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LAPD Gets Mixed Review on Reforms

Federal monitor gives high marks to 'integrity' training but says the department has yet to comply with dozens of provisions of the consent decree.

November 14, 2003|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Two years after the Rampart police corruption case resulted in a federal consent decree mandating reform of the Los Angeles Police Department, the court-appointed monitor offered a mixed assessment of progress Thursday, but gave high marks to "integrity" training underway for all officers.

Facing a deadline of June 15, the LAPD has made progress through "genuine and good-faith efforts" to enact required changes, including the use of video and audio tape recorders when investigating use-of-force cases and a ban on group interviews in such cases, independent monitor Michael Cherkasky told the Los Angeles Police Commission and Mayor James K. Hahn.

But Cherkasky's report also indicated that the city had not yet complied with 62 of the 140 provisions in the consent decree. The LAPD said its own, more up-to-date assessment found compliance has not yet been reached on 32 provisions.

Police Chief William J. Bratton said that "there are still many hurdles ahead," but that he fully expects to have the department "substantially" in compliance with all but one of the remaining reform requirements by the June deadline.

"We will get it done, and get it done on time," Bratton said.

For the consent decree to expire and no longer apply to the LAPD in June 2006, the department must have been "substantially" in compliance with its requirements for two years.

The only change that Bratton does not expect to happen by the deadline will be completion of a new computer system dubbed TEAMS II that would allow the LAPD to better track officer behavior, including citizen complaints of misconduct.

"There is no way, no matter how many resources we pour into it, that we can achieve compliance on TEAMS II," Bratton said. "It's just not possible."

That project is 15 months behind schedule, so the system is now expected to be operating in 2005, officials said.

Bratton's promise of substantial compliance was met Thursday with skepticism by private attorney Stephen Yagman, an official party to the consent decree who has represented 40 people who alleged misconduct by Rampart Division officers.

"Having read all the material, my considered impression is that very little, if any, progress has been made," Yagman said, calling Thursday's hearing a "charade of patting themselves on the back."

He predicted the city will not meet the deadline next year for substantial compliance.

Cherkasky focused his remarks Thursday on the LAPD's near compliance with changing the culture of the department through training, calling it a "terrific" program.

"The message the LAPD is sending in its integrity training is that it and its officers care about the community, and will do their job appropriately and in partnership with the community in the future," Cherkasky said. "You ... should be proud of your department and how far it has come in this critical area in this last year."

Cherkasky said the training program he has audited is helping officers understand their duty to report misconduct by other officers, to behave ethically themselves and to not retaliate against officers who report problems.

The training, which most officers will complete in the next three weeks, also is helping to promote appreciation for cultural diversity, he said.

"It clearly announces to all LAPD officers management's commitment to respect and partner with the community as opposed to being outsiders who act as if they are a foreign occupation force," Cherkasky said.

Police Commission President David S. Cunningham III said the remarks by Cherkasky and Bratton were encouraging.

"We have reached a turning point with respect to the consent decree," Cunningham said. "We are moving into a transition of institutionalizing some of the proposed changes contained in the consent decree."

Hahn urged the LAPD to keep plugging away at the remaining reforms. "We know that we still have some challenges to meet in finishing all of the reforms called for by the consent decree, but I want to say I am impressed by the progress we have made," he told the panel.

The city acknowledges it has not fully complied with some provisions, including completion of audits on use-of-force incidents and vehicle and pedestrian stops, as well as audits showing that new background checks and selection criteria are being applied to officers chosen for gang units.

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