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Foot Patrol Is New Cops' First Step

Rookie officers will walk a beat to gain experience and boost safety, chief says.

October 29, 2005|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

On his first assignment in Boston as a rookie police officer, William J. Bratton walked the business district beat in an all-black neighborhood.

As a young man whose prior contact with African Americans was limited to a couple of classmates, that assignment helped shape his perspective as he rose up the ladder of law enforcement, the Los Angeles police chief said.

"I remember how that experience changed the rest of my life," Bratton said.

Now the chief is hoping to provide new LAPD recruits with a similar window on life by adding a month of foot patrol, under the supervision of veteran officers, to their training period.

"Their first experience as a Los Angeles police officer is not in a black-and-white, not chasing radio calls, but the intimacy of face-to-face [contact] with people in the neighborhood," Bratton said.

Unlike in New York or Boston, foot patrols in the 465-square-mile city are rare. Life in the Los Angeles Police Department revolves around the squad car and 911 calls.

Some rookies already are hitting the streets of Hollywood, where Bratton said they would get "a phenomenal face-to-face reaction from all types of people from all over the world."

While educating the officers, he said, the program also would boost public safety.

"We are rapidly becoming one of the safest large cities in America," Bratton said Friday, on the third anniversary of his tenure as chief.

The department is training 300 additional officers at the police academy this year to bolster the 9,200-strong force. The foot patrols coincide with the holiday season and a rush of shoppers into downtown shopping districts, Bratton said.

"This year they will see significant numbers of officers walking the beat, ensuring their safety," Bratton said.

Another change will be in rookie officers' initial assignments. After the traditional probationary year, rookies will be sent to crime hot spots instead of being assigned to divisions, Assistant Chief George Gascon said. He said one new group of officers is working South Los Angeles.

"They are not going to do what traditional [patrol] cars do. They're going to work with the schools.... They are going to be looking at creative ways to abate prostitution," he said.

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