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LAPD Will Unveil New Anti-Gang Offensive

Plan will include police- community teams and may seek to loosen rules set by federal decree.

January 15, 2003|Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton | Times Staff Writers

A plan for a new offensive against Los Angeles street gangs calls for a joint effort by eight agencies, special emphasis on citizen involvement and possibly a request to loosen controls on LAPD operations imposed after the Rampart corruption scandal, authorities said Tuesday.

Such a request would be the first the LAPD has made since promising in 2001 to implement reforms sought by the Department of Justice, which found that the Police Department had violated citizens' civil liberties.

A prominent element in the anti-gang plan calls for Community Impact Action Teams, made up of citizens and community leaders who will be asked to help develop intelligence and crime-fighting strategies.

Police Chief William J. Bratton and Mayor James K. Hahn are expected today to unveil the proposal to combat the gang violence that has increased homicide rates citywide for the third successive year. About half of last year's slayings were gang-related, police said.

LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said that a provision in the court-ordered reforms limits the time that anti-gang officers can operate to about three years.

But in their bid to form operational units known as Gang Impact Teams, department officials would like officers to spend as much as five years in the anti-gang units because of their local knowledge and experi- ence.

If approved by the federal monitor and U.S. District Court Judge Garry Feess, such a request would be the first change in the consent decree. The city signed the pact in 2001 after the Justice Department concluded that the LAPD had for years engaged in a "pattern or practice of civil rights violations."

The decree specifically called for tighter control and management of LAPD gang units and greater civilian oversight of the department after abusive police practices came to light in the Rampart corruption scandal.

The consent decree was signed against the backdrop of that scandal. Corrupt ex-Officer Rafael Perez, who was at the center of the scandal, was a member of the Rampart CRASH (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) anti-gang unit. Perez alleged that the unit's officers regularly falsified evidence and sold drugs. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has prosecuted nine LAPD Rampart Division officers.

Bratton has insisted on upholding the decree -- despite its extreme unpopularity among many LAPD officers -- since taking office in October. Before being named chief, Bratton helped oversee implementation of the decree. He recently named Gerald Chaleff, one of the decree's authors, as a special assistant to the chief on consent-decree issues.

Longer terms of service by officers on the anti-gang units would help police develop a rapport and long-term working relationship with each community that would lead to better crime-fighting, McDonnell said.

"What we are looking at is an expansion of the time a person can be deployed in an effort to develop major stability and enhanced expertise of the members of that team," McDonnell said. "A lot of expertise comes from experience with dealing with players and the issues.

"There are provisions within the consent decree that make it harder for us to focus on the issues in hand," he said. "We have had preliminary discussions with members of the monitoring team regarding some of those issues. We have expressed our concern and also will continue to explore the possibility of making requests to the monitor team within the provisions of the consent decree to entertain certain modifications."

Led by newly appointed LAPD gang czar and Deputy Chief Mike Hillman, the teams will be made up of detectives and narcotics, special enforcement, parole and probation officers, as well as prosecutors and L.A. school district officials.

They will work with federal agencies, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, police said.

The teams will be deployed at each of the department's 18 divisions, McDonnell said.

Those teams will address Los Angeles' rising homicide rate. In all, 658 people were homicide victims in Los Angeles in 2002.

But the new strategy follows a flurry of gang-related slayings in South L.A. in November.

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