Monday, August 20, 2001
Community, LAPD Both Call for Increased Communication, Respect
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Communication and respect were among the top impediments community members and Los Angeles Police Department officials said Friday that they face in forging a collaborative relationship.
A joint meeting, mediated by the city’s Human Relations Commission, was the fifth and final meeting of the series designed to bring the two groups together so they could air out concerns.
Four other meetings have been held across the city since May in an effort to discuss ongoing tension and conflict between the LAPD and city residents.
“This was a very full, collaborative effort between the police department, the community, and the commission,” Deputy Chief David Kalish said. “We were able to talk a lot and more importantly we were able to listen.”
Roughly 30 community members from across the city and representatives from the department’s four bureaus attended the four-hour meeting, where they developed an “action plan” of planned improvements for both the community and the department.
Chief Bernard Parks attended all five meetings, but had to leave Friday’s discussion early to attend a closed session of the City Council to discuss consent decree labor relations.
Cmdr. Sharon Papa, who spoke on behalf of Parks, said the chief is fully committed to taking the suggestions very seriously.
“We learned which programs we have are working and which ones we have to tweak a little bit,” Papa said.
Among the things listed in the plan, in addition to improving communication and fostering respect, were increasing police presence in community social events and youth activities and getting rid of the stereotypes used by both groups.
Launching a public information campaign explaining to the community the role of police officers as a way of ridding negative police stereotypes was also suggested.
Joe Hicks, executive director of the commission and meeting mediator, said these types of forums are helpful in facilitating ideas and cooperation.
“When you get a department clearly desiring building that relationship and community members who are desiring that same relationship, these two mindsets can come together and make a positive change,” Hicks said.
All bureau commanding officers will receive a list of the complete action plan to implement it as they see fit.
Hicks said the meetings were part of a process that did not start with Friday’s meeting and wasn’t going to end with Friday’s meeting. The entire group of officers and community members are expected to reconvene in a year to discuss and evaluate the progress made, he said.
Kalish, commanding officer operations of the department’s West Bureau, applauded the input he received from the meeting and said he is making increasing communication with his bureau’s community a priority.
“We need to enhance our communication with our community, particularly involving any officers in community programs,” Kalish said.
Kalish also said that while having police officers living in the community they serve has advantages, it isn’t a reality, given the high cost of living in Los Angeles.
“Many of our police officers live outside the city limits,” Kalish said. “Which is why we have make an extra effort to get involved in the community.”
Geraldine Washington, president of the NAACP’s Los Angeles division, said she is concerned about the respect between the department and the community.
“The police officers need to respect the community and the community needs to have respect for the police officers,” Washington said. “They can do that by understanding what they do.”
“We need to have respect so that when we need them and we call them, they will come,” Washington said.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents the department’s rank and file officers, said the biggest problem facing the department’s community efforts is a lack of available personnel.
Peter Retovich, director of the LAPPL, said implementing a flexible work schedule such as the controversial “3-12” plan, which gives patrol officers three 12-hour shifts a week instead of the traditional five 8-hour shifts, would increase the number of available officers and increase their involvement in the community.
Retovich also suggested having Senior Lead Officers, who serve as liaisons between the department and the community, work more shifts on special community oriented projects.
“I think we can do better by making community based policing a priority,” Retovich said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company