Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Welcome Opening of LAPD Talks

September 10, 2000

In the coming weeks, the City Council will be asked to make a momentous decision: up or down on whether to accept a consent decree--overseen by an outside monitor and a federal judge--to achieve long-delayed reform of the Los Angeles Police Department. The alternative probably is a long and costly federal lawsuit by the Justice Department that would further imperil city tax coffers, already hit hard by Rampart corruption scandal settlements.

Unfortunately, City Council members say that they have been largely shut out of key information about the negotiations, a problem not anticipated last May when a four-person team from the city and the Justice Department started the process. Mayoral candidates, with little information, have staked out influential positions on whether to accept a federal role. Fortunately, this hush-hush process should come to an end Tuesday, when negotiators are scheduled to begin briefing the City Council, in closed session, on the proposals. The sooner the process can be completed, the earlier the city and its Police Department can begin rebuilding internal and public confidence.

It's not that the choices for the negotiating team, made last May essentially by City Council President John Ferraro, were bad. No one foresaw that City Atty. James K. Hahn, mayoral chief of staff Kelly Martin, Chief Legislative Analyst Ron Deaton and Police Commission President Gerald L. Chaleff would deadlock among themselves over key issues, as they apparently have. Even if the process has been less than ideal, this is one of the council's most important votes ever.

Several council members say that once the city's negotiating team has presented its positions, and there may be more than one, they will call for open-session discussions on what the Justice Department wants and on what the city can and should concede and contest. Among the council members who have called for prompt public debate are Joel Wachs, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Cindy Miscikowski and Laura Chick. Councilman Mike Feuer, while less critical of the style of the negotiations to date, is also eager for public discussion to begin. "We can't conclude this without meaningful public debate," he said.

Justice Department negotiators have been slammed publicly by mayoral hopefuls and privately by LAPD and other city officials as wanting nothing less than a takeover of the Police Department. Such has not been the case in consent decrees in other cities around the country. The common outcome is infrequent monitoring by an outside observer on reform progress. That can hardly be classified as overarching or draconian, but only informed debate can settle the dispute. It's incumbent on the Justice Department and the city's team, after negotiating since May, to clearly tell the council and the public where they stand.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|