Los Angeles New Police Chief
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JIM LEHRER: Now, the new police chief of Los Angeles and his attempts to change the way the city fights crime and violence, Jeffrey Kaye of KCET/Los Angeles reports. ( Siren wailing )
JEFFREY KAYE: “America’s murder capital”: That’s the bloody title Los Angeles has earned because of the more than 800 homicides committed in L.A. Over the past 16 months. In 2002, Los Angeles had the highest number of killings of any city in the united states.
WILLIAM BRATTON: I, William Bratton, do solemnly swear…
JEFFREY KAYE: But William Bratton, who was sworn in as Los Angeles’ new chief of police last October, has vowed to reduce the body count on LA’s streets. He has also pledged to restore the public’s confidence in a department rocked by a decade of police brutality scandals.
WILLIAM BRATTON: My commitment to you is to work night and day with the finest cops in America, to truly make this city– undisputedly– the safest and greatest city in America. (Indistinguishable).
JEFFREY KAYE: Bratton says he wants to become synonymous with change, from re-engineering departmental leadership at police headquarters, to improving recruitment and training, to making sure cops work when criminals do.
WILLIAM BRATTON: Most gang officers were off on weekends. 60 percent of our violent crime occurs from 10:00 Friday night to 2:00 Monday morning, at the exact same time when the police department has the fewest number of personnel in the field. No wonder the crime rate was going up. No wonder citizen fear was going up. The police department was not where the crime is. We’re going to be where the crime is.
NADINE LeBLANC: Hopefully he’s good enough to help solve this problem. I hope so, because we’re not supposed to live like this.
JEFFREY KAYE: Nadine LeBlanc bears the emotional scars of LA’s crime wave. In June of 2001, her 19-year-old grandson, Christopher, was killed by a bullet to the brain as he rode in a car along this stretch of LA’s Pico Boulevard. No motive or suspects have been identified in the crime. Leblanc wants Bratton to succeed so other families are spared the pain and loss she has endured.
NADINE LeBLANC: I don’t know that it’s going to make a difference in Christopher’s case. You know? I don’t know that. But I’m hoping that if he’s as good as they say he is, that he can make an impact in what’s going on and maybe someone else won’t go through this. Another family won’t be shattered and dismembered like mine. I understand accidents, I understand illness, I understand old age, but I don’t understand murder.
JEFFREY KAYE: Bratton was picked as LA’s top cop because of what he’s credited with accomplishing in New York City in the mid 1990s, when he was the commissioner of the NYPD. During his two-and-half-year tenure, violent crime plummeted in New York, homicides, alone, by over 50 percent. But Bratton says duplicating that success in LA will be far more daunting. One reason is that the 9,000 men and women under his command are spread thin across this 465- square mile metropolis.
WILLIAM BRATTON: They’re 40,000 cops in New York. I’d have to have 18,000 cops in Los Angeles to have a comparable sized police force. We don’t have it. I’ve got 9,000. There ain’t no more. So everybody is talking about, “we need more police, we want to see more police.” Fine. You go find some way to hire them, and I’ll be more than happy to give them to you. Meantime, I’m going to use what I have much more effectively.
SPOKESMAN: Misdemeanor is how many ages and below?
JEFFREY KAYE: The city budget proposed for the next year does add 320 officers to the LAPD. That’s nowhere near the number Bratton wants. So he says he is prepared to do more with less, a topic he frequently tackles as he introduces himself to the community.
WILLIAM BRATTON: We are going to put into place a technology we developed in New York, Compstat, which was a computer system that allows us, literally on a daily basis, to start picking up spikes in crime. It’s really our radar. So that if we see there is a spike in gang violence, two gangs may be starting to go at each other, we’ll be able to very quickly move resources in to smother that problem.
JEFFREY KAYE: Attacking Los Angeles’ notorious gangs who are responsible for so much of the bloodshed on the streets is a cornerstone of Bratton’s public safety strategy. He says gang ruthlessness makes the mafia look tame.
WILLIAM BRATTON: The five mafia families in New York city are nowhere near killing 300 people in that city — never in their history. Yet, you’ve got the gangs in Los Angeles, not only killing 300 people a year, but shooting another almost 2,000 a year.
