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Police Watchdog to Brief Council

The inspector general previously reported only to the Police Commission, which agrees to a council panel's request.

June 17, 2003|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

Meeting in a rare joint session, the Los Angeles Police Commission and a Los Angeles City Council committee agreed Monday that the department's chief watchdog will report quarterly to the council.

The decision was made after council members Jack Weiss and Cindy Miscikowski, chairwoman of the council's Public Safety Committee, asked that the inspector general report in person to the council on LAPD issues.

Inspector General Andre Birotte Jr. now reports directly to the five-member Police Commission, which appointed him. The council has no formal authority over the inspector general.

President Rick Caruso said the commission had agreed to allow council members direct access to Birotte, who was appointed to the position May 13. He will be accompanied by a commission representative, Caruso said. He said the agreement will tighten coordination by the commission and the council on police matters.

"We're making progress," Weiss said afterward. "I want to strengthen civilian oversight of the LAPD and this is a first step."

Weiss, Miscikowski and Councilman Dennis Zine argued that the council needs to hear from the inspector general because the council approves legal settlements for the LAPD and needs to know what steps are being taken to curb misconduct.

On Monday, Weiss and Miscikowski also urged the Police Commission to consider whether the inspector general's office could become more like the Office of Independent Review, which is the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department watchdog.

That office participates from the outset in investigations concerning officer misconduct. By contrast, the inspector general's office typically waits for an LAPD internal probe to finish before becoming involved.

Birotte and the chief legislative analyst for the council were directed to produce reports comparing the watchdogs for the LAPD and the sheriff.

Birotte told the joint session Monday that he had the full cooperation of Chief William J. Bratton and unfettered access to department records.

His investigators are now allowed to participate in LAPD meetings, reviewing the use of force by officers.

Jeffrey Eglash, Birotte's predecessor, complained publicly that the commission had failed to support him, and that then-Chief Bernard C. Parks refused to talk to him as the corruption scandal in the Rampart Division escalated.

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