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Observers Outline LAPD Issues

Police: As the mayor prepares to name a new chief, the monitors say resistance to change is still a key problem.

September 30, 2002|TINA DAUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bobb said the next chief must help officers understand that fighting crime and providing "effective and respectful" policing go hand in hand. He also wants the department to "drop the blue curtain so that the LAPD becomes transparent and subject to better informed critique and evaluation."

"The games of 'cat and mouse,' 'hide the ball,' and 'don't give out information unless as a last resort' must end," Bobb said.

Eglash, who has in the past struggled to obtain access to information needed for his audits of the department, agreed that the department must become more open. Eglash has frequently criticized disciplinary findings and processes at the LAPD, concluding that the department has mishandled some recent cases.

"We need a chief who is skilled in community relations and in labor relations--who can forge constructive relations with the league, the command staff, the Police Commission, other components of city government and the public," Eglash said.

Cherkasky, who was appointed by a federal judge more than a year ago to track the LAPD's compliance with the federal consent decree, declined to comment on the challenges facing the new chief. Bratton was a member of Cherkasky's monitoring team until he announced that he was interested in becoming chief. However, Cherkasky has issued several reports detailing the department's challenges.

In a recent study, Cherkasky found that the department was having difficulty identifying problem officers because it was missing "significant red flags" due to understaffing of internal affairs units and a serious backlog of uncompleted audits.

He also said LAPD officials have failed to analyze data collected on pedestrian and motor vehicle stops to determine whether the LAPD engages in "racial profiling." Meantime, the department produced audits on excessive force and other topics that the monitor concluded were "seriously flawed."

The area that may pose the deepest challenge for the new chief, however, emerges from Cherkasky's analysis of the LAPD's receptiveness to change. Even now, almost two years since the city entered into an agreement with the federal government to make sweeping changes in the ways the Police Department operates, some high-ranking members of the department continue to belittle that effort, Cherkasky recently concluded.

While on one level that is personally insulting to Cherkasky, it also, he argues, reflects a deeper resistance to change and to civilian control of the city's police force--a resistance that he contends extends to the highest ranks.

"It appears that greater commitment, accountability and leadership are required to achieve the reforms called for by the consent decree," Cherkasky wrote in a report issued last month. "This must begin with the command staff and filter down to supervisors and ultimately to the officers on the street."

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