JEFFREY KAYE: Much of that blood is spilled in the poor, largely black and Latino neighborhoods that surround the LAPD’s 77th Street station in south Los Angeles.
OFFICER: 1201-30, can you tell me…
JEFFREY KAYE: Sergeant Shannon Allan, a 13-year veteran of the LAPD, says this is the meanest beat in Los Angeles.
SGT. SHANNON ALLAN, LA Police Dept.: Last year, according to the information that I received, we had 116 homicides. And what that averaged out to about a week was three homicides a week.
JEFFREY KAYE: Gangs in these neighborhoods boldly proclaim their presence, using graffiti to declare their intentions and vendettas.
SGT. SHANNON ALLAN: They are telling you right here, “we’re going to kill.” 187 is our penal code section for homic… for murder. And so that’s what they’re telling you, is “we’re going to shoot at you…” obviously, the 40s and the 60s. That’s what they’re telling you.
WILLIAM BRATTON: We have graffiti everywhere in the city, but the bulk of it is gang-initiated, and the gang initiation of it is to spread fear. “We control the neighborhoods. Don’t you dare scrawl over our graffiti or we’ll kill you.”
JEFFREY KAYE: Fighting crimes like graffiti is an essential part of the new chief’s public safety strategy. Bratton is a champion of the “broken windows” school of law enforcement, which advocates an aggressive crackdown on seemingly small quality of life crimes, such as vandalism, loitering, and vagrancy.
WILLIAM BRATTON: If you don’t pay attention to small things, if they’re neglected, they eventually become big things.
JEFFREY KAYE: But if LA is to be a safer city, police have to not only fight gangs and graffiti, they have to do a better job understanding the neighborhoods they patrol, say longtime critics of the department.
GREGORY BOYLE, Homeboy Industries: It’s not about being sensitive. It’s about smart policing, it’s about effective policing. This isn’t about bleeding heart policing.
JEFFREY KAYE: Greg Boyle, a Catholic priest, heads Homeboy Industries, an east LA organization that provides counseling and job training to at-risk youth, many of whom are victims and former foot soldiers in LA’s gang wars. Boyle says police officers are too often ignorant of who’s who in the neighborhoods they patrol, largely because of frequent rotations between station houses.
GREGORY BOYLE: You have to keep officers here in the community long enough to know the players, long enough to know who the people are. What you want is the police officer who can eyeball on the corner a group of gang members and be able to say, you know, “that kid’s on the run. That kid is AWOL from placement. That guy is one of the main suspects in a recent murder.” Right now no police officer can do that here in Hollenbeck. Nobody can do it.
JEFFREY KAYE: That isolation not only makes it difficult to solve and prevent crimes, it poisons police-community relations, acknowledges Bratton.
WILLIAM BRATTON: One of the things the department was known for is its arrogance, its distance in the community. It’s ironic. Its professionalism, if you will, actually worked against it. The idea that they looked like a million dollars, their tactics are impeccable, but it just alienated rather than went appreciated with the communities.
JEFFREY KAYE: But many in LA’s black and Latino communities associate the LAPD with brutality, not spit-and-polish professionalism. That’s thanks to a decade of incidents, ranging from the clubbing of black motorist Rodney King to the more recent Rampart scandal. In that case, elite anti-gang officers were discovered to have framed and beaten suspects in the poor and largely immigrant Macarthur Park neighborhood. Nadine LeBlanc wishes Chief Bratton well, but she doesn’t think his officers care much if a murder victim is black or Latino.
NADINE LeBLANC: The depth of investigation is not the same. We spend so much energy trying to convince the detectives and the police that our loved ones weren’t gang-bangers, weren’t drug dealers. “Please care about this life, and please try to investigate to see who did this to him.”
WILLIAM BRATTON: Who’s being murdered in this city? Not people who look like you and me. They’re black and Latino. Of those 658 people that were murdered in Los Angeles last year, an infinitesimal amount were white. The rest were from the minority community. So the efforts that we’re generating, who’s going to benefit from that — the black and Latino community.
JEFFREY KAYE: Bratton advocates a closer partnership between cop and citizen, encouraging his officers to work with neighborhood groups, churches, and merchants. That, says the new chief, will not only help cut crime, but convince skeptics that his officers are determined to protect and serve all of Los Angeles.