Consent Decree Lifted off LAPD. Now What?
Photo by honeybeejen via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
Last Friday, a federal judge lifted a federal consent decree that oversaw the Los Angeles Police Department for eight years in order to reform patterns and practice of excessive force, false arrests and unreasonable searches and seizures. It was placed over the agency after the infamous Rampart Scandal in which anti-gang officers working in the named division were implicated in a plethora of crimes over several years. "The decree required the department to undertake dozens of wide-ranging reforms meant to tighten internal checks on officers' conduct and subjected the department to rigorous audits," explained the LA Times. Over the years, many officers and city council field staff said the decree, while good for reform, began to be burdensome and took cops off the street in lieu of paper work.
"The shackles of a necessary but burdensome federal consent decree have been broken, but the benefits of reform have already been realized," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, referring to seven straight years of declining crime rate.
But not all were thrilled. “We’re disappointed by the judge’s decision. The department has made substantial progress under Chief Bratton, but there’s still too much evidence that skin color makes a difference in who is stopped, questioned and arrested by the LAPD,” said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU/SC. “We look to the Police Commission to work diligently to help keep the department focused on the goal of removing racial bias from its policing.” Last year the organization released a report titled "Racial Profiling & The LAPD: A Study of Racially Disparate Outcomes in the Los Angeles Police Department."
Chief William Bratton basically told them to go suck on an egg. “I resent their continuing intent to try to infer that this department engages in racial profiling,” Bratton said. “The ACLU needs to basically get off it and move on, because this city is moving on and we’re going to leave them behind.”
In the judges ruling, he wrote "when the Decree was entered, LAPD was a troubled department whose reputation had been severely damaged by a series of crises. In 2008, as noted by the Monitor, 'LAPD has become the national and international policing standard for activities that range from audits to handling of the mentally ill to many aspects of training to risk assessment of police officers and more.'"
LAPD Reserve Officer and Councilman Greig Smith will soon become the City Council's Public Safety Committee chair and has become increasingly frustrated Bratton. "He wrote in his book that he has had a problem with his ego," Smith said. "I think he's right." As the Council's lead public safety figure, he is expected to challenge Bratton on a number of issues. "I think he has a problem here that the council is the policymaker for the city," Smith said. "I think he likes to do things on his own."