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Progress on Police Decree 'Slow'

Officials say the LAPD is not on schedule to comply with the agreement on civil rights reforms by the deadline of 2006.

May 13, 2003|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

The city's chief legislative analyst warned Monday that the Los Angeles Police Department is "proceeding very slowly" in implementing a federal consent decree to address civil rights violations. If it doesn't pick up its pace, the analyst's report said, the city risks being held under the consent decree beyond the June 2006 deadline for compliance.

"The unfortunate news today was that it seems the LAPD is still behind the curve," said City Councilman Jack Weiss.

Los Angeles was forced into the decree in 2001, after the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that the LAPD had engaged in a years-long "pattern or practice" of civil rights violations. Reforms include establishing computerized systems to track everything from problem officers to illegal racial profiling.

A judge ordered the department to comply fully by 2006, meaning the department needs to be "in substantial compliance" by June 2004.

A report Monday to the City Council's Public Safety Committee warned that the department will not meet its goal of being in substantial compliance in a majority of areas by June 15 of this year.

"We are falling behind where we ought to be," said Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski.

As an example, she cited the Police Department's overhaul of the way it investigates situations in which officers use limited force, such as restraining suspects with a wrist hold.

In August, the city reported partial compliance in that area, known as noncategorical use of force, and said that the department would soon draft an order that would address outstanding problems.

"It's been a year, and the changes have not been implemented," Miscikowski said.

Gerald Chaleff, who took over as commanding officer of the LAPD's consent decree bureau in January, said he believes the department will meet the June 2004 benchmark. "We're making progress," Chaleff said.

Members of the Public Safety Committee, who get monthly reports on the consent decree, said they hope that is true.

"I know the commitment is there," Weiss said, noting that Police Chief William J. Bratton has made compliance with the decree one of his top priorities. "It's critical that performance match the commitment."

"People should care about this because this city ought to be capable of running a police department that complies with the Constitution on its own," he said. "It is our responsibility to run a police department that complies with the Constitution on its own."

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