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Commentary | PERSPECTIVE ON THE LAPD

Police Review Panel Is Independent, Diverse

Criticisms of the panel are misplaced. It is committed to a thorough, unbiased review of city law enforcement.

May 21, 2000|RICHARD E. DROOYAN and JEFFREY C. EGLASH | Richard E. Drooyan is general counsel of the Rampart Independent Review Panel. Jeffrey C. Eglash is the Los Angeles Police Commission's inspector general

Although the newly appointed Independent Review Panel to investigate the Rampart scandal has barely gotten underway, it already has been assailed as overly secretive and insufficiently inclusive and diverse. Such criticisms are not only factually inaccurate but counterproductive.

There is little about the panel that is secret. Its membership, structure and mandate are public. The City Council, the Police Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice all have been briefed on its activities. Further, we and other members of the Independent Review Panel have met with representatives of community and civil rights organizations and numerous individuals to solicit views on a wide range of issues.

No one doubts the need for the Independent Review Panel to obtain input from diverse communities throughout Los Angeles, including in particular those communities most affected by the Rampart scandal. At the same time, it is wrong to suggest that a serious and thorough probe of the LAPD can be conducted entirely in the public eye.

The Independent Review Panel, though a result of the Rampart scandal, will look not only at the oversight and organization of LAPD's specialized units, such as CRASH, but also at the department's handling of officer-involved shootings, the tracking of high-risk officers, the handling of internal discipline, the "code of silence" among officers, the current state of community policing and much more.

Experience and common sense counsel that such a wide-ranging, sensitive and difficult investigation is best conducted with quiet determination, not public displays.

At the end of the day, there will be ample opportunity for public scrutiny of the Independent Review Panel's work. The true test will be whether the panel, in its final report and during the public hearings on the report, can show that it has thoroughly scrutinized the LAPD and that it has come up with effective measures for its reform. We are confident that the panel will pass these tests.

The suggestion that the Independent Review Panel lacks diversity and is too "exclusive" is similarly misplaced. Everyone agrees that it is vitally important for the panel to include and to draw upon a broad cross-section of the Los Angeles community. By any fair measure, it is doing so. Contrary to the statements of some elected officials, the panel is not "70% white male." Of the 124 members of the panel, 34 are female, 13 are Latino, 17 are African American and eight are Asian American. That means that 55% of the panel is white male, a figure that compares favorably to the Christopher Commission's composition. Diversity of membership and opinion, not arbitrary numerical quotas, is our objective. We are doing that by reaching out to public interest organizations, bar associations and numerous public officials, as well as to religious leaders, educators and others.

One hallmark of the panel is its independence. The Police Commission--the body that authorized the formation of the panel--will receive the panel's report and recommendations at the same time as the public. The commission has no control over the areas the panel will examine--and that includes the role of the commission itself--or the various reforms it will recommend. Further, by relying on people with no ties to the Police Commission and outside of the city's political establishment, the panel has ensured its autonomy and independence.

The Independent Review Panel is committed to a sweeping, thorough, objective and unbiased review of the LAPD's policies, procedures and culture in the wake of the Rampart scandal. With the support of the community, the City Council, the mayor, the Police Commission and the men and women of the LAPD, the panel's review can produce lasting and meaningful reform of the department.

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