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Leadership, Morale Problems Plague LAPD, Review Says

Police: A 200-member panel, including educators, executives, retired judges, finds an overwhelming need for reform.


The Los Angeles Police Department suffers from weak civilian oversight, a meddling mayor and a strong-willed chief who has undermined morale, according to a new independent panel report that explores the department in greater detail than any similar study in nearly a decade.

The department, beset for more than a year by a crippling corruption scandal, needs to fix serious flaws in the way it trains, disciplines and manages its officers to restore its badly tarnished reputation and guard against future police scandals, an advisory panel convened by the Police Commission found in a study released Thursday.

"We are at a unique crossroads now," Richard Drooyan, the panel's general counsel, said during a news conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Drooyan said the recently signed federal oversight agreement, Wednesday's guilty verdicts against three officers and now the Rampart Independent Review Panel's report all point to the need for change. A self-critical Board of Inquiry report by the LAPD earlier this year came to similar conclusions.

"I think the will is there and we're going to have significant reform over the next six months," Drooyan said.

The commission's panel was formed in April in response to the LAPD's unfolding corruption scandal. It was composed of nearly 200 volunteers, including retired judges, lawyers, law enforcement officials, business executives and educators. The 210-page report contains 72 findings and 86 recommendations.

The panel's members, who spent more than 12,500 hours working on the report, formed eight separate subcommittees, each focusing on a different aspect of the department. Hundreds of people were interviewed by the subcommittees, including the chief, two of his predecessors, current and former police commissioners and other government and community leaders.

"The consequences of the Rampart scandal cannot be overstated. [It] has undermined the credibility of individual officers . . . [and] the entire criminal justice system in Los Angeles," the report concluded. "Very few doubt that it will take years for the city and the department to recover from this scandal."

Among the key recommendations:

* Make the presidency and vice presidency of the Los Angeles Police Commission full-time positions with salaries equal to the chief and a deputy chief.

* Enhance the staff of the inspector general's office.

* Improve the way the LAPD investigates officer-involved shootings and other serious use-of-force incidents.

The Police Commission, which had not reviewed the contents of the report until it was released Thursday, is expected to consider the recommendations within weeks. The document is posted on the inspector general's Web site:

"We're going to start taking this up right away," said commission President Gerald L. Chaleff.

Deputy Chief David J. Gascon sat in the back of the auditorium as Drooyan made his presentation, but declined to comment in detail on the report, saying he had just received a copy.

"We'll have to evaluate what the recommendations are, and the basis for those recommendations," Gascon said.

Chief Bernard C. Parks, however, is likely to dispute a number of the panel's findings, which in some cases are critical of his leadership.

Councilman Mike Feuer said there is a "continuing urgency to accomplish police reform in this city. This document requires the council, the mayor and the Police Commission to work together to ensure that we take reform to the next level."

Ben Austin, a spokesman for Mayor Richard Riordan, said he was still reviewing the document. He said the mayor planned to discuss it in more detail at a graduation ceremony today at the LAPD academy. He said Riordan is most focused on the question of: "Where do we go from here?"

As with previous studies of the LAPD, including the 1991 Christopher Commission report, which proposed reforms after the beating of Rodney G. King, the new report criticized the department's internal culture--defined by its values, policies, training and unwritten rules. The LAPD is an insular organization that remains committed to "top-down management, rather than to collaborative problem solving," the report said.

The panel concurred with the LAPD's own critique of the Rampart corruption scandal that police crimes and misconduct went undetected for so long because LAPD managers ignored warning signs and failed to provide necessary leadership, oversight, management and supervision. It also agreed on some key recommendations for solving problems, such as expanding the Internal Affairs Division and implementing a tracking system to identify "problem officers."

But the panel's most significant work is revealed in its overall assessment of the department, its staff and the political and governmental environments in which it exists.

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