Over the years I have enjoyed the articles in Police Beat. Usually the news is relevant, the articles educational and informative and the editorials to the point. In your last issue however, there seems to be far more politically correct fluff and fodder that diminishes the relevant on-point reporting. For example, the article by a middle manager promoting community policing with recycled rhetoric was as useful as day-old donuts. Then there was the filler article about the low numbers of women in law enforcement. This was another example of irrelevant recycled drivel. In twenty years on the job, I’ve never heard an officer say “Gee . . . I think we need more female cops in our department . . . wonder what the problem is?” I don’t think the Troopers in West Virginia care either. And lastly the articles about police administrators telling us that the economy is in the toilet and crime is on the rise made me want to ask you, “That’s a news flash? Really?” What happened to the former reporting you did that gave tactical situations we can learn from or the relevant developments? Let’s cut the nonsense; personally I would rather read advertisements. – B.K. Byers, Salem, OR
It should be no surprise that Washington is a genuine patriot. From my own personal knowledge, in California, law enforcement is well aware that Denzel Washington occasionally rides along with LAPD officers. He has also taken out his check book and quietly helped agencies pay for equipment enhancements. He did the same in Long Beach, when he was on a ride-along prepping for background for a film. When his son won a scholarship to university some years ago he went to the university and offered to write a check in order for someone else to benefit from that scholarship. He was told his son had won the scholarship, not him, and to let his son experience the joy of achievement . . . which he understood and did. The point is, this man has a big heart and is a good, decent, generous and unassuming person. – Don Poss
Los Angeles police chiefs had open-ended tenure under civil service protection until shortly after the riots in 1992, when voters approved Charter Amendment F. This change was a key recommendation of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, better known as the Christopher Commission, which examined the LAPD after the 1991 Rodney King incident.
Under the civil service process, the police chief answered to five bosses rather than the mayor and could not be fired without cause. Charter Amendment F limited the police chief to a five-year term, renewable once by the civilian Police Commission. Charter Amendment F made the LAPD chief directly accountable to the Police Commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor, thus giving the mayor complete control over hiring and firing of the chief. Seventeen years after the Christopher Commission recommended sweeping changes to the LAPD, it is time for city leaders to explore making the LAPD chief position an elected rather than appointed position. With an elected chief, the public would better be able to directly hold the chief accountable.
In California, elected sheriffs, by legislative design, are responsive and accountable to the public. Making the chief position an elected one gives residents in Los Angeles a direct say in the kind of policing they want to have in the community, adding a needed check to the city’s political system. Candidates would have to run on clear and transparent programs, and winning candidates would have a direct mandate to pursue the objectives promised in their campaigns.
Political considerations, mayoral interference and City Council meddling in police affairs would become a thing of the past. Rather than the chief being subordinate to the political needs of the mayor and council, he or she would be free to do the job as the voters have directed and would know up front that reelection depends on doing a good job, not gaining political favor. In Los Angeles, the voters have long supported the election of the county sheriff. Sheriff Lee Baca and his predecessors have been rewarded with reelection because the people are satisfied with their performance. By contrast, after Charter Amendment F was passed and before Chief William Bratton came on board, the LAPD had two one-term chiefs whose performance was substandard. Few positions in Los Angeles have more power and impact on Los Angeles residents than the police chief. It is one of the highest-profile positions in the city, and quality of leadership and policy decisions directly impact the everyday safety of residents.
Yet under the current arrangement, voters do not get to choose what type of law enforcement style the city should follow. As law enforcement professionals, we want the best public safety system in place for the residents of Los Angeles. Every day we look for ways to make our departments more efficient while we stretch every dime of taxpayer money. Electing the chief of police would bring more accountability, increased public scrutiny and oversight to the position. – Paul M. Weber President Los Angeles Police Protective League