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Los Angeles

Police Monitor Complains He's Excluded From Meetings

January 15, 2002|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The man appointed to oversee reform of the Los Angeles Police Department has complained to the U.S. Justice Department that city officials have barred him from important meetings, officials said Monday.

At issue are meetings where representatives of the police department and the city administration try to resolve differences on how best to comply with requirements of a federal consent decree, Barbara Garrett, a legislative analyst for the city, told the City Council's Public Safety Committee.

By excluding Michael Cherkasky, who was appointed by a judge to oversee implementation of the decree, people attending the meetings can speak more frankly and resolve disagreements more swiftly, Garrett said.

"We do not believe we will have candid conversations if we have a federal monitor from the court sitting [there]. We are not going to be as productive."

But other council members urged greater cooperation with Cherkasky.

"I appreciate [the city's concerns], but I just refuse to view [the Justice Department] and the monitor as adversaries of the city in this process," Councilman Jack Weiss said. "They are partners with the city in my view."

Cherkasky declined to comment Monday, citing the confidentiality of his communications with city officials.

The Justice Department has asked Cherkasky for a list of meetings from which he and his representatives have been barred, Garrett said. The federal agency, which is a party to the consent decree, may then take a position on whether those types of meetings should be opened to Cherkasky.

Justice Department officials did not return calls for comment.

Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, who heads the Public Safety Committee, said there may be justification for city officials to hold private meetings on how best to comply with the consent decree.

City officials who attend the meetings are made available to Cherkasky for reports on what resulted.

"The consent decree was not a blanket giving up of the city of Los Angeles to police itself and run its police department," Miscikowski said.

But Councilman Dennis Zine said he is "troubled" by the complaint, saying the city might be wasting time if it meets to work out compliance issues without Cherkasky only to find that the solution is not satisfactory to the monitor.

"We are under the court with a federal monitor who is a watchdog of the police operations, and I don't know why we have to have any secrets," said Zine, a former LAPD sergeant. "If we are not cooperating, we seem to be digging ourselves a deeper hole."

Although talks continue, city officials said the dispute may end up being resolved by the federal judge who appointed Cherkasky.

Cherkasky and city officials have not reached agreement on some of the criteria for complying with the consent decree, including guidelines for when the monitor should review council and police commission actions.

City officials have opposed some of the monitor's proposed guidelines, saying they erode the council and commission's policymaking powers. At Garrett's urging, the committee agreed to invite Cherkasky to discuss the guidelines with the full council.

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