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Hahn, Chief Rip Council Over Funding

They accuse members of usurping Bratton's role by delaying the hiring of new police officers.

May 16, 2003|Peter Nicholas, Matea Gold and Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writers

Angry that the City Council wants to delay police hiring, Mayor James K. Hahn and Police Chief William J. Bratton gave a joint radio interview Thursday in which the chief likened the Hahn administration to World War II heroes and the mayor said he shouldn't have to play "Mother, may I" with the council.

In challenging tones, Hahn and Bratton said the City Council's budget committee was usurping the role of the police chief, who contends that the city needs more officers if it is to reduce homicides, dismantle gangs and make Los Angeles safer.

Hahn accused the council of attempting to micromanage the Police Department out of excessive worry about projected budget deficits.

Bratton invoked World War II's Normandy invasion and Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower as he discussed the budget committee's 4-1 vote Wednesday to delay the mayor's police hiring plans. The full council is expected to begin debate on the 2003-04 budget next week.

"It's like if Eisenhower at D-day had already launched the boats to go toward the beachhead at Normandy, and then all of a sudden he gets the call from Roosevelt to have the boats circle for the next six months to see if we can afford the invasion.

"That's what's going on here," Bratton said on "Airtalk with Larry Mantle," on KPCC-FM (89.3).

The comments stoked tensions at City Hall, where the budget debate has pitted council members against the mayor.

Bratton left no doubt where he stands. He accused the council of attempting to "become the chief of police.... Let them start attending some of the funerals of the victims of crime; let them start attending some of the scenes of crime, as I do every night in this city."

Hahn, who is enlisting the chief's help in the lobbying task ahead, also used the interview to disparage Bratton's predecessor and the newest City Council member, Bernard C. Parks. On Wednesday, Parks said he supported the committee's plan.

"We have the finest police professional in America running the LAPD," Hahn said. "Why do I want to let the 15 members of the City Council micromanage the Police Department? None of them have the kind of experience that Bill Bratton has, including the newest council member from the 8th District, who presided over the department shrinking by over 900 officers. You know, I think coming back every three months for 'Mother, may I?' is not the way you run a city."

At an impromptu news conference later, Hahn renewed his complaints. Told that some council members don't trust his budget analysis, Hahn snapped: "I don't trust theirs."

The budget committee contends that the city cannot afford to add 320 new police officers, as Hahn and Bratton propose, when city financial analysts project a $280-million shortfall by mid-2004.

The committee voted to delay Hahn's hiring plans at least six months, until the city gets a clearer sense of whether it can afford an expanded police force.

At City Hall, council members buzzed over Hahn's and Bratton's remarks.

Parks defended his record, saying that there was little merit to the mayor's charges.

"When you run out of substance, you throw insults," he said.

Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski said the mayor's office has made no effort to address the council's concerns about the budget. The mayor's office has "let this get into an us-and-them mentality," she said. "You know why he's failed? He's failed because he doesn't have an answer to anything except, 'Trust me.' "

Councilman Nick Pacheco, the budget committee chairman, said Hahn's comments reflect a naivete about L.A.'s form of government.

"It's unfortunate that the mayor's staff has misled him to believe that this city is a strong-mayor city," Pacheco said. "It still is -- even after charter reform -- a strong-council, weak-mayoral system. And at some point, he has to work with the council and not just try to direct the council."

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