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Gates' Community-Based Policing Plan OKd : Law enforcement: The commission, which clashed with the chief last week, quickly and unanimously approved the experimental program.

January 22, 1992|TED ROHRLICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a potentially far-reaching experiment in community-based policing to begin later this month in six of the department's 18 divisions.

The commission approved a plan by Police Chief Daryl F. Gates to take personal charge of the pilot program and, in doing so, to remove a layer of bureaucracy between him and the area captains who will run it day to day.

Gates selected Southeast, Northeast, Harbor, Pacific and Foothill divisions for the program and agreed to add a sixth division, Hollenbeck, at the urging of Commissioners Ann Reiss Lane and Michael Yamaki, who met with him privately to iron out differences before Tuesday's meeting.

Lane said that, during the private session, Gates "really made us a partner in this."

Quick approval for the chief's program at Tuesday's public meeting followed an acrimonious exchange last week in which Commission President Stanley Sheinbaum scolded Gates for allegedly trying to circumvent the policy-making body by not informing members of his plans to take direct control of the program.

Gates denied trying to keep the commission in the dark.

Last week, the commissioners had threatened to hold up the chief's plan--recommended by the City Council--until Gates consulted fully with commissioners.

In Tuesday's commission meeting, Lane said that the 65-year-old chief told her he hoped to have all 18 divisions engaged in community-based policing efforts by the time he retired, which he said would be in June. He had earlier announced a retirement date in April.

As part of its unanimous action, the commission urged the chief to include 77th Division "and any other division where the community is ready to become a full partner" as soon as possible.

Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes the 77th, had pushed hard for its inclusion in the pilot program and said he was disappointed that residents there might have to wait two or more months to take part.

Gates said he took into account only operational considerations in picking the divisions best suited to participate in the first phase of the experiment.

He took a sardonic swipe at Ridley-Thomas and commissioners he apparently perceived to be arguing on the councilman's behalf in writing the commission that "perhaps political considerations should have been made and, several years from now, that may well become part of law enforcement thinking in this city."

The chief was apparently referring to recommendations by the Christopher Commission for City Charter changes he opposes that are aimed at making his successor more accountable to other public officials. These changes, if approved by voters, would limit the next chief to a maximum of two five-year terms. The current charter allows a chief to serve for life.

Community-based policing is another key recommendation of the Christopher Commission, which investigated the Police Department in the wake of last year's beating of Rodney G. King. The commission criticized the department for assuming a "siege mentality" toward the community it serves.

Community-based policing is an increasingly popular philosophy that calls for police to work cooperatively with residents to decide the best ways to fight crime.

Gates indicated in his letter to the Police Commission that he intends to give his captains considerable leeway in drawing up their own approaches to this philosophy in consultation with neighborhood groups and an advisory committee that includes Commissioner Lane, criminologist James Q. Wilson, and management professor William Ouchi.

"The implementation plan is as simple as any human being can make it," Gates told the commission in his letter. "Take the best people you have available, tell them in as broad a sense as possible what it is they are to accomplish, provide them with a group of recognized experts to guide them, arm them with an appropriate set of values (as opposed to controlling rules) and get out of the way."

Gates said he hoped to start the plan on Sunday.

Whether divisions participating in the program will get extra resources is not clear.

Councilman Marvin Braude, whose Public Safety Committee suggested the program, said the council had urged the chief to give area captains greater flexibility to fight crime by placing their share of specialized forces under their direct command.

Currently, some of these specialized forces, such as anti-gang police, report to bureau commanders. Bureau commanders oversee four or five divisions, but will be bypassed in the community-based policing experiment so there will be no layers between the chief and area captains.

One of the area captains selected to participate in the pilot project, Timothy King of the Harbor Division, said, however, that staffing is still being hammered out. "I don't believe we're going to receive a lot of additional resources," he said Tuesday. "That still has to be negotiated with the chief."

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