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Valley Perspective

LAPD Should Bring Back Popular Senior Lead Officer Program

This essential component of community-based policing is what the department needs to regain public confidence and support.

May 21, 2000|JOEL WACHS | Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs represents the 2nd District. He is a member of the Public Safety Committee

If ever there were a time when the Los Angeles Police Department needed to rebuild police-community relationships, it is now.

If ever there were a time when the city needed to rebuild public confidence in our Police Department, it is now. Yet, at the time when the LAPD needs public cooperation and support the most, it has turned its back on one of the most powerful resources it has to build such relationships. Last year, the department redeployed its ever-popular senior lead officers, ignoring the expressed desires of the communities they serve.

It's time to put the senior lead officers back on a fast track, for they are one of our most powerful antidotes to the crisis of confidence that threatens the department.

The senior lead officers are central to the spirit of the Christopher Commission reforms. They are an essential ingredient of community-based policing. Across the city, senior lead officers became the up-close-and-personal embodiment of the LAPD. They were the friendly face, the familiar voice, the knowledgeable law enforcement officer people could turn to without having to battle the bureaucracy.

They were the department's best eyes and ears in our city's many diverse neighborhoods. The senior lead officers knew their areas, including the trouble spots, so they knew where to go and what to do to prevent crimes before they happened. They were part of a team, working hand-in-hand with the people and communities they served.

The 168 senior lead officers were deliberately not tied to radio calls but had the freedom and flexibility to pursue issues and resolve complaints. They were empowered to work directly with police community representatives, community police advisory boards, block captains, Neighborhood Watch groups, local residents, businesses and patrol officers to maximize public safety while demonstrating utmost sensitivity to community needs and policing standards.

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The senior lead officers proved to be an extraordinarily popular success with the people of Los Angeles. They provided individual communities with direct access, direct communication, direct accountability and direct results.

The senior lead officers are uniquely qualified to help heal this city and restore the public's confidence in both the LAPD and our government. They are a perfect companion to the citywide network of independent neighborhood councils soon to be implemented.

The knowledge and trust of a community is hard won and priceless. The LAPD has paid a huge price for reassigning senior lead officers. Participation in community policing has diminished, and confidence is at a low point. The people want their senior lead officers back.

It's time for the department to admit that it made a mistake. The senior lead officers must be restored, and they must be restored now.

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