees, excluding Saucedo, agreed the LAPD did a good job in handling protesters at the Democratic National Convention last August.
Saucedo said she was not privy to all of the details involving the incidents and would have to examine all the information before making an assessment.
Three federal lawsuits have been filed against the city in the last two weeks over the LAPD’s handling of protestors, legal observers, journalists and others at the DNC alleging excessive use of force, including firing rubber bullets at peaceful protestors.
ACLU attorney Dan Tokaji, who is handling one of the suits, called the police actions “atrocious” and said the sentiments of the appointees were foreboding.
“It doesn’t bode well,” Tokaji said of the commissioner’s statements. “We’ve long had in this city a police commission which has done little more than rubberstamping the decisions of the LAPD.”
Tokaji called for structural change of the way the Police Commission interacts with the police department.
“We need real civilian oversight of the LAPD,” Tokaji said.
Loyola Law School Professor Karl Mannheim, one of the plaintiffs alleging police officers disrupted a peaceful protest near the Staples Center by hitting protestors with batons and horses and shooting them with rubber bullets, said that unless commission attitudes change, the panel will continue to have to deal with lawsuits.
Appointees also discussed boosting the morale of the department’s rank and file officers and how to deal with instituting a compressed work schedule for patrol officers, a campaign promise Hahn made to win the critical endorsement of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
Inspector General Jeffrey Eglash said he looks forward to working with the new commissioners, saying while they have a number of important issues they need to get up to speed on quickly, there is an advantage to their newness.
“The upside is you have fresh ideas and fresh perspectives,” Eglash said.
A spokeswoman for the mayor said he is very supportive of his new Police Commission.
“He thinks they are all outstanding individuals who will work with the best interests of the city in mind,” Hahn spokeswoman Julie Wong said.
The new commissioners will attend their first meeting Tuesday at Parker Center.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company