Tuesday, December 18, 2001
City Council Committee, Police Commission Clash Over Consent Decree
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The Police Commission and a City Council committee clashed yesterday over whether a new division of the Los Angeles Police Department charged with overseeing a crucial consent decree requirement should be controlled by forces outside the department.
Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, chair of the Public Safety Committee, cringed at the Police Commission’s vote to go forward with the creation of a division to implement TEAMS II, a computerized database of officer information, without a core group of policy making advisors who would ensure that the consent decree’s strict deadlines would be met.
The committee voted last week to approve the LAPD Management System Reengineering Division, along with a policymaking steering group.
“If the Police Commission wants to balk, then that will be their responsibility,” Miscikowski said at yesterday’s Public Safety Committee meeting.
The Police Commission voted to accept the new division last Tuesday, but with the condition that the steering committee would be just an advisory body and not have policy making powers, commission Executive Director Joe Gunn told the committee.
The Police Commission, which is responsible for setting policy for the police department, is appointed by the mayor and functions independently of the department.
“The commission wants to make sure policy is not being implemented outside of the police department,” Gunn said.
Miscikowski shot back that the department gave up that luxury when it was forced to enter into a consent decree with the federal government after the Rampart scandal.
“I think we all accepted a mandate from an outside source when we entered into a consent decree,” Miscikowski said.
Gunn told the committee that the new division would not be accepted by the Police Commission if it was allowed to make policy.
Miscikowski countered that while it is the commission’s decision to put the division in practice, the commission cannot forget about the strict implementation deadlines of the consent decree.
“If the council approves it and the mayor signs it, it is then their responsibility to implement it or not,” Miscikowski said.
Councilman Nick Pacheco, the only other council member at the meeting, told Gunn that it was time to change the way things are done regarding department policy.
“With the unacceptably high level of crime, especially in my district, I’m not sure that this structure is working,” Pacheco said.
If approved by council, the new division made up of ITA and LAPD staff will be responsible for developing and implementing the TEAMS II system.
Required by the consent decree, TEAMS II is a computerized database aimed at promoting professionalism and best policing practices and identifying problem officers.
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.
“TEAMS II is the most vital part, the whole basis and foundation of what we’ve entered into with the consent decree,” Miscikowski said.
If approved by the council and signed into effect by Mayor James Hahn, the steering committee will be made up of representatives from the mayor, the city administrative officer, and the chief legislative analyst offices. The committee, as approved by the Public Safety Committee will be responsible for overseeing TEAMS II funding and policy and resolve any disputes between the department and ITA.
The steering committee, Miscikowski argued, was just a further evolution of a group established last December by the council and the mayor to have oversight of the TEAMS II system implementation.
“I don’t see any change,” Miscikowski said.
Created immediately after the consent decree was first adopted, the first steering committee was made up of representatives from the LAPD, the city’s Information Technology Agency, the chief legislative analyst, the mayor, and the Office of Finance.
Because the department and ITA now play an everyday role in the design of TEAMS II they no longer need to be part of the committee, Adena Tessler, spokeswoman for Miscikowski, said.
ITA and the LAPD will be reporting to the steering committee on the status of TEAMS II, Tessler said.
Chief Legislative Analyst Ron Deaton urged cooperation within the city.
“We are not separate departments that don’t work together,” Deaton said. “That has been a problem on major projects in the past and this is a major project.”
The City Council will vote on whether to approve the new division at its meeting tomorrow.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company