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Angeles County | Official Business

Autonomy Sought for Police Watchdog

November 05, 1998

Concerned about the independence of the Los Angeles Police Department's civilian watchdog, the city's appointed charter commission Wednesday recommended that the position report directly to police commissioners and not to the panel's executive director.

As now defined in the City Charter, the LAPD's inspector general works for the Police Commission "under the direction" of its executive director. The existing arrangement undermines the independence and autonomy of the inspector general, a staff report from the appointed charter commission concluded.

Charter commission members agreed with the staff report and unanimously voted to recommended that the charter be changed to have the inspector general report solely to the police commissioners.

Prior to the vote, Councilwomen Laura Chick and Jackie Goldberg voiced their strong support for the proposal.

"Having the inspector general report directly to the executive director removes the inspector general too far from the public eye and public process," Chick said.

Police Commission Executive Director Joseph Gunn told the charter commission that the Police Commission opposes any change in the inspector general's reporting process.

In recent weeks, the inspector general's position has been the focus of considerable controversy with some reformers charging that the Police Commission's president attempted to diminish the watchdog's powers. Moreover, several Police Commission sources acknowledge that some police commissioners and Gunn have strained relationships with Inspector General Katherine Mader.

In another charter reform development Wednesday, officials with the appointed charter commission released a report showing that "a broad cross section of L.A. residents" do not support giving the mayor the power to fire city department heads. The findings were based on comments from 650 people who either attended commission meetings or submitted written responses.

Mayor Richard Riordan strongly favors such a power and the elected charter commission, which is also studying charter reforms, has tentatively drafted a charter that gives the mayor authority to fire department heads.

